Tag Archives: Wallaby

Mount Elizabeth

7th and 8th September 2013

After a very pleasant stay at El Questro we set off for Mount Elizabeth Station which is 326 km along the Gibb River Road. This was a fairly easy drive with occasional bits of tarred road and lots of road works. Even crossing the Pentecost River was easy – there was very little water and we could not get our tyres wet!

HERE is today’s route with photos. Open with Google Earth.

Most of the way was over Proterozoic sandstones which give a rugged topography.

Mount Elizabeth annotated
Geological Map of the Mount Elizabeth Area with our routes shown.

These geological maps, available for the whole of Australia, can be downloaded from HERE.

My expectations for Mount Elizabeth were rather low – we hadn’t stayed at any working farms and I worried that we would be regarded as nuisances. But when we got to the farm, twenty miles from the Gibb River Road, we found that the farm had recently finished its busy period – rounding up its cattle and sending many of them to market. So there was not much happening and we were the most exciting thing to happen that day! We were the only people at the camp site. However there were lots of little Wallabies and one, in particular, was extremely curious.

Mount Elizabeth Station
Wallaby at mount Elizabeth Station camp site
Mount Elizabeth Station
The wallaby had a joey
Mount Elizabeth Station
Our camp site at Mount Elizabeth

We set up and, following the directions of the lady who signed us in, set off for the Hann River. This was a journey of twenty five miles there and back, but it was worth it as the stretch of the Hann River was lovely. We got there in the latter part of the afternoon and the low sunlight did wonderful things to the colours. And it was a very good place to swim!

Mount Elizabeth Station
Chris, the Hann River and the evening light

The next day we drove to the other highlight of Mount Elizabeth – the Barnett River.

HERE is today’s route with photos. Open with Google Earth.

This involved a drive along a very rough track followed by a walk through the bush – about 7 miles in total. We may have got sweaty but the payoff made it well worth while. We found a wonderful swimming hole and an aboriginal art gallery!

On the Barnett River, Mount Elizabeth Station
The Barnett River at Mount Elizabeth Station. In the wet this would be a waterfall. Note the ladder for the convenience of the hordes of visitors.
On the Barnett River, Mount Elizabeth Station
The swimming hole at the Barnett River, Mount Elizabeth
On the Barnett River, Mount Elizabeth Station
Looking downriver at the swimming hole, Barnett River, Mount Elizabeth

If you walk a couple of hundred yards downstream from the swimming hole, you will find on the cliffs on the eastern side of the gorge some rather unusual aborigine paintings.

On the Barnett River, Mount Elizabeth Station
Aboriginal art in the Wunnumurra Gorge, Barnett river, Mount Elizabeth. This photo is used as an illustration for “Indigenous Australian Art” on Wikipedia!
On the Barnett River, Mount Elizabeth Station
Chris at the Aboriginal art site, Wunnumurra Gorge

We spent several hours at the swimming hole then set off back to the camp site.  A few more people had turned up, including a man who thought that we were insufficiently qualified to be alone in the bush. We had no idea of the dangers we were facing – did we take the track to the Barnett river without deflating our tyres?; did we know what to do if we were caught in a bush fire? etcetera etcetera. We refused to be impressed with his superior knowledge so he gave us up in disgust. Strangely enough he was travelling alone.

El Questro

 2nd to 7th September 2013

On Monday the second we left Lake Argyle and headed for El Questro. You can see our route on the map below. We stopped off in Kununurra for groceries and the internet. We had to move money about. I don’t know how we would manage if we did not have internet access. Fortunately there is a very good community internet facility right next to the visitors centre.

We got to the turn -off for El Questro and met a couple who were turning back because the road was too rough for their camper van. but we found it to be an easy drive with a water splash just before the Resort.

Cambridge Gulf1
Geological Map of El Questro Area with our route from Lake Argyle. Available HERE.

HERE is today’s route with photos. Open with Google Earth.

El Questro was a cattle station of a million acres but now describes itself as a Wilderness Park. It still runs 8,000 cattle but is mainly known as a destination for recreation. This ranges from luxury (and very expensive) at the homestead to a caravan and camp site with toilet blocks and camp kitchens. AND there is private riverside camping where for an extra A$8 per day per person you get no water, no toilets and no cooking facilities, but you do get complete privacy. Water and the other niceties of life can be got a few miles along the road at the caravan park.

And that is what we chose and it was worth every extra penny!

El Questro Campsite
Our expensive campsite at El Questro. Note the toilet facilities on the right.
El Questro Campsite
Another view of our camp site

We were right on the bank of the Pentecost River and just across from us was the territory of a wallaby who grew active at dusk. She had a joey but she did not seem perturbed by our presence.

Wallabies across the river
A wallaby with joey just across the Pentecost river from our camp site.

What did we do at El Questro? You could spend a lot of money on helicopter trips or 4×4 expeditions if such took your fancy but we confined ourselves to the free and cheap end of the available attractions and found that they more than satisfied us.

