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Goyder's Footsteps Dares Hill Circuit

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by Steve Hudson (subscribe)
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Published May 25th 2015
Following in the footsteps of a South Australian pioneer
It was 150 years ago that George W Goyder, the then Surveyor General of South Australia headed north from Adelaide to solve a problem. A major drought from 1864 to 1865 saw many farmers lose crops and consequently seek compensation from the Government. Goyder's mission was to determine whether their claim was real, or whether there was a point or boundary where rainfall was scarce.

Tourist Drive 21, Dares Hill Circuit, Goyders Line, Goyders Footsteps, Sir Hubert Wilkins, Ketchowla Homestead, Franklyn Homestead, Pandappa Conservation Park, Dares Hill Summit
Goyder's Line - Steve Hudson


It took Goyder just over two months to determine a boundary between good rainfalls and the poorer / irregular rainfalls of less than 10 inches per annum. Despite some nay-sayers who saw the large rainfall events of the late 1860's as proof of Goyder's inadequacy, average rainfalls over later years saw many wanna-be farmers desert the land on the north-eastern side of Goyder's Line, leaving behind buildings and ultimately creating history.

Tourist Drive 21, Dares Hill Circuit, Goyders Line, Goyders Footsteps, Sir Hubert Wilkins, Ketchowla Homestead, Franklyn Homestead, Pandappa Conservation Park, Dares Hill Summit
Abandoned Farmhouse - Steve Hudson


Today, the Regional Council of Goyder have commissioned a booklet entitled Goyder's Footsteps - Dares Hill Circuit which outlines a 165km self-guided tour from Burra through some of the region that was explored by Goyder 150 years ago in his attempt to determine the natural rainfall boundary. Available from the Burra Visitor Information Centre, I picked up a copy of the booklet recently for $2, and set off on the Dares Hill Circuit.

Tourist Drive 21, Dares Hill Circuit, Goyders Line, Goyders Footsteps, Sir Hubert Wilkins, Ketchowla Homestead, Franklyn Homestead, Pandappa Conservation Park, Dares Hill Summit
My Bryan Turnoff - Steve Hudson


Starting from Burra, we head north, past the old abandoned house made famous by Midnight Oil on their album Diesel and Dust to the small township of Mt Bryan where we take the first turn right after the town and we commence the Dares Hill Circuit Tour or what is known as Tourist Drive 21. A short distance along the road, the ruins of the Mt Bryan Bible Chirstian Chapel come in to view, and give us an indication as to what is to come.

Tourist Drive 21, Dares Hill Circuit, Goyders Line, Goyders Footsteps, Sir Hubert Wilkins, Ketchowla Homestead, Franklyn Homestead, Pandappa Conservation Park, Dares Hill Summit
Mt Bryan Bible Chirstian Chapel - Steve Hudson


Magnificent views on the western side of the road of Razorback Ridge and Mt Bryan, are tempered by some flat farming lands on the east. After 17km, the road crosses the Heysen Trail as it winds its way through the mid-north. A short detour on Tourist Drive 21 takes us to the original (restored) homestead of Sir Hubert Wilkins, one of South Australia's greatest adventurers and explorers.

Tourist Drive 21, Dares Hill Circuit, Goyders Line, Goyders Footsteps, Sir Hubert Wilkins, Ketchowla Homestead, Franklyn Homestead, Pandappa Conservation Park, Dares Hill Summit
Sir Hubert Wilkins Homestead - Steve Hudson


Back on to the Tourist Drive, and we pass the abandoned township of Mt Bryan East, another legacy of days gone by. The Mawson Trail joins us for the next few kilometres, and according to the booklet we cross Goyder's Line at a location just east of Dustholes Creek. This unmarked line is distinguished by a rapid change in terrain and vegetation.

