Eagle Rock and Kalgan Creek 4WD Circuit (Newman)

Sunday, Oct 16, 2022 at 05:06

ExplorOz - David & Michelle

Possibly the biggest highlight of our recent winter trip throughout WA and NT was the Eagle Rock and Kalgan Creek 4WD Circuit. Located within the lower Pilbara region of Western Australia, this circuit is just 110km but will take a full day as you'll average about 26km/hr and there are some good waterholes to visit where you'll want to stop a while. It can be done as a full day's drive out of Newman or you can take your time and camp along the way. In our opinion, the best camping sections are where the water is flowing along Kalgan Creek.

We have written this blog to help people understand what to expect as there is very limited information available about this full circuit - most people just drive to Kalgan Pool and that's it but as this blog will show, there is far more to see and enjoy if you do the full circuit but please read the whole blog as there's some important planning information and advice that will make your trip safer and more enjoyable.

Just remember the photos in blogs are thumbnails cropped to a square so tap to expand to full screen in original proportions.

The only reason we didn't tow our trailer or camp on our circuit drive was that we had already spent a few days camping at Sandy Creek on the Fortesque River just across the road from the exit of the Kalgan Creek Track and therefore had everything all setup. In hindsight this was actually ideal as making a day trip is far easier and less stressful. I should note however, that a few days later, we moved our camp to a spot on the Kalgan Creek that we'd found along the circuit and stayed there for another 5 days. We just couldn't get enough of this area its that good.

So, the day of our circuit trip we started at 7am from Sandy Creek and returned to camp just past sunset at 6.30pm. We had many lengthy stops that were beyond normal. But you should still get an early start just in case.

To do any part of this route, entering from either the Three Pools Rd or Kalgan Creek Rd, you must lodge an application with the BHP Railway. You can do this online or at the Newman Tourist Information Centre. The application is for a permit to drive over the BHP railway line to the west of the Marble Bar Road which is required for gaining access to the Three Pools Road or Kalgan Creek Rd. No information about the waterholes, tracks or camping is provided. For that information you should visit the Newman Visitors Centre and they can provide the mud map (despite its errors and omissions it will get you there). Better still, if you have the ExplorOz Traveller app you can follow our Track Log recorded July 2022.


Here's a full description and photo dump of our day trip following the Eagle Rock - Kalgan Creek 4WD Circuit. Remember these photos are thumbnails and are cropped - just tap an image to view full dimensions of the original photograph.

The circuit should be done in an anticlockwise direction, starting with the northern end of the loop (Three Pools Road) and finishing with the Kalgan Pool Track.

This first section along the Three Pools Track is incredibly scenic and hilly. Some vehicles may require low range to get up the hills as it can be a bit loose but certainly the descents are best in low range. You'll enjoy 360 degrees views of pure Pilbara bliss.

As you drive west along the Three Pools Track you will notice this significant large mountain to the south that will take on a purple hue - this is Mt Newman. If you'd like another fun challenge, there is a 4WD track that will take you about half way up and then its impossible to drive any further so to reach the top you have to hike. We did this the following day, so read on for details about that.


As you drive this first section you'll also see the Hope Downs Mine that is responsible for the significant changes that have occurred to the natural landscape here. In fact, the mine is responsible for the water that flows into Kalgan Creek that is a highlight of this 4WD circuit.

The Three Pools is the first waterhole you'll come to. When we arrived, the light was poor for photography without climbing and hiking to the end of the gorge so we sent up the drone to get photos looking back from over the top of the bottom pool so this angle you cannot see on foot. After the photography was done, we then hiked up the rockface and found a way to get down to the water and spent an enjoyable hour here just soaking up the atmosphere.