Our first excursion was to Zebedee Springs which brought back memories of “The Magic Roundabout” but which is in fact a spring of warm water which comes to the surface at a fault between two members of the Proterozoic Kimberley Group (c. 1800 MA) – the older King Leopold Sandstone and the younger Pentecost Sandstone.

Zebedee
Zebedee Springs

There are rather more Livistonia Palms than there is water.

At Zebedee Springs
Livistonia Palms at Zebedee Springs. Spot the water!

It is a pleasant enough place for a brief visit but it soon becomes crowded. The car park is small, perhaps they should make it smaller.

HERE is today’s route with photos. Open with Google Earth.

We also went to Emma Gorge which is part of El Questro even if it is a considerable distance away.

Emma
Emma Gorge. Something seems to be wrong with the calibration of the map. I suspect the path should be in the valley!

At Emma Gorge there are luxury tented cabins and a very nice restaurant and coffee shop. I can recommend the coffee and cakes after a walk along the gorge.

The gorge becomes quite narrow and a flood a few years ago has covered the path in boulders so progress is slow and tricky. But it is rather beautiful.

Emma Gorge
Chris near the head of Emma Gorge

At the end of the gorge is a lovely pool in which you can have a cooling swim and, if you go over to the right hand wall, a pleasing warm up where a small hot spring enters the pool!

Emma Gorge
Chris at the pool at the end of Emma Gorge.

As a geologist I was struck by the many examples of ripple bedding I saw in the gorge. I don’t want to clutter this blog with too many photos of what many would consider boring stuff but if you are interested here are some links to the relevant photos on Flickr.

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Ripple bedding heaven

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Our next gorge was El Questro Gorge which was not far from our camp site.

El Questro
Route to El Questro Gorge

HERE is today’s route with photos. Open with Google Earth.

It may not be far but you have to cross a water splash, which to the untutored eye appears hazardous but, with the truck we had, was trivial. It does look rather good though!

Moonshine Gorge
Chris driving across a water splash on the way to El Questro Gorge

The Gorge does not have high sides but it is very rugged. The most difficult bit is where a huge boulder almost blocks the gorge. You have to wade across a pool and scramble up the side of the boulder. This is where people with young kids stop. We continued.

El Questro Gorge
The Half-Way Pool. You can get up the left side of the boulder.

 

Beyond the boulder the way is easier but involves lots of boulder hopping. Eventually one gets to the head of the gorge where there is a pool suitable for cooling off.

El Questro Gorge
Chris in the pool at the head of El Questro Gorge.

Other gorges we visited were Moonshine Gorge and a boat trip in Chamberlain Gorge. None of these is particularly impressive but both give pleasant excursions. On our last full day at El Questro we visited both.

Moonshine Chamberlain
Routes to Moonshine and Chamberlain Gorges. There are questions about the northern map sheet calibration. It does not merge well with the more modern southern sheet. And the rivers on the northern sheet seem to be in the wrong position.

Routes to Moonshine Gorge and the Chamberlain Gorge.

Moonshine Gorge
Approaching one of the pools in Moonshine Gorge

In the morning we went to Moonshine Gorge which is quite an open gorge with a creek running along it which, at this time of year, leaves long, linear, pools.

Moonshine Gorge
A tree in Moonshine Gorge

The going is very bouldery, many of which seem to be layered gabbro, but the geological map does not show any likely source. The valley has more vegetation than in some of the other gorges.

The pool at the end of the gorge walk is large and a tempting swim hole.

After lunch we drove to the jetty at the Chamberlain Gorge and had the short cruise along the remains of the river. At this time of year you cannot go far – indeed at one point we had to get off and walk along the shore so that the lightened boat could cross some shallows. In summer I suspect the river might be more challenging.

Chamberlain Gorge-5-Edit
Our cruise in Chamberlain Gorge

Compared to the cruise on Lake Argyle this was much less professional but still a lot of fun. No swimming – salt water crocs have been seen in the gorge but we did see fresh water crocs, a turtle, hand caught a barramundi and coaxed several seven spotted archer fish to perform. These fish catch insects by spitting water at them, to down them, while they fly. Fish food acts as a surrogate for the insects and they can spit considerable distances. The best technique is to present the fish food in front of your neighbour so that they get wet rather than yourself.

The next day we set off for Mount Elizabeth.

Lake Argyle

31st August to 1st September 2013

We arrived at the Lake Argyle Resort and found it to be a place in transition. It started as the construction camp for building the Ord River Dam which opened in 1972. So some of the facilities are rather tired. But there seems to have been a recent desire to raise the standard of the place. There are some new bungalows available (at a price) but the main improvement is the swimming pool. This is an infinity pool on the edge of a cliff overlooking Lake Argyle.