Tourist Drive 21, Dares Hill Circuit, Goyders Line, Goyders Footsteps, Sir Hubert Wilkins, Ketchowla Homestead, Franklyn Homestead, Pandappa Conservation Park, Dares Hill Summit
Crossing Goyder's Line - Steve Hudson


Continuing along the drive, we head up to Dares Hill Summit for some magnificent 360 degree views of the entire country, before heading east and downhill, and in to some pastoral lands originally owned by William Dare, that (today) defies belief in respect of its cropping potential. The Piltimitiappa Homestead Ruins, originally built in the 1850's, appears on the right with the windmill and stone tank being stark reminders of William Dare's early cropping ventures.

Tourist Drive 21, Dares Hill Circuit, Goyders Line, Goyders Footsteps, Sir Hubert Wilkins, Ketchowla Homestead, Franklyn Homestead, Pandappa Conservation Park, Dares Hill Summit
Dares Hill Summit - Steve Hudson

Tourist Drive 21, Dares Hill Circuit, Goyders Line, Goyders Footsteps, Sir Hubert Wilkins, Ketchowla Homestead, Franklyn Homestead, Pandappa Conservation Park, Dares Hill Summit
Piltimitiappa Homestead - Steve Hudson


Continuing on the drive, the road travels through mallee country, past the world renowned Collinsville Homestead, and through to Mallett Homestead. The township of Mallett was surveyed in the 1860's, yet was never developed. The nearby Mallett Reservoir stands tall on the horizon, yet rarely experiences the pleasure of being filled with water.

Tourist Drive 21, Dares Hill Circuit, Goyders Line, Goyders Footsteps, Sir Hubert Wilkins, Ketchowla Homestead, Franklyn Homestead, Pandappa Conservation Park, Dares Hill Summit
Mallett Homestead - Steve Hudson

Tourist Drive 21, Dares Hill Circuit, Goyders Line, Goyders Footsteps, Sir Hubert Wilkins, Ketchowla Homestead, Franklyn Homestead, Pandappa Conservation Park, Dares Hill Summit
Mallett Reservoir - Steve Hudson


More windmills and stone tanks scatter the drive before the abandoned oasis of Ketchowla appear. The old homestead, shearers shed and outbuildings are still standing strong today, with sheep from nearby pastoral stations running freely amongst the native emus and kangaroos.

Tourist Drive 21, Dares Hill Circuit, Goyders Line, Goyders Footsteps, Sir Hubert Wilkins, Ketchowla Homestead, Franklyn Homestead, Pandappa Conservation Park, Dares Hill Summit
Ketchowla Homestead - Steve Hudson

Tourist Drive 21, Dares Hill Circuit, Goyders Line, Goyders Footsteps, Sir Hubert Wilkins, Ketchowla Homestead, Franklyn Homestead, Pandappa Conservation Park, Dares Hill Summit
Kangaroo Crossing - Steve Hudson


The 1930's saw David Dearlove of Ketchowla build a hut on the road heading north which became affectionately known as Dave's Hut, a popular stopover for travellers heading through the region. Today all that remains amongst the spreading native bluebush and blackbush is the well made fireplace and chimney.

Tourist Drive 21, Dares Hill Circuit, Goyders Line, Goyders Footsteps, Sir Hubert Wilkins, Ketchowla Homestead, Franklyn Homestead, Pandappa Conservation Park, Dares Hill Summit
Dave's Hut - Steve Hudson

Tourist Drive 21, Dares Hill Circuit, Goyders Line, Goyders Footsteps, Sir Hubert Wilkins, Ketchowla Homestead, Franklyn Homestead, Pandappa Conservation Park, Dares Hill Summit
Old Stone Tank and Windmill - Steve Hudson


Further along the drive, the large Pandappa Conservation Park appears. The Parklands, and the now demolished Pandappa Homestead (built in 1859), were owned by the successful pastoralist Peter Waite, and was gifted to the State of South Australia along with significant landholdings at Urrbrae.

