Mitchell River National Park
Mitchell River National Park is one of the Kimberley's two newest national parks. The park of 115,300 hectares lies in a remote part of the Kimberley and contains some of the region's scenic jewels.
The Mitchell River, flowing northwards, drains into Walmsley Bay and Admiralty Gulf, carving gorges and waterfalls into the underlying sandstone, particularly along the margins of the Mitchell Plateau. The fan palm is a conspicuous feature of the vegetation of some parts of the plateau, an elevated laterite-capped plain. This is one of the few places in WA where palms are such a dominant feature.
The Mitchell Plateau is one of the most scenic and biologically important areas of the State. Small patches of rainforest grow around the margins of the plateau, where they are protected from fire and receive additional moisture. Open woodlands of grey box, white gum and other trees and shrubs grow around the valleys and creeks. Pandanus and paperbarks line the watercourses. Up to 50 mammal species, 220 bird species and 86 kinds of reptiles and amphibians may occur in the area, including the saltwater crocodile, death adder, king brown and taipan.
Mitchell Falls and Surveyors Pool are the park's two main attractions. The track to Mitchell Falls ends at Mertens Creek. From here a walk of about one hour (round trip) takes you to Little Merten Falls and allows time to explore and swim. Allow four to six hours round trip to Mitchell Falls so that time can be spent at the Falls. The walk to the falls is over rough country. The track is marked with stone cairns and is reasonably well-worn, but if in doubt walk in close vicinity to the creek. Take care near the many cliffs.
Surveyors Pool is surrounded by white bluffs of King Leopold sandstone. Access is not marked accurately on any current map. The present access to Surveyor's Pool is 24 kilometres north of the mining camp on the Port Warrender Road. To reach it you must drive six kilometres, then walk four kilometres. Water bottles may be refilled at the pool. Allow six hours from the car park for the return trip.
The Mitchell River National Park abuts the northern boundary of the Prince Regent Nature Reserve, effectively creating a continuous conservation reserve of three quarters of a million hectares.
The national park is part of the traditional lands of three groups of Aboriginal people. The groups are Worrora, Wunambal-Gaambera and Ngarinyin. Ties with the country are still very strong and they have written a management plan for the Mitchell Plateau area, which is known to them as Ngauwudu. The falls are known as Punamii-unpuu and Surveyor's Pool is more correctly named Aunauyu.
The Department of Conservation and Land Management is entering into cooperative management arrangements with the members of the Kandijwal Community and it is envisioned that there will be close cooperation in the management of the area. Traditional Owners' wishes are being sought and these will be passed on to visitors.
As a result of this, a closer understanding is being developed and park management is being aligned with their wishes. For example, the Wungurr (or creator snakes) live in the deep pools below the Punamii-unpuu abd Aunauya and swimming is no longer allowed in these pools.
Further information about the Ngauwudu management plan can be obtained from firstname.lastname@example.org or from rangers on site.
THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
Where is it?
The park lies in some of the most remote and inaccessible coutnry in Australia. It is about 350 km north-east of Derby, 270 km north-west of Wyndham.
Access is via the 4WD only Mitchell Plateau Track from Kalumburu Road, 172 km north of the Gibb River Road junction. The track is maintained on an irregular basis only and may have wash-outs and corrugations.
Drive with extreme care. Tracks north of the Mitchell Plateau airfield are rough while the tracks north of Surveyors Pool are very rough and may be impassable. Tracks and roads may be closed during the wet season.
16 hours drive from Kununurra (allow two days).
What to do:
Camping, bushwalking, sightseeing, photography, scenic aerial flights.
PUNAMII-UNPUU (MITCHELL FALLS) WALK: Moderate to difficult, 6 km return walk to Mitchell Falls from the camping area traverses rocky terrain. Take care near the many cliffs. En route you can view Little Mertens Falls (500 m from the camping area) and Big Mertens Falls (2.5 km from the camping area).
AUNAUYU (SURVEYORS POOL) WALK: Moderate, 8 km walk to Surveyors Pool from the Surveyors Pool car park.
Remember - no swimming is allowed below the falls or in the pool at Aunauyu.
Visitors to the Mitchell Falls should be totally self-sufficient, as this is a remote area with few facilities. Food, fuel and mechanical services are not available. There is a camping area with toilets at the start of the Punamii-Unpuu (Mitchell Falls Track). It is advisable to boil or treat water taken from creeks before drinking.
Nearest CALM office:
Kimberley Regional Office is at Messmate Way, Kununurra 6743
Information for this National Park has been supplied courtesy of The Western Australia Department of Conservation and Land Management