Simpson Desert Madigan Line Crossing July 25-31-Special Tours
Special Tours

Simpson Desert Madigan Line Crossing July 25-31

Simpson Desert Madigan Line Crossing July 25-31


The Simpson Desert was the last great blank on the map of Australia. Charles Sturt’s expedition in 1844 had skirted along the eastern edge before he and his men were turned back. In 1886 David Lindsay almost crossed the whole desert from west to east, but turned back before doing so. Then in 1936 Ted Colson, then owner of the Bloods Creek pastoral lease on the western edge of the desert, became the first white fella to cross the sands via a southern route to Birdsville …. and back.

The Madigan Line is named after explorer and geologist Cecil Thomas Madigan who, leading a party of nine men made an epic crossing of the North Simpson Desert, by camels, in 1939. You can read about his story in Madigan’s book: “Crossing the Dead Heart”. Cecil Madigan became the first European to cross the northern Simpson Desert in 1939. He named the desert after the then President of the SA Branch of the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia. In 1994 Madigan’s camps were marked with star pickets and plaques. Those small signs were first erected in 1994 by David Owen and Robert Correa, then operators of Owen Correa Outback Adventurers.

In 1939, when Cecil Madigan and his team first crossed the desert, they filled in one of the last great blanks on the map of Australia. The desert had been penetrated by early explorers from the time of Charles Sturt’s expedition in 1844, but not very far. From Bore No1, north of the Old Andado Homestead, Madigan’s group of nine men loaded their string of 19 camels and headed north towards the junction of the Hale and Todd rivers before striking east across the desert. This journey across the Simpson was without any drama and was wet for much of the time, meaning the camels had plenty of food and ended the trip in better state than when they left. It took nearly four weeks to cross the desert and, from Birdsville, they continued their walk south to Marree.

In 1979, Denis Bartell became the first to travel the Madigan Line by 4WD, a route since followed by many adventurous travellers. In 1990 Ron and Trent drove the Madigan Line. In 1994, Owen Correa Outback Expeditions accurately marked the positions of all of Madigan’s camps. It was one of the very early crossings, there was no track or GPS back then. A compass and paper map led the way. It was a tough crossing with 54 punches in 8 days with the desert taking it’s toll on all the vehicles. 

Read Ron Moon’s latest article on the Madigan following our crossing last year with Denis Bartell. See Denis’ story here.


Trent and Stephanie have been sharing their travel experiences with groups for the last seven years, from Australia to Mozambique, Tanzania, Botswana, Zambia, Papua New Guinea, Maldives, Fiji and more. Trent grew up in the footsteps of his parents Ron & Viv Moon, 4WD legends and modern day explorers who made a life out of remote travel, publishing 4WD Guidebooks, mapping Australia and travel writing for the best part of 40 years. Ron was editor of 4×4 Australia Magazine for 15 years and is still editor at large today. There is nothing they enjoy more than travelling and being involved with Moon Tours together.

Trent was lucky to start driving in the outback at a very young age and before the age of 12 would often be found behind the wheel taking on Australia’s toughest tracks. Not something we recommend these days.

In 2017 Ron & Trent crossed the Madigan Line with Denis Bartell, who then at 83 had notched up 40 odd Simpson Desert crossings and named Big Red. Denis was the first person to have walked solo West – East, North – South and the first to drive across the Northern part of the desert.

Tour Details

Tour Date Start 25-07-2019 10:00 am
Tour End Date 31-07-2019 6:00 pm
Registration Start Date 06-01-2019
Cut off date 10-07-2019
Simpson Desert
Birdsville QLD 4482, Australia
Simpson Desert
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