Named after Polish Count Paul Edmund de Strzelecki, the 'highway' from Lyndhurst in the south to Innamincka and beyond in the north used to be one of the driest and loneliest tracks to transport mobs of fat cattle to the Adelaide market.
Today the southern point of the track is Lyndhurst, surveyed in 1896. Here Dutch born, self-taught Talc artist, poet, bush philosopher and supporter of the new flag for Australia, Cornelius Alferink has carved himself a place in outback art and modern history.
More than hundred years ago it was Captain Starlight, of Robbery under Arms fame, who gave the track notoriety. In 1870 Henry Arthur Readford, better known as Harry Redford, or Startlight, drove a thousand head of stolen cattle from Queensland, down the Barcoo and Cooper past Mount Hopeless, to Blanchewater where he sold them for $10,000. When finally apprehended in 1872, the now folk hero and his two accomplices were found not guilty.
In earlier days the track terminated at Farina and cattle from Avondale, Blanchewater, Cadelgo, Coongie, Cordillo Downs, Cullamurra, Haddon Downs, Innamincka, Merty Merty, Monte Collina, Mount Hopeless, Mount Lyndhurst, Murnpeowie, Nappa Merrie, Tinga Tingana, Titcha, and Wallelderdine were walked to its railhead to be transported to the southern markets.
Land at the southern end of the track was first taken up by John Baker at Blanchwater in 1857. At the northern end it were settlers from Warrnambool, Victoria, who gained pastoral leases in 1872. One of the first mobs of cattle to be walked down was in 1877, taking about ten weeks. The Strzelecki Track was last used by drovers during the 1930s.
Today the track is used mainly by large trucks who carry supplies for the small population of inland stations or cattle back to the south. Most of the other traffic is destined for Moomba, where South Australia's main gas producer, SANTOS, supplies Adelaide and Sydney with natural gas. Santos, South Australia Northern Territory Oil Search, is Australia's largest onshore oil and gas exploration and production company and was incorporated in South Australia in 1954.
The Moomba Gas field.
Today SANTOS obtains oil and gas from Australia, Papua New Guinea, USA and Indonesia and employs more than 1600 people. The Strzelecki Track now also attracts tourists who like to see some of the wonders of outback South Australia such as the Coongie Lakes, Cooper Creek, Innamincka or the Dig Tree in Queensland.