Tourist Drive 21, Dares Hill Circuit, Goyders Line, Goyders Footsteps, Sir Hubert Wilkins, Ketchowla Homestead, Franklyn Homestead, Pandappa Conservation Park, Dares Hill Summit
Pandappa Conservation Park - Steve Hudson


Further examples of optimism are observed as the drive continues towards Terowie. The Franklyn Homestead can be seen towards the north in yet another town that was surveyed during a good (wet) season, but never progressed due to the extended periods of low rainfall..

Tourist Drive 21, Dares Hill Circuit, Goyders Line, Goyders Footsteps, Sir Hubert Wilkins, Ketchowla Homestead, Franklyn Homestead, Pandappa Conservation Park, Dares Hill Summit
Barren Country - Steve Hudson


The road now follows a series of rare Telegraph Poles that were made from metal. These Oppenheimer Poles were considered more durable than the wooden poles that were prone to termite damage. Tourist Drive 21 ends at the eastern end of the town of Terowie, a town alongside an abandoned railway line that could easily be mistaken for a ghost town given the low volume of people activity.

Tourist Drive 21, Dares Hill Circuit, Goyders Line, Goyders Footsteps, Sir Hubert Wilkins, Ketchowla Homestead, Franklyn Homestead, Pandappa Conservation Park, Dares Hill Summit
Signage at Terowie - Steve Hudson


The Dares Hill Circuit continues along the main road back to the starting point in Burra. In addition to the booklets, a smartphone app and website has been created that provides the same details as the booklet albeit with commentary and a tracking device should you miss a turning point.

Tourist Drive 21, Dares Hill Circuit, Goyders Line, Goyders Footsteps, Sir Hubert Wilkins, Ketchowla Homestead, Franklyn Homestead, Pandappa Conservation Park, Dares Hill Summit
Midnight Oil's Farmhouse - Steve Hudson


The Dares Hill Circuit is around 165km long with 100km on unsealed roads. The roads are of sufficient quality for 2wd when dry, but I would recommend 4wd during periods of wet weather as some parts of the road comprise more dust than gravel. Facilities on the 100km of unsealed road are non-existent, unless you happen to spot a generous pastoralist. Phone coverage is also minimal once you are a few kilometres east of the Barrier Highway. However if you are looking for a better appreciation of Goyder's efforts 150 years ago, I can but recommend this self-guided tour.
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Why? One of the best drives to experience Goyders Line
When: Anytime
Where: Burra, South Australia
Cost: Free
Your Comment
Having done this trip some ten years ago,I can recommend it.It is one of those "outback" trips,that makes an ideal day out from the city,without too much danger/trouble.The day we went there was not a single other vehicle on the road,so you would not want to breakdown!I would also suggest,that your vehicle needs to be in good condition and that you check with "someone" before you take the trip,that the road can be safely negotiated in a 2wd.Thanks again for alerting the public about this"outoftheway" scenic drive.
by noelp (score: 3|1187) 1290 days ago
Love the kangaroo shots. Great article idea.
by Rota (score: 2|708) 1294 days ago
Excellent article Steve. It is sad that those early pioneers put such enormous effort into establishing their farms, only to be defeated by the climate and having to walk away from it.
by rhysm (score: 1|46) 1293 days ago
These excellent pictures show how brave and determined these forebears of ours were - only to be beaten by the climate! And we complain a lot about very little.
by nita (score: 0|9) 1293 days ago
Very informative, Steve, and great photos. Reminds me I must try to visit that part of the state I haven't yet been to.
by Lorraine Day (score: 1|41) 1292 days ago
Groups made this very popular circuit in the 2006 and 2008 Terowie Days events (now discontinued). Everyone raved about the landscape. Good to see it recognised as route 21 now.
by daviddon (score: 2|210) 893 days ago
Very interesting and a part of south australian history. I was educated interstate and had never heard of the goyder line until about 5 years ago. Its so helpful for the land owners to have this information. Such a hard life without rainfall to water the land. They were tough in those days and many property owners lost everything.
by lauss (score: 1|16) 686 days ago
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