Located 145 kilometres from Derby in Western Australia’s Kimberley, Windjana Gorge is the Gibb River Road’s most well-known and easily accessible gorge. The Windjana Gorge National Park preserves a section of a 350 million year old coral Devonian Reef where the Lennard River cuts through the limestone of the Napier Range. It is regarded by geologists as a classic example of world geology.
The minimal cost Department of Parks and Wildlife campground is perfectly located only 500 metres from the Gorge entrance, with views of the sheer western cliff face of the gorge which is particularly spectacular at sunset when it turns to rusty gold.
Some of the campsites in the “quiet” camp have shade, and there are flushing toilets, solar showers and bore water, a few fire rings and picnic tables, but no camp kitchen. There is also a separate generator-use camp, day-use area, and a reverse-call public telephone. Please bring all supplies with you. Self-registration fees are payable at the entrance or to the Park Ranger. During nesting you will see Great Bowerbirds (Chlamydera nuchalis) redecorating their bower in the camp.
There are several walk trails to explore. Informational panels along the one kilometre return Savannah walk trail from the campground to the gorge tell you about the plants and animals of the savannah woodland including the iconic Kimberley tree, the boab.
The dramatic entrance to Windjana Gorge is via a narrow cavern. Once inside the gorge the shady trail follows the river bank before taking you out onto the sandy river bed. This natural amphitheatre affords a breathtaking 360 degree view of the gorge.
Swimming is not recommended at Windjana Gorge as it is the prime freshwater crocodile viewing area of the Kimberley and during the day you can see them sunning themselves on the riverbank. Freshwater crocodiles, (Johnstoni Crocodile), grow up to three metres long, and are relatively harmless, unlike their cousin the Salt-Water or Estuarine Crocodile, but they will bite if provoked so don’t get too close.
If you enter the gorge just before sunset you can view the amazing spectacle of millions of fruit-bats flying out from the gorge for their evening feeding. Bring a torch for the walk back to camp.
The seven kilometre return Gorge walk winds between near-vertical 300 metre high walls along the Lennard River. The river flows for only a short time during the Wet season so most of the year water collects in isolated pools. You can walk along the sandy river bed or through the riverine forest of cadjeputs paperbarks and river gums. Near the gorge entrance you can see fossilised marine life forms embedded in the limestone walls. Interpretive panels describe the gorge’s history, geography, plant and animal life. Fossilised remains of extinct crocodiles, turtles and the giant marsupial, Diprotodon, have been found in the gorge.
In the recent past the Gorge formed the boundary between the Unggumi and Bunaba Aboriginal people, who knew the gorge as Windjana and Taley respectively. It was an important cultural site and source of food and legends.
Just south of Windjana along Leopold Downs Road you can visit the ruins of Lillimulura police outpost and Tunnel Creek 35 kilometres further on, and learn about the Jandammara and the Bunuba Aboriginal people. The 750 metre long Tunnel Creek cuts beneath the Napier Range and is completely dark except at its entrances and halfway point. You must wade through water, so bring a torch or headlight and wear boots or shoes for wading. Trail signage advises you to be careful of loose slippery rocks, uneven floor and submerged objects. Bats and flying foxes inhabit the tunnel, whilst small fish, and occasionally freshwater crocodiles, live in the permanent pools. Stalactites, stalagmites and other limestone features can be seen along the walk. The far entrance brings you to a shady pool.
Tunnel Creek was a hideout for the Bunaba Aboriginal man Jandamarra, during his fight against white settlement prior to his death in 1897. Information panels relating the tragic story of Jandaarra and his people can be seen at the ruins of Lillimooloora Station.
On our last night at Windjana we were serenaded by soft ukulele music from a nearby campsite and the haunting ancient sounds of a didgeridoo echoing through the still night air. The campfires of Jandamarra and his people may have gone, but for visitors today Windjana is still a special place.
Located approx 22km south of Gibb River Rd, 355 kms from Broome, 145 kilometres from Derby, 150 kilometres from Fitzroy Crossing.
4WD is recommended.
Best season: May to September – Daytime temperatures range from 20°C to 30°C.
The park is inaccessible during the summer Wet season – December to March.
There are 3 camp-grounds at Windjana – quiet, generator and tour camping, equipped with toilets, solar showers, fire rings, picnic tables. Also a day use area.
Suitable for caravans but no powered sites.
is a day use area only, with facilities limited to toilets and an information shelter. No overnight camping is permitted.
Wheelchair access: nothing specific.
Pets: Not permitted.
WA National Parks pass, plus camping fees on a self-registering basis, or to the Park Ranger: $12/adult – $2.20/child 6-15 yrs – $8.80/concession per night.
No fee is payable for the accompanying companion/carer of a Companion Card holder.
Derby or Fitzroy Crossing.
WA Dept of Parks and Wildlife – www.parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/park/windjana-gorge
Tourism Western Australia: www.australiasnorthwest.com
Kimberley Australia Travel Guide: www.kimberleyaustralia.com
Derby Visitor Centre: www.derbytourism.com.au