Continuing westwards, the next side track you come to is easy to miss because it veers off in an
ENE direction at an angle that is easy to miss when you are driving west and is unmarked. If you have the Traveller app you will be able to see this track marked on the map as well as the Place marker we added. I had been trying to research the location of a waterhole called Hidden Tree Pool. I have only been able to find a couple of scant reference to this place in hiking blogs but was advised my ExplorOz member Jo Fury (who is the caretaker for the visitors log book at Hickman Crater and a passionate local) that it is probably what he knows as Thunder Gorge but no one at the visitor centre knows this name and its not documented on their mud map. So obviously, I was keen to investigate what lay at the end of this track as I suspected this would be it. It was evident no one had been here for a very long time but it was an easy 2km drive to the main open clearing where we left the vehicle because the track then became impassable! The only way towards the waterhole from here was to follow the creek bed. Whilst there were wheel tracks indented into the rocky path of the dry creek bed it soon becomes impassable for a vehicle and you need to continue on foot.

David turned back at this point to get something from the car but I continued on and chose to push through the scrub until my boots got wet and I was head high in the reeds. So I back tracked to find higher ground and chose to climb the nearby rocky hill which seemed to follow alongside the creek. I climbed just above the line of reeds along the edge of the rocky hill until I could see the creek met the main pool at a junction and I would need to make a 90 degree change of course but I could not get through the overgrowth at this part so I had to backtrack a little and climb up higher to get a better view to see if there was a way around. Doing this enabled me to easily pick a way through and I was rewarded with a spectacular pool of water. So if you're the adventurous type, and prepared to make the effort this is definitely the best waterhole seen in this entire area at this time as I'm sure these photos clearly show.

Continuing back out the access track and further west on the Three Pools Rd, the next junction you come to on the left heads south - you'll continue straight on at this point to the west to get to Eagle Rock Pool and then further on to Eagle Rock Falls but there is no access beyond to the west due to mining operations and you'll backtrack to this junction and follow it south until you reach the Kalgan Creek section of the circuit. Obviously, we've put Place markers into the Traveller app so you can find it easily.




Eagle Rock Falls is well worth the drive as this photo above shows. Whilst the falls weren't "running" at the time of our visit, there was water in the pools below. The road out to the Falls is documented to be extremely difficult but this is no longer the case - the track has been rerouted by the mine and is all graded and no challenge so don't miss this worthwhile diversion. Just follow the signs marked along the track or just download our Track Log and follow that. If you have the mud map from the Newman Tourist Information office it is wrong. Once we release EOTopo 2023 the new track will be on our maps. The difference is only where it heads off from the Three Pools Road - which is currently well signed. There are temporary mining tracks everywhere here but they are all clearly signed NO ENTRY so just trust the signs and go as directed.

Where you can see our vehicle pictured is the end of the track. The ground is quite uneven here and very very hard. It's also incredibly daunting being so close to the edge and perhaps not ideal for camping but you may think otherwise, depending on your camping setup.

We will definately come back here again but we'll be sure to allocate more time so we can hike down into the valley. The valley is pictured above. You can walk along the valley floor to the base of the falls.

After visiting both Eagle Rock Pool and Eagle Rock Falls you will need to backtrack to the junction you passed previously on Three Pools Road where you will turn south. Here, your scenery will be completely different as you'll be descending into the valley you've been viewing from the higher points on this track.


Eventually as you near Kalgan Pool, you will find an unmarked side track to the south (right) that leads to this lookout over the top of the Kalgan Pool as in this photo.



If you have the Traveller app, you'll see the lookout as a Place icon on the map. After that, you'll come to the most difficult section of the entire trip - the big hill descent. If you've done this circuit in the recommended anti-clockwise direction and engage low range the descent is quite ok but it would be quite a challenge coming up the other way and it is not recommended for towing up trailers. It is very steep and the surface is loose rocks and there is a tight bend to negotiate - its a bit of a heart stopper. Once at the bottom you come to a t-junction. Turn right and you'll come to Kalgan's Pool.



