Willis's Walkabouts Top-Level Menu


Kimberley & Pilbara

Karijini National Park

April 1-14, 2018

Secluded bush camp, Karijini National Park. Car campers never get to enjoy campsites like this.

Section 1: Munjina to Dales Gorge: April 1-7

Sunset at Munjina Gorge camp First swim stop, Munjina Gorge

We begin with a drive from Tom Price to near where Munjina Creek crosses the Great Northern Highway. We don our packs and hike down into the gorge. In less than an hour, we reach the first pool — time for a swim.

There are a few ups and downs as we continue along the gorge but it's not long before we reach our home for the next two nights. Needless to say, there is water nearby.

Hiking past one of the pools on the Munjina tributary. Trekking up the dry river bed. Except during flood times, most of the flow is through the gravel rather than over it. Munjina art site. The nearby waterhole and the number of paintings here suggest that this was a very special place for a very long time.

The next day is our first day walk. One of the interesting Munjina tributaries is well worth exploring. Good scenery, swimming (except in a really dry year) and even some Aboriginal art. Most of the walk is fairly flat — sometimes on rock slabs, sometimes on the gravel river bed. There are, however, a few minor climbs which give us some good views.

Wingermoonther Pool campsite. In a very wet year, most of the gravel would be under water. Hiking down the small gorge below the blue pool. Blue Pool. The amazing coloour of the water never ceases to amaze us. In April, it's a good place for a swim.

Now it's time for us to put on our main packs again. We hike up one small valley onto a plateau where we trek across to the top of a small gorge. Descent here is impossible so we follow the top of the gorge for a few hundred metres before a steep descent (the steepest of the trip), to the bottom of the gorge below. We drop our packs, and hike upstream a short distance to the blue pool shown in the photo.

After a swim stop there, we return to our packs and hike down the gorge and out to Dales Creek. In a wet year, we might camp near where our small gorge opens into the much larger Dales Gorge. In a dry year we move downstream about a kilometre to Wingermoonther Pool, one of the few permanent waterholes on this section of the creek. Even if we don't camp there, we'll almost certainly wander down for a visit.

Walking through a grassy section of Dales Gorge. Dales Gorge rainbow. Dales Gorge cascades. We usually camp near here.

Karijini National Park has a strange boundary as it was drawn to exclude all of the best of the possible iron ore deposits. While we have been close to the park since we began our trek, it is only now that we actually enter the park as we hike along Dales Creek through Dales Gorge.

Here, near the water, the grass is thicker and the walking is somewhat slower. We drop packs again and again, sometimes to climb up for a view, sometimes for yet another swim. On our 2009 trip, we had a spit of rain which produced the rainbow shown in the photo. We often camp near the bottom of Dignam Gorge and spend half a day exploring it without our packs.

Campsite near the top of Dales Gorge. On a walking track near Fortescue Falls. Campsite near the cascades shown above.

On our last full day on this section, we shift camp to near the top of Dales Gorge. We drop our packs and head off to join the marked walking trails that take us to Circular Pool and Fortescue Falls. They may be on the tourist route, but they are well worth seeing.

On the final morning, a short walk brings us to the top of the gorge where we meet the bus that brings in our food drop and takes us to the start of our second walk.

Section 2: Kalamina to Weano: April 7-14

Easy hiking not far below Kalamina Falls. You can wade below, but most prefer the climb up and through Kaklamina Arch. As we hike down the gorge, we will almost inevitably have to wade somewhere along the way. Kalamina camp. We often stay here for two nights.

After a brief stop at the Karijini Visitor Centre, we are driven to the head of Kalamina Gorge where we begin our second trek. We follow the marked trail to the bottom of the falls, then leave all tracks behind as we head down through the gorge.

The terrain varies as we hike down the gorge — flat rock ledges, small climbs and the occasional wade. Eventually we reach a point where a side creek joins and set up camp. We usually stay for two nights and do a day walk exploring the lower gorge and some of the side gorges that feed into it.

Trekking across the plateau between Kalamina and Knox Creeks. Climbing up to the plateau between Kalamina and Knox Creeks. Hiking on the flat before our climb to the plateau between Kalamina and Knox Creeks. Admiring some of the many petroglyphs.

The next morning we put on our packs and begin our trek over to Knox Gorge. Not long after leaving our camp, we find the best art of the trip — two separate galleries of detailed petroglyphs. They are too interesting to pass by quickly so we spend a fair bit of time at each.

Then it's up and over. The first part is relatively flat, then we have to climb up a bit, then we hike across a plateau between the two gorges, finally dropping into the upper reaches of Knox Creek in the afternoon.

Campsite, upper Knox Gorge, Karijini National Park. This rock shelter, covered in paintings, is the largest rock shelter we have found in Karijini. Joffre Falls. Except immediately after a good rain, Joffre Falls is normally as dry as shown here.

