Kalbarri National Park
Kalbarri National Park covers 183 004 hectares. The park is located on the lower reaches of the Murchison River, which has cut magnificent red and white banded gorges for 80 kilometres, as it carves its way to the sea. The many and varied features of Kalbarri provide visitors with an array of things to see and do. Marvel at nature's ability to carve the landscape. Explore the depths and heights of the river gorges and sea cliffs. Admire the floral beauty of the vast, rolling sandplains. Discover the intriguing cultural history of the area.
The spectacular scenery of Kalbarri National Park is the result of many millions of years of geological formation. Beneath the landscape are deep, horizontal bands of multi-coloured sands which were deposited in layers some 400 million years ago.
The thinly bedded, red and white banded rocks seen through most of the river gorge and at the foot of Red Bluff were deposited on tidal flats. Rippled surfaces can be seen in many places, such as around Nature's Window (pictured above). The ripples were formed by waves moving over the tidal flats. Some beds (such as on the way down the Z-Bend and in overhangs at The Loop) look as if they have been riddled by plant roots, and often have a 'can of worms' appearance. These are burrows left by worms sheltering in the sand. Tracks and trails on flat surfaces show where animals crawled across the damp sedimentary surface.
The sedimentary rock formation found in the gorge and on the coast is called the Tumblagooda sandstone. Along the coast, wind and wave erosion has exposed the layers of the coastal cliffs that rise more than 100 metres above the ocean. From Red Bluff, extensive views south overlook colourful coastal limestone and sandstone ledges. There are scenic sites at Mushroom Rock, Rainbow Valley, Pot Alley and Eagle Gorge, to name but a few.
Kalbarri is also famous for its wildflowers, most of which bloom from late July through spring and into early summer. The species-rich heathlands provide a spectacular floral display. There are vivid gold and orange banksias, grevilleas in white, yellow and red, green and red kangaroo paws, featherflowers in many coloured shades, smokebushes, starflowers and many more.
Twenty-one plant species are found only here, mainly in the coastal cliff tops and gorge country. One of the best known is the Kalbarri catspaw, a small yellow or red plant that is usually seen on recently burnt country from August to September. It is confined to the Kalbarri area. There are also several orchids that can only be seen in and near the park, including the Kalbarri spider orchid and the Murchison hammer orchid.
Kalbarri is also a rich environment for birds and other animals. Most of the native mammals are nocturnal, but western grey kangaroos and emus can be seen during the day. Emus are Australia's largest native bird and the second largest flightless bird in the world. The father does all the parenting and can be seen with his brood of chicks until they are 18 months of age. Ospreys soar from the sea cliffs and wedge-tailed eagles patrol the gorges. The rare tammar wallaby was once found in the area, but has not been located near Kalbarri for many years. The bizarre and ferocious-looking thorny devil, which is only about nine centimetres long and eats ants, also thrives in the park.
Fauna Reconstruction Site
As part of the department's Western Shield program, Kalbarri has been identified as a "fauna reconstruction site", providing for the recovery of existing fauna and the reintroduction of species no longer found in the Park.
THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
Where is it?
The national park boundary is 533 kilometres from Perth. Kalbarri townsite is another 57 kilometres to the west.
5-6 hours from Perth
Planning your visit:
Located at the mouth of the Murchison River is the charming township of Kalbarri, which supports a thriving fishing industry and provides the tourist base for visitors to the park. Kalbarri is about 590 kilometres north of Perth and is serviced by commercial aircraft and coaches. The road to the township is sealed. National park roads are unsealed, though suitable for all traffic.
Summer temperatures may reach 40ßC and the weather is often dry and windy. Winter temperatures range from 10ßC to 20ßC and most rain falls during June and July. The wildflowers begin to bloom after July, and the cooler months are the most comfortable for exploring the park.
What to see and do:
RED BLUFF - The coastal cliffs to the north extend over 200 km to Shark Bay and are notoriously rugged.
MUSHROOM ROCK - See how the natural forces of wind, water and even worms have created weird yet delicate shapes.
RAINBOW VALLEY - Sands and silts containing an assortment of minerals have layered, compacted and weathered to form this spectrum in stone. Rainbows may be seen in the sea mist.
POT ALLEY - The view south from the carpark truly captures the splendour and beauty of this coast.
EAGLE GORGE - Enjoy the panorama from the crest or wander down into the tranquil depths of the gorge where you will discover a delightful beach.
SHELLHOUSE AND GRANDSTAND - Continual pounding by the Indian Ocean claims massive chunks of this soft limestone coast, leaving remnant cliff formations.
ISLAND ROCK - The resilient Island Rock was once part of the shoreline, but now stands as a solitary 'sea stack'.
NATURAL BRIDGE - As the coastline slowly yields to the force of the ocean, the fracturing and decaying of the cliffs sculpt some rather precarious rock formations.
THE LOOP - Several lookouts are positioned around the Loop to give different perspectives on the switchback course of the Murchison River. Nature's Window is a natural rock arch which superbly frames the upstream view.
Z BEND - It is a moderately easy 500 m walk to the rock lookout which overhangs the Murchison. Visitors should take extreme care in this gorge risk area.
HAWKS HEAD - Enjoy the majestic gorge view from the picnic area.
ROSS GRAHAM LOOKOUT - This gorge is relatively shallow and it is an easy wander down to the river pools.
Walktrails and Hikes:
Signs mark short walks from the carparks to the best view points. Longer hikes are more difficult and include the following:
MUSHROOM ROCK NATURE TRAIL - This is a leisurely 2 hour return walk. Information is available along the track to explain the botanical and geological features.
COASTAL TRAIL - Allow 3 to 5 hours to make this one-way 8 km hike. Arrange to be dropped off at Eagle Gorge and picked up at Natural Bridge. Enjoy the magnificent seascapes from the heights of the cliffs.
AROUND THE LOOP - This 6 hour walk begins and ends at Nature's Window at the Loop. This trail is not marked but the easiest route is as follows. From Nature's Window, walk east along the cliff top to the first river bend, then down along the ledges and flood plain at water level to return to Nature's Window, keeping the river to your right at all times.
Please Note - Due to the hazardous terrain, groups undertaking long hikes should consist of at least 5 experienced people. This is the smallest group considered self-sufficient in an emergency. Overnight groups must notify a park ranger before and after completing the hike. All rubbish must be carried out of the gorge.
Rafting and Canoeing:
Soon after heavy rains, the Murchison River becomes deep enough to navigate. Only the experienced and well equipped should attempt this hazardous journey and park rangers should be contacted for advice about making this trip.
Services and Facilities:
There are no camping areas in the national park but a full range of accommodation is available in the township. Kalbarri also offers a selection of shops, fuel outlets, entertainments and services including a bush nursing post, medical centre, police station, post office and banking facilities.
Park tours and other visitor activities operate from the town. Accommodation and tourist agencies can be contacted for bookings and further details.
Toilets and picnic facilities are provided at various places.
Drinking water is not available in the park so always carry your own supply.
Spring for the wildflowers.
Nearest CALM Office:
The ranger's headquarters is in Kalbarri Road, Kalbarri. Tel: (08) 9937 1140.
The Mid-West Regional Office is in Geraldton.
Information for this National Park has been supplied courtesy of The Western Australia Department of Conservation and Land Management