Lake Argyle Resort swimming Pool
Chris in the infinity pool at Lake Argyle Resort

This pool has proved to be a great attraction for the resort and, we were told, will shortly be increased in size. we thought it was rather nice too – it was nice to wash the dust of the Bungle Bungles off!

It had been a long drive to Lake Argyle. You can see part of our route on the following geological map.

Bungle geol 2
Geological map of the Lake Argyle area showing our route. Available HERE.

HERE is our route to Lake Argyle with photos. Open with Google Earth.

The rocks are Proterozoic sandstones and are the basis of the beautiful rugged scenery of the area. The presence of Lake Argyle makes the scenery unique in Western Australia. We were used to going to great lengths to see a bit of water, hidden in some gorge or other – here it stretched to the horizon.

To see it at closer quarters we took the boat tour organised by the resort and found it to be well worth doing, mainly because of the enthusiasm of the boat skipper. He knew all there was to know about the lake, the dam, the islands and the animals living around the lake.

HERE is today’s route with photos. Open with Google Earth.

Lake Argyle Boat Trip
Our boat for the Lake Argyle excursion

We were on the boat for almost four hours and thought we had seen a lot of the lake but perusal of my GPS track showed we had seen only a tiny part of it.

Argyle boat
The route of our boat trip on Lake Argyle

And here it is using Google Maps.

Our first stop was just around the corner from where we set off, to look at a small Rock Wallabie which the skipper fed with pellets of animal feed. She had a joey but it refused to stick its head out although we could see its tail.

Lake Argyle Boat Trip
The Rock Wallabie

We then raced away across the lake and, looking back we could see the dam. The main  design criteria for the dam was economy so it is made from local materials. The tyranny of distance decides almost everything in this part of Australia. The cost of getting things in – and out –  controls everything. So the dam is made from local rock with an impermeable  core of clay – and that comes from nearby too! The water is held back by the clay and the clay is supported and protected by the rocks. There is relatively little concrete used in the dam.

Lake Argyle Boat Trip
The Ord River Dam from the lake. The water is drawn off through the structure on the right

The dam was built to reassure the farmers on the irrigated lands beyond Kununurra. If no rain falls for five years the dam can supply all the farmers needs for that period. A five year drought would be unprecedented.  So the farmers will have faith that their continuing efforts will be rewarded.

The end to which they should direct their efforts has changed over the years. An early crop was rice, and this may be making a comeback. Cotton was grown until pest problems demanded ever increasing pesticide use. This, combined with a falling price greatly reduced its attractiveness as a crop. Sugar is still grown but the mill has closed. The cane is now exported to Indonesia. However there is a rum distillery which grows and processes its own sugar cane and makes a very nice rum. See HERE. Mangoes and melons are grown but the great hope is sandalwood. It takes a long time to grow – 15 years- but is currently of very high value.  Transport costs – it is 3000 km. to Perth – make low value bulk products difficult. Efforts are being made to increase trade with Indonesia which is not very far away.

We continued out into the lake passing cliffs of folded Proterozoic Lissadell formation.

Lake Argyle Boat Trip
Folded Proterozoic Lissadell Formation, overlooking Lake Argyle

The lake, when full, contains enough water to fill Sydney Harbour 18 times. (This is the Australian National System of Volume Measurement. Somewhat more interesting than Olympic Swimming Pools and just as useful.) A whole ecosystem has evolved to exploit the water. We had the abundance of the fish population demonstrated by throwing some fish pellets thrown into the lake.

Lake Argyle Boat Trip
Fish feeding time on Lake Argyle

We were assured that there were no Salt Water crocodiles in the Lake but there are many Freshies.

Lake Argyle Boat Trip
Fresh Water crocodile on Lake Argyle

Along the shores of the lake and, especially, on the islands, many animals prosper.  Alien species can be prevented from invading the islands and, indeed, many islands were cleared of cats, dogs and other non-native species.

Lake Argyle Boat Trip
A euro on one of the Lake Argyle islands. Euros are a type of kangaroo adapted to the warmer climate of the nortern parts of Australia.

We learned a great deal about Lake Argyle on our trip and thought it was well worth the money. And we enjoyed the scenery too!

Lake Argyle Boat Trip
Evening light on Lake Argyle.

The next day we walked from the camp site round the bay. It does not look very much on the map but it took us a couple of hours.

Argyle walk
Our walks on Sunday 1st September.

And using Google Maps.

Ord River Dam
The Lake Argyle Resort from across the bay

We could also see the dam.

Ord River Dam
The Ord River dam on the left and the boat landing dock on the left

We were quite high up and so had good views over the lake.

Ord River Dam
Looking south over Lake Argyle

In the Afternoon we went to have a closer look at the dam and discovered that it is what it looks like – a gigantic pile of stones. It has a clay core but that has not been seen by the public since it was built. But it is a mightily impressive pile of stones!

Ord River Dam
The downstream side of the Ord River Dam