"To spend time alone in the Australian bush is to experience our union with nature, it is powerfully reassuring." - Jack Thompson

Stock Route Wilderness

The Forbes Drovers

The Making of
the Stock Routes

The history of the Travelling Stock Routes and the Drover's Trail is a story that symbolises the making of our nation.

It is a story of biodiversity, wilderness, agriculture, survival on the land, man and animal relationships, Aboriginal culture, a hero's journey and life on the road. The Drovers Trail is also a story of discovery, where drover's and cattle owners, on journeys could last over two years, would open up the Australian countryside.

A Drover's Journey had many purposes and there were many types of drover's. Stock routes were used to transport cattle to market and new owners. In times of drought the stock routes were used to move animals around for more feed. The cattle thief drover was known as a rustler, while the first drover's to open up the land were known as overlanders.

Cattle rustling, the stealing of cattle, was a regular feature of drover history. Stolen cattle were driven thousands of kilometres by rustlers to be sold on. The epic journey of the overlanders was captured in the novel Kings in Grass Castles which told the true story of an overland journey from the Lachlan Shire, neighbouring Forbes in New South Wales, to the Kimberleys in Western Australia.

History of use

The Travelling Stock Routes are rich in culture and are a blend of Aboriginal, pioneer and droving history. Dendroglyphs (scar trees), middens, grave sites, rock shelters, camp sites and artefacts are abundant reminders of the stock routes cultural significance.

Aboriginal people were among the first drover's taking the cattle owners through the country along traditional ancestral pathways. The stock routes typically followed Indigenous trade routes, rivers and trails.

The Travelling Stock Routes were dedicated as roads in the 1860s through to the 1890s. By the 1900's the government had permanently fixed water sources, one day journey's apart, along the stock routes.

In the 1870s charges were introduced for travelling the stock routes of two shillings per head, per mile. Permits were given detailing the route, destination and travel itinerary. Travel was controlled, with strict terms of use such as a minimum distances of six miles a day for sheep and 10 miles for cattle. Minimum daily travel distances still exist today.

The arrival of the rail roads in the 1880's decreased the use of stock routes. Rail limited the use of stock routes to be used primarily to transport cattle to railway stations. Stock routes continued in use until the 1950's when road travel made droving uneconomical. By the 1980's the introduction of road trains had replaced the last of the horse back drovers.

See 'Cuts of Beef' Diagram

Pick & Preserve Olives

Stock routes became roads

Many of the stock routes developed into the popular roads we continue to drive on today. While all the stock routes have become country roads not all stock routes are open to cars. Stock routes can either be asphalt covered carriage-ways for cars or they may be pathways through pastoral and crown lands.

A stock route may be distinguished from a regular country road by wide grass verges on either side of the road or when farm fences are set back much further than a standard fence. The green verges reserved for cattle grazing on stock routes will vary in width from 60 to 1600 metres.

In Forbes most of the stock routes have become popular roads. It is only in more remote country, where drover's still need to go through grazier's properties that traditional stock routes remain. With permits the drover's still have right away across country, as the son of a Forbes drover explains:

"the graziers up there with bigger holdings, have country that runs along the stock route, if you're going through them you've got to give them 24 hours notice. They can't stop you going through but they have got to shift their stock, so you can get yours through".