Stuarts Well - 87km. South of Alice Springs
Another rest stop on our way to Alice Springs
Follow yellow line from Ayers Rock east to Stuart Highway then north to Alice Springs
History of Stuarts Well
Until the mid 1970s the bitumen part of the Stuart Highway from Alice Springs stopped at Stuarts Well. From here to Pimba, in South Australia, some 1,000km., was a corrugated dirt road, impassable after heavy rain.
Rivers like the Finke, Palmer, and the Hugh, which cross here, often crossed the road making further travel impossible. An establishment like Jims Place would have been a popular watering hole in those days as travelers waited for the water to abate.
In the late 1970s, camel man Noel Fullarton built a camel farm on the west side of the highway just north of the Hugh River and it became a popular stopover for coaches.
In 1990, Jim Cotterill and his wife Mardi demolished Wallara Ranch at the junction of the Ernest Giles Rd and Luritja Rd and set up Jims Place as a roadhouse on the highway. The events leading to the demolition are a fascinating tale of their own.
The Cotterill Family opened Kings Canyon to tourism from Wallara Ranch in the 1960s and are responsible for the naming of all the features like the Garden of Eden and Aladdin's Lamp. The history of development of the canyon will be found on the walls of Jims Place and a monument to Jack Cotterill will be found at the base of the climb at Kings Canyon.
The Dodge Weapons Carrier and the drag with which they cut the first road into the canyon will be seen at the front of the roadhouse.
Jims Place offers accommodation, camping, meals, snacks, petrol and a shady place to stop after the hour or so drive from Alice Springs. It is a mine of information on the region and, particularly, Kings Canyon. From time to time Jim explains the development of the area to coachloads traveling to and from the canyon and Ayers Rock. With partners, his father established the first permanent accommodation at Ayers Rock.
Next door to Jims Place is a mechanical workshop if you need it, and south again is the Camel Farm Noel established and now operated by his family. Noel now lives in Quorn, SA. Rides are available and there are safaris leaving regularly.
Across the road is a lucerne farm begun in the 1980's. Just south of the Hugh River is Orange Creek station.
Stuarts Well is expanding slowly but surely. Probably in 10 years or so there will be a few houses here adding to the size and it will become a town along the highway with all services.
It's nice to stay the night, browse the history, and enjoy a quiet beer or two before leaving for Alice Springs the next day refreshed and a little wiser.