A new touring route in the Corner Country of north-west NSW offers visitors the chance to follow in the footsteps of 19th-century explorer Charles Sturt.

Story Maya Skidmore  Photo Mark Muller

"When people come to the outback, they have an out-of-body experience,” says Lori Modde, the project manager behind Sturt’s Steps, a fresh tourism initiative in the Corner Country of far north-western NSW. “People come out here, and they change.”

Bordering Queensland and SA, cut by the Barrier Ranges and fringed by the transcontinental dog fence, this rugged land is awash with deep red sands, an oceanic expanse of saltbush and an immense, brilliant sky. Containing both Sturt and Mutawintji national parks, it is rich with wild landscapes and wilder stories – many of them dating back more than 25,000 years. 

Sturt’s Steps organisers, Lori Modde and Ruth Sandow (a current board member and former chair of the Royal Flying Doctor Service’s South East Section) hold a deep love for the region. Ruth is the chief instigator and has been a community force since she and her husband took over Pimpara Lake Station near Milparinka in 1980. After seeing how tough locals had it during the most recent drought and the pandemic, Ruth and Lori put their heads together and secured a $5.8 million grant from Infrastructure NSW to revitalise the region through the establishment of Sturt’s Steps, a journey that connects the disparate towns of Corner Country in one loop. With interactive technology, an art trail that winds through the desert, new signage and refreshed accommodation, Sturt’s Steps guides modern travellers through history, with the 1,100km route approximating the journey taken through the region by explorer Charles Sturt on his 1844–45 expedition in search of an inland sea. 

This story excerpt is from Issue #144

Outback Magazine: August/September 2022