Roads and Tracks We Have Traveled (Part Five We Continue Across the Kimberley)

Wednesday, Mar 28, 2012 at 15:07

Member - Michael John T (VIC)

We have visited this area three times, in 2002, 2004,and again in 2008, each time traversing the Gibb River Road and the Kalumbaru Road, although in 2008 only as far as the King Edward River and Mitchell Plateau. From the northern beaches and the Dampier Peninsula we turned east at Beagle Bay turnoff and took the sandy and corrugated ' short cut road' hitting the bitumen at the Colourstone Roadhouse (Kimberly stone) 50klms short of the Fitzroy River. On reaching the Fitzroy we set up camp in a lovely spot sharing it with many birds, freshwater crocs and a couple of other travelers.
Derby is one of our memorable little towns, apart from the many historical aspects and the not to be missed sunsets (and at times a full moonrise ) from the wharf, it was here that we landed in 2002 after a harrowing 100klm drive from Lenard's Gorge with my wife Brenda and her smashed wrist after a simple stumble and fall on the rough track leading to the gorge. Arriving with her arm supported by the 4x4 magazine and a simple sling with only a couple of disprin to counter the pain she experienced the wonderful service of the bush hospital as her wrist was set in plaster and then pinned a week later. Although the setting was not perfect by city standards, the locum doctors and nurses did a great job and we were happy to join the organized protest march held by the locals (black and white) to keep their hospital as the focal point of the Kimberlies and not remove all surgery services to Broome.
It is always interesting to revisit Derby's historical sites, the Long Trough, the Prison Boab Tree, the small but interesting local museum and of course the Old Goal with it's depressing stories. As we were restocking at the local butcher shop for our latest trip across the Gibb River Road we met a lady whose two small children were playing with a kitten (for sale) nearby. Commenting that we thought that she might end up taking it home, she agreed, telling us that when she left her property that morning, she did so with a King Brown snake in her kitchen cupboard, she locked her cat in the kitchen saying when she returned one of them would be dead. She hoped that it would be the snake.
With this scenario behind us we drove out towards Bell's Gorge. After the 60klms of bitumen and then extensive roadworks until the Winjana Gorge turnoff we looked towards the Napier Range. At the Lenard River bridge there was a sign to a small snack bar, actually a caravan based structure selling pies ans ice-creams etc.... but what a great view looking down over the river and its many 'freshies' sunning on the sandbar, what a great place for lunch. Past poor old Queen Victoria, looking a little aged we turned off into Lenard's Gorge, but finding the road blocked off, we unfortunately deferred the opportunity to visit as it was now quite late in the afternoon. So .. on to Bell's Gorge where we set up camp at Silent Grove campground. I knew it would be too late to obtain a tag for the individual bush camps but as it turned out there were only four of the twelve available (all taken) as the rest had been rendered unusable due to a recent bushfire.

There is great bird-life here and a walk along the small springs and creek area by the camp is very rewarding. The afternoon was spent visiting the gorge, swimming and exploring downstream of the falls. It is a delightful place that you should never drive by without visiting even though it is popular. That night around the campfire we were joined by a couple of other camps for gossip and stories. You meet some very interesting people, one chap was involved in organizing a recent scout jamboree - ten days, nine thousand scouts from 33 countries with a budget of $9 million, $700,000 of which was spent on setting up a reverse osmosis drinking water system alone.

Wait a minute we missed the impressive Winjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek, well yes, but we had all visited them previously in 2005 (Brenda and I in 2002 and 2004) on our way to the Canning Stock Route. They are both great experiences and well worth spending time at. That drive between to two with its boab trees adorning the ranges is one that I cherish. Lets not forget Fitzroy Crossing and Geike Gorge as well. The boat excursion up the gorge is well worth the reasonable charge.
Passing Imintji Store (where we delivered a parcel from our neighbour at Silent Grove) we turned off after 30 klms to Mornington Wilderness Camp. This is situated almost 100klms south of the Gibb River Road and camping places are deliberately limited by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) which owns the 350,000 hectare property as well as the bordering Marian Downs Station. To avoid the long drive and disappointment a radio is set up at the road junction and you are required to use it to book in. if there are no sites available an alternative is to visit Charnley Station whose entrance is 4klms east of this point, and then try again a few days later. The road in is kept in good condition, there are a few gates and closer to the camp a few water crossings but the scenery as you drive by the King Leopold Ranges is just delightful. We were almost there when one of our party lost a bolt from the springs on his camper (we backtracked and found it 4klms away) and another of our vehicles with a puncture almost at the same time. Running repairs were made and we entered and registered at the camp office. It had changed considerably since we were last here in 2002 when it was known as Old Mornington with its camping area along the creek (which we shared with the cattle and was subject to flooding ) and with an open air bar and dining area and not much more. Now it is set on higher ground, with an extensive information centre, restaurant, bar and excellent facilities, but still with a bush like camping area. In 2008 the prices were $15/head with a $20 entrance fee.

It is a great place to visit , it has 40klms of the Fitzroy River frontage with the Adcock River traversing it. it is a wild-life sanctuary and you can see why, with wetlands, Savannah Woodlands, an area of Livenstonia Palms, several creeks, a safe swimming hole at 'Cadjeput' on the Fitzroy River and two quite distinctive and quite different gorges to visit. St John's Gorge is largely quartzite rectangular slabs of rock which border a beautifully coloured blue waterhole. The walk along the gorge is really a scramble over the rocks and ledges, after a couple of klms you come to a rock barrage with only a dribble of water finding its way through (during the dry), fantastic reflections and views.

