This beautiful and rugged landscape is part of the Hamersley Range and is Western Australia’s second largest national park. There are three aboriginal tribes that traditionally own the Karijini area – the Banyjima, Yinhawangka and Kurrama people. They’ve lived in the area for over 30,000 years, telling stories of creation, navigating the landscape without maps and practicing fire stick farming as a form of land management that increased plant diversity in the park.
The rock in Karijini was formed from iron-rich sediment over 2,500 million years ago under the ocean. Horizontal compression caused the rock to buckle and crack before rising up out of the water. Over millions of years, water erosion cut into the cracks to form the deep gorges that we enjoy and can explore today. During our time in Karijini, we came across some beautiful flowers, including purple mulla mullas, tiny violets and Karijini wattle.
The climate in the park can vary from scorching 40 degree temperatures and the occasional thunderstorm in summer to clear days and frosty nights in winter. We were there in the middle of May and were lucky to complete all the gorge hikes before the rain came, but unlucky that we couldn’t stay longer. As soon as it starts to rain, you need to be careful of flash flooding and get out of the gorges, or you could have a seriously bad time.
All walking tracks are graded according to Australian Standards. Many of the tracks that lead into the gorges are quite steep and the rocks can be very slippery, especially when it’s wet. Make sure you wear appropriate shoes and carry water with you at all times.
Mount Bruce (Punurrunha)
The first hike we did was up towards Mount Bruce. This is the second tallest peak in Western Australia at 1235 metres tall, and is an important landmark that borders the three aboriginal tribes in the area.
As we climbed, we could see the Marandoo Mine Site in the distance, but that was overshadowed by the awe-inspiring view of the mountain rising up before us and the beautifully coloured rocks beneath our boots. We got about 2.5km in before we turned back – Juz was on day 3 of her hangover and wasn’t feeling 100%. It goes without saying that she won’t drink that much ever again…
Joffre Falls & Knox Gorge
The lookout to Joffre Falls was breathtaking and we decided to check out the track into the gorge. About 300 metres in, we were at the head of the waterfall and were quite happy to not go any further.
Knox Gorge Lookout provided some great views of below and reminded us of the Z-Bend Gorge in Kalbarri National Park. Lunchtime was approaching so we decided to head to Weano Gorge and cook up some bacon.
Oxer & Junction Pool Lookouts
These lookouts are perfectly placed at the intersection of four gorges – Weano Gorge, Hancock Gorge, Red Gorge and Joffre Gorge. At the base of this intersection is an isolated pool, and the gate on the handrails gave us the impression that tour groups come here to abseil down into the gorge.
In between the Weano Picnic Grounds and Dales Camping Area is the Kalamina Gorge and waterfall. We descended into the gorge and explored for a few kilometres, marvelling at the layers of colourful rock, steep cliffs and clear waters. The contrasting layers of psychedelic red and magnetic blue rock throughout the gorge was really special. We returned to the waterfall for a refreshing dip in the chilly water amongst curious little fish.
Fern Pool & Fortescue Falls
First thing in the morning, we packed up and headed for the walking trails. We didn’t know when the rain was going to start so we wanted to make the most of the dry time.
Fern Pool was first, and the 300m walk from Fortescue Falls was shaded by giant fig trees growing out of the rock. Once we arrived at the pool, we instinctively knew to be quiet and respectful. There was something sacred and supernatural about this place, and when we felt the deep blue green water, it was strangely warm. Two chicks were in the middle of some sort of morning ritual so we left them in peace in this special place.
The Fortescue Falls were stunning, both from the lookout and in the gorge. We moved around the tiered amphitheatre and admired the water falling into the pool below, which would be perfect for a swim on a hot day.
A steep descent into the luscious gorge adorned with little flowers, lush ferns, paperbarks and bare-rooted fig trees. Circular Pool was so exquisite that Juz refused to leave without getting in for a swim, despite the cool of the morning. So she got her kit off and jumped in. The water was eerily warm until she got in the deep end; the bitter cold stung her legs so she came back in to dry off and get dressed. Dave said that if the weather was nice and hot, it would have been tits, but because it was cold, it was just nipples.
It was now that the rain began, so we climbed out of the gorge and completed our experience at Karijini National Park. We drove away, saddened that the weather wasn’t kinder to us. We could have stayed another day if the weather was warm to complete the gorge rim hike and go for another swim in the peculiar-coloured water.
There are two places you can camp in Karijini – the Eco Retreat near Joffre Falls or Dales Camping area. The Eco Retreat is a privately owned resort with a variety of accommodation options. Dales camping area is managed by DEC and costs $9 per adult to stay the night.
Facilities include gas BBQs, picnic benches and drop toilets. There are seven camping areas at Dales and only one accepts noisy generators. There are no bins in the area (why would a garbage truck want to drive all the way into Karijini National Park?) so please take your rubbish home with you.