As we move down Knox Creek, we reach an area where springs suddenly produce a gentle flow of water. We spend two nights camped somewhere in the upper reaches of Knox Gorge.

Years of bushwalking exploring and trying different options have allowed us to create the best possible day hike. We leave camp early in the morning and head toward the road, stopping en route to visit a largish rock shelter the walls and ceiling of which are covered in Aboriginal rock paintings. When we reach the road, we are met by a bus which takes us to Joffre Falls for a quick look before dropping us at the track to the bottom of Knox Gorge. Using that bus allows us to take our time as we explore Knox, going far beyond where the day tourists will ever go.

Swim stop, upper Knox Gorge. Hiking through upper Knox Gorge. Floating daypacks through Knox Gorge just upstream of the day use area. View of Knox Gorge from the lookout platform.

After a stop at the viewpoint above the gorge, we follow the marked trail down to the bottom. We have a good look, then move upstream. Continuing up the gorge is blocked by a wall to wall pool so we can swim as shown here or climb up and around.

Once above the big pool, hiking up the gorge becomes relatively easy as we work our way back to camp, stopping for yet another swim if some pool seems too good to pass by.

Sunrise and moonset near Knox Gorge, Karijini National Park. Hiking between Knox and Wittenoom Gorges. High view over Wittenoom Gorge. The descent into the gorge is steep, but not particularly difficult.

Our trek continues as we move from Knox to Wittenoom Gorge. The climb at the beginning is gentle. The descent at the end is fairly steep, slow but not particularly difficult.

Climbing out of Wittenoom Gorge. There is only one break in the cliffs and we know where it is. Hancock Gorge — while it may be full of tourists, it's too spectacular to miss. In one of the small gorges we visit on a daywalk from our Wittenoom campsite. Campsite in Wittenoom Gorge. Our exact campsite depends on the size of the group and the conditions at the time.

We camp in Wittenoom Gorge for two or even three nights, doing day walks exploring the area near us and the heavily visited Hancock and Weano Gorges.

On the final day, we climb out of the gorge and head for the Weano car park where we meet the bus which will take us back to Tom Price.

Terrain and Difficulty. As the photos on this page show, this trek has it all. Our bushwalk takes us through places where the going is flat and easy and through others which are rough and steep. Some are open and some covered with thick scrub. As the vegetation varies from year to year, we can't say how thick the scrub will be until we do the walk.

This is neither an exceptionally easy nor an exceptionally difficult walk. There will be plenty of time to stop and enjoy the spectacular scenery and pools along the way

Flora, Fauna and Geology. There is always time for keen photographers to make the most of the scenery. Some years offer excellent wildflower displays, others less so, but there is always something in bloom. You are unlikely to see any big animals but there are lots of small ones if you keep your eyes open. The geology is as interesting on a small scale as it is on a large one.

More info? Many of the captions of the 15 photos below give interesting information about them. Hold your cursor over the photo to see the caption.

For the best close up, sometimes you need a low vantage point for your photo. Sometimes you have to work a bit for your photos. The photographer in the photo is Tracey Dixon who produced one of the photo galleries that we have a link to at the bottom of the page. When we first found these formations, we thought they might have been some sort of fossil. But no, the rock is much too old. The rings result from diagenetic (ie sediment compaction) dehydration and shrinkage of a hydrous silica gel-rich bed. The silica-rich bits of the banded iron formation (BIF) are the lighter coloured layers, with the iron-rich being the darker layers when you look at a bit of BIF. Essentially it is an early soft-sediment compaction effect —: remarkable how nature can be so perfect isn't it ?! Some of the layers in the Hamersley banded iron formation. In poor soils, a clump of spinifex begins in one spot and grows outwards. As the nutrients in the soil in the centre get used up, the central part dies leaving circles like this one.
The head end of this amazing caterpiller is on the right. Mulga ants produce these elevated mounts to prevent flooding when it does rain. One of many colourful dragonflies in the area. Sometimes the animals come to you. This little ring tailed dragon (Ctenophorus caudicinctus) jumped onto someone's hand and happily posed. The iron-rich soils give the termite mounds a distinctly reddish tinge. Ptilotus flowers in the foreground.
Bush tomato (solanum species) flower. Bush tomato fruit. Some varieties of bush tomatoes were a valuable food source for Aboriginal people. Others were poisonous. You need to know which is which if you are thinking about trying one. Grevillea wickhamii. This grevillea is common throughout the northern semi-desert regions. Sometimes the animals come to you. This little frog jumped onto someone's mesh tent and happily posed for the photo. Slender petalostylus — Petalostylus labicheoides.

Join us and enjoy spectacular scenery without the tourist hordes you find at the easily accessible spots — an incredible wilderness experience no other operator can offer you.

Useful links for more information.

Willis's Walkabouts, 12 Carrington Street, Millner NT 0810, Australia walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au

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