Dimmon Gorge is a 24klms drive from camp and is a great place to canoe, hire of the canoes is $60/day but is well worth it, we all had a great day paddling, eating lunch and swimming in a small plunge pool and spotting the quite elusive Short Eared Rock Wallaby that inhabits the 50 metre high gorge walls. This gorge has been the subject of two major damming proposals , one in thew 1950's (to pipe water to Perth) and then again in the 1990's to provide water for a proposed cotton growing industry, the survey pegs are still evident.

There is plenty to see and do to fill in several days here. The walk along Annie Creek bordering the campground is pleasant, we saw the Purple Crowned (non- coloured ) Wrens among several birds as well as what we believe to have been an Olive Python lying across the track. Previously in 2002 we were able to visit a small plunge pool called 'Officers Springs', you approached it through long tussocky grass and I remember it as a beautiful quiet place with stunning reflections. Unfortunately this area is now closed off for cultural reasons and I can understand why.
Returning to the Gibb River Road we reflected on what a wonderful place this sanctuary protects. Four klms and then the turn off into the 43klm driveway of Charnley Station. When we visited here in 2004 it was still known as Beverly Springs Station and at that time the staff were feverishly preparing for a visit by the 'Variety Bash' and its 90 participants for dinner in two nights time. This is a magnificently set out homestead, (just as you would imagine from reading Sarah Henderson's books) and in 2008 was being run by a Perth couple who applied for the tourist season job on ''. It was interesting to speak with them about their experiences, they had only been in charge for a few weeks, the job involved catering for guests as well. The station itself is large 700,000 hectares with the Charnley River running through it, a mere 70 klms from the homestead.
A short walk taken from the camping area brings you the the Paradise Pool track along the small creek to the pool. Unfortunately the creek had stopped running and the pool a little low this year but never the less the approximately 2 klm walk is lovely, especially just on sunset. Once there you can rock hop over the sandstone and explore the area further up the creek. On the previous visit we recorded 40 different bird species here and this time they were still prolific including several different honey eaters.

Charnley Station has some real gems to offer the visitor. It has three gorges in the vicinity of the homestead, two of which were open in 2008. As well there are pleasant creek settings and a lovely set of pools which transcend a creek which when flowing spills over rocks and small waterfalls - Donkey Pool. We found this in 2004,early in the season, and spent a great afternoon sharing the pool and small waterfall 'completely with nature' only with a lazy water monitor. This time we revisited here and swam in and explored these magic pools complete with their abundant water lilies. Next day we drove about 12 klms through savannah and woodland and passing through a herd of shining and sleek Kimberly cattle to Grevillia Gorge. This gorge is fantastic, long, narrow and steep in places, plenty of places to swim in plunge pools and the opportunity to climb down over the ledges. By this stage of our trip we had devised a scale out of ten for coldness of swimming holes, the first couple of pools ranked an 8 - quite challenging. The bottom pool involved a steep climb down and two of our small party made it in for a swim - this ranked a ten. On the way back we stopped at Lilly Waterhole, which is set in steep rocky sides and surrounded by a rocky surface covered with spiky spinnefix. You are asked not to attempt to swim in it as it is too inaccessible. A couple of weeks earlier a chap actually jumped/dived into it and was badly injured and had to be choppered out for medical attention. This occurred within the first three weeks of the couple running the place tenure - quite an experience for them.

The following day the second gorge beckoned, Dillie Gorge , quite different and no where near as spectacular but more a large waterhole fringed by rock ledges. Small sandy beaches made entry for swimming quite easy. On the way to this gorge Brenda and I picnic lunched on the banks of Plain creek, just a lovely experience followed by a pleasant drive though the wooded country and again another herd of those cattle. We certainly enjoyed Charnley as we did last time and would recommend it to others traveling this road. It was hard to pull ourselves away without again extending our time here. Although it is the other end of the continent from where we live, it was here that we met people from our home town.

After crossing the Isler River on the way out we again turned East for 16 klms befor deviating another 5 klms in along a basic track to Adcock Gorge. A short walk from the vehicles to a delightful plunge pool with a drizzle of water falling, a rough walk around the rocks or as the ladies decided a refreshing swim across to avoid them.

Back on the road crossing the Phillips Range, the road over the high crest was topped with bitumen to avoid washouts and minimise damage in the wet, this is now a feature of the ever improving Gibb River Road. From here you get those lovely hazy views of the distant Kimberly escarpments, and then down to what Brenda and I both believe to be the Gem of this road - the small but beautiful Galvan's Gorge. It is a picture post card place just a one klm walk from the road following along the small pretty creek and then confronted with this magic pool and waterfall topped by a fantastic lone boab tree centre stage above the waterfall. A single piece of Wadjina art adorns the right hand wall, birds abound and there were even two water monitors to be found. It wasn't long before we were in for a swim (but only after photographing had been completed), the ladies headed for the ledge under the waterfall but there was a "Hang On......." as a large water monitor slid into the water quite close to them, only their feet remained in the water for some time.

From here we traveled the short distance to Mt Barnett store for a few odds and ends and to pay the $25 per night to camp in Manning Gorge. Next time we will continue the journey from here.
Kimberly Flowers:--

Kimberly Birds:--

Finally those water monitors
Next The Kimberly part 2.
We retired to travell
It's time to go again...
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