One thing that appeals immediately you reach the Kennedy Ranges National Park camp ground is that it is located within a stone’s throw of the Ranges. The camp ground nestles in the shadow of the towering ramparts of the eastern side of the Ranges. The location couldn’t be more perfect. The main Temple Gorge walk trail starts from the camp ground, and you can also walk to the start of the other walks from here if you are keen to walk a little extra distance.
This is a Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) campsite and amenities are basic – drop toilet, no power or showers, and bring your own everything, including water – but this is more than compensated by the location. During busy times there is a DPaW camp host to assist you. A communal campfire offers the opportunity to chat with other travellers.
We had travelled down from Mount Augustus and arrived around mid-afternoon. There is not a lot of shade in the camping ground, and what there is is very light, but we were lucky to secure a spot underneath a couple of scrubby trees with front row views of the Ranges. On our first night we were treated to an amazing moon set between the cliff walls of Temple Gorge and in the morning the rising sun lit up the rock faces red and orange, a photographer’s paradise.
The Kennedy Ranges runs north south for 75 kilometres and up to 25 kilometres wide and the Park covers 319,037 hectares. The southern and eastern sides have eroded to form spectacular cliffs rising 100 metres above the Lyons River Valley plain, cut through by a maze of steep-sided canyons. The Ranges are surrounded by dry red sand dune country dominated by spinifex, however 400 plant species have been recorded in the Park including 80 species of annual wildflowers which flourish in August and September after good rains.
There are 20 recorded mammal species including euros, 100 bird species and 33 reptile species.
Most of the walk trails are unmodified with only basic trail markers, follow creek lines and are quite rocky requiring a fair amount of clambering. Walkers need to be aware of the degree of difficulty of each walk, the approximate time to allow, don’t walk alone, avoid the hottest part of the day and make sure they always carry water and food, wear a hat and good walking boots.
The first part of the Temple Gorge walk (2km return, 2 hours) is Class 3 leading to the towering rock face known as The Temple. From here there is a short walk to the left and a Class 4 trail along the boulder strewn right hand fork. At the end is a small seasonal rock pool, but please do not drink the water.
You can also walk to Honeycomb Gorge from the camp ground (approx 3km each way) or drive around to the start of the 600 metre relatively easy trail. The gorge is characterised by incredible honeycomb-like cavities eroded into the cliff face.
The other two walks are the Drapers Gorge Trail (Class 4 – 2km return, 2 hours) and the Escarpment Trail (Class 4 – 3.4km return, 3 hours). I recommend these only for the physically fit and experienced as the trails are steep, have boulders to clamber over, loose and crumbly rocks, and narrow cliff edge paths. Those who do attempt these walks however will be rewarded with spectacular views.
Fellow camper, Karyn felt “the Kennedy Ranges has an energy about it”. You can see this along the walk trails: enormous rock slips, rock slabs and black lava-like rocks that look like they have been spewn up from the earth and then thrown down shattering into pieces.
The area is the traditional lands of three tribal groups: the Maia to the west, the Malgaru to the east, and the Ingarrda to the south. The Ingarrda called the range Mandatharra. Aboriginal sites are protected and should be respected.
European history goes back to 1858 when Frances Gregory explored the area, naming the ranges after the then WA Governor, Arthur Kennedy. Within 20 years pastoral leases were taken up. The Park was created in 1993.
I recommend the Kennedy Ranges for a relatively easy to get to outback experience.
Where is it:
72kms north of Gascoyne Junction, via Ullawarra Road, 245km east of Carnarvon and 1027km north of Perth via Mullewa. 4WD recommended.
Time to visit:
Late autumn to early spring. Avoid summer months as temperatures can reach over 40 degrees. Allow two to three days, plus travel time each way, to allow plenty of time to explore the gorges.
About 30 campsites, some with light shade. Long drop toilets. No power, showers, or water. You need to be totally self-sufficient, including water. Please take away all rubbish with you.
Camping fees: $7.50/adult/night, $2.20/school aged child under 16/night, $5.50/concession card holder/night.
Take note of the maps and signage. Be aware of your own physical ability. Avoid walking in the hottest part of the day, don’t walk alone, carry plenty of water and food, wear a hat and good walking boots.
Not permitted as it is a National Park.
WA Department of Parks and Wildlife: www.parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/park/kennedy-range