Frenchmans Track - Cape York

Cape Melville National Park

Splitting east off the Old Telegraph Track north of Batavia Downs is one of the Cape's most testing tracks, featuring water crossings, technical driving and sand tracks: Frenchmans Track.

Essential information

Grading Difficult – low range gearing and high ground clearance: take traction aids and recovery gear.
Time Day trip or overnight
Distance 179km, Archer River Roadhouse to Moreton Telegraph Station
Longest drive
without fuel
221km, Archer River Roadhouse to Bramwell Junction; 280km, Archer River Roadhouse return.
Best time of year Dry Season (May – October): This track can remain impassable late into the dry season with high rivers and deep mud west of the Wenlock River. Check track conditions with Moreton Telegraph Station.
Warnings Stony and slippery surfaces, steep grades and deep river crossings – not suitable for trailers. Check road conditions before travelling as Frenchmans Track can be impassable after rain. Alcohol restrictions apply at Lockhart River, and both Portland Roads Rd and Frenchmans Track are in restricted areas – see www.datsip.qld.gov.au/programs-initiatives/community-alcohol-limits/lockhart-river
Permits and fees None apply
Facilities Archer River Roadhouse, Lockhart River (38km from turnoff to Frenchmans Track), Moreton Telegraph Station (no fuel), Bramwell Junction
Camping  Archer River Roadhouse, Moreton Telegraph Station
Important contacts Archer River Roadhouse Ph (07) 4060 3266, Moreton Telegraph Station Ph (07) 4060 3360, Bramwell Junction Ph (07) 4060 3230

The Track

If you are heading north up the Cape, it makes sense to tie in a run with a trip out to Chili Beach in Kutini Payamu (Iron Range) NP or the Lockhart River community. The eastern end of Frenchmans Track shoots north off the Lockhart River Rd 69km from Peninsula Developmental Rd (The Lockhart River community is a 38km detour further east if you need supplies). For the first 6km or so, you travel through white sandy heathland, the track badly corrugated and punctuated by grey termite mounds, with views out over the western remnants of the Iron Range.

Frenchmans Track Cape York corrugations
Frenchmans Track conditions

 

Frenchmans Track water crossing

Soon the track descends into rainforest and you come to the first real obstacle: the Pascoe River crossing. Deep and rocky with a strong current, the exit on the western bank is a steep, bare rock ascent that can do damage to tyres and running gear if you aren’t careful. The Pascoe crossing requires a careful walking inspection to judge depth and locate transfer case-smashing stones.

The track runs through fairly steep undulating rainforest country in a nearly straight line until you reach the Wenlock River. This ford is easier, with nice bush camping on the eastern bank. The climb back up from the Wenlock is steep and slippery.

The last dozen kilometres to the Telegraph Rd ranges from washed out clay and corrugated sand to wet muddy sections. The western end of the track comes out 22km south of Moreton Telegraph Station.

Frenchmans Track sand

Things to do

The track can be done in one day easily if you start early, but an camp in the area should be planned if travelling to the track from a distance.

If you have the time it is worth taking the trip out to explore Kutini Payamu National Park.

History

Frenchmans Track was probably built by an enterprising gold miner looking for an alternate route to the Iron Range goldfields. The goldfields were discovered by John ‘Jack’ Gordon in 1934, leading eventually to the construction of the Portland Roads jetty.