Kalgan Pool only gets water after rain events, so there is no flowing water here (unlike all the other camps along the Kalgan Creek Track). In fact, we could only see a small amount of water and it was not clean enough for swimming. Despite this, it is a popular campsite due to past conditions prior to the effects of mining activities. It's a lovely spot to visit so make sure you check in, but if you continue to complete your journey heading back east along the Kalgan Creek track you'll end up finding other excellent camps alongside fresh running water and you'll also find these to be less visited by day trippers so they'll offer you more privacy if that's what you're seeking.


Once you start the drive east along the Kalgan Creek Track, you will encounter about half a dozen sections where you must drive through deep, flowing water. Take a look at our video here. The video is done in two parts - a first look at Kalgan Creek shows the view out the windscreen when you first come across the main long water stretch. We didn't have time to get out the drone as it was getting dark - we had been delayed with important phone calls from home and had spent a couple of hours sitting on high points making phone calls. We were travelling solo and knew there was a significant amount of water to drive through so we didn't take time to set anything up and didn't have people on the sides of the track to check it out. We simply had to drive through trusting the information received that it was not dangerous and just drive in. As you can see it is quite doable. The 2nd part of the video shows repeat crossings of this section from drone footage we came back to film a few days later.



This water flow is not natural - it has been created by the release of water from an aquifer due to Hope Downs mining. They divert water from the aquiver via a pipeline, which then spills into the natural watercourse of the Kalgan Creek. This creates the constant flowing water you'll encounter in the Kalgan Creek that is permanent and the depth is controlled by the volume they release.

After heavy rains the creek will flood and the Kalgan Creek Track will be impassable so the track will be closed. It is usually reopened as soon as possible to ensure limited disruption along the tourism route. After talking to the shire council staff, we learned that maintenance/grading of the Kalgan Creek Track is funded by the mine as an agreement to ensure tourists are not affected by their operation. As part of the agreement, a creek base was built up with rocks to ensure a firm and consistent base to drive through. Once you reach the water sections this will become apparent to you. The road will be closed if conditions are unsafe so you don't need to be afraid of entering these narrow channels - despite some being very long stretches where you are completely committed to driving forward with no apparent end in sight. We measured the longest crossing (not the deepest) at 700m which has a turn in the middle so at the start, the end is not visible.

In the video above you'll see that as we drive out of the exit of the major water crossing there is a red rocky cliff to the right - this a campsite that is sometimes referred to as "Cobbah Downs River Crossing", but we call it "Kalgan Creek Camp". It's a lovely spot with good trees and is a popular spot for locals to come on the weekends with their families. We considered it lacked sufficient privacy as a camp especially in hindsight as we later found there are many other camps with water for a swim that are away from the main track offering more privacy so take a look around. Anyway first in, best dressed.



After the crossing, the track is dry for quite a distance with side tracks leading back to Kalgan Creek and many possible camps by the running water. About 1km from the Cobbah Downs Crossing/Kalgan Creek Camp there is a track to the north (left). This leads to a very good spot with a long stretch of flowing water. Cross at the rapids (easy) and turn right (east) and you'll come to the first of 2 Rope Swing Camps. Continue straight and you'll come to the second which is an excellent spot too.



These two spots are a locals favourite as not many people know they are here. We only found it by chance because we follow all side tracks regardless of information or signage. We created Place markers for both camps so if you have the Traveller app you'll be able to easily locate them.

Another option from the first rope swing camp (near the crossing over the little rapids) is to take the track leading further north - this is quite heavily vegetated with tall spinifex crowding the track. If you're game, you can push through (we did) and you'll come to more sections of flowing water to cross through and some other camps (not as good though as what you've just seen). Eventually, you can follow the track all the way through to rejoin the main track.

From here, the drive back to the main road is a standard unsealed track with a few sections of sand, corrugations, ruts etc but is easy driving for experienced outback travellers. Do take care as cattle roam freely. You will also find a few more side tracks leading to camps to check out.

Here's some more photos of our camp at the rope swing site after we moved camp from Sandy Creek a few days later to the rope swing camp on Kalgan Creek where we stayed for another 5 nights.




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David (DM) & Michelle (MM)
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Always working not enough travelling!
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