Explore an epic 4WD adventure into the heartland of the Gascoyne Murchison: the Kennedy Ranges
Chris Morton, editor at Western 4WDer magazine shares his thoughts about exploring this beautiful, rugged part of Australia's Golden Outback.
This is not a coastal holiday, where you are forced to compete with endless lines of nomadic caravans and holidays crowds seeking out their own slice of paradise. A holiday where you park up on some beach and spend your time soaking up the sun and swimming. This is a journey deeper into the heart of the Gascoyne Murchison, following in the footsteps of our forebears who blazed a path into the great unknown in search of prosperity.
This area of Western Australia epitomises the Australian landscape. Baked by an unrelenting sun for much of the year, it becomes transformed in a patchwork sea of colour. Mulga and gumtrees reach for the sky as contrasting and vivid breakaways burst forth from the earth. Rain transforms creeks and streams into raging torrents, feeding the mighty Murchison and Gascoyne Rivers, constantly shaping and reshaping the landscape.
Scratching the surface and it doesn’t take much to discover signs of ancient habitation, stories from the dream time, messages to loved ones, stories of the hunt painted inside caves and overhangs. Further back in time and evidence of our prehistoric past, the first signs of life frozen in time in the very ground you walk on, in the rocks that you scramble over, a veritable time capsule. This is a special place.
As we head north from Yalgoo, the country changes. It isn’t obvious at first. The mulga becomes a little sparser, the vegetation a little more desperate. Signs of water are more obvious, perennial watercourses sustaining the larger species. These are all things most are oblivious to, more concerned about getting to the next destination. What most don’t realise is that you have already arrived. It is cliched, however, our destination is only part of the adventure, the journey is equally important.
This is not a 4WD park where you can pit your knowledge and skills against a laid-out course. This is station country. You are travelling through someone’s backyard and you must respect that. For those that live out here, they don’t call it 4W driving, they just call it driving. Your actions have consequences. Maybe not straight away but eventually, they will.
Getting off a track and “carving up” might seem like fun or not bothering to drop your tyre pressure because you aren’t going to get bogged. When the rains come your inconsequential actions have a flow-on effect. Tracks washout as the running water seeks the least path of resistance, making them impassable and requiring someone to repair them before they can be used again. Stick to the path of least resistance. The manner in which you conduct yourself will have a long-lasting impact on those who come after you.
Research is imperative before you leave. Mobile coverage is almost non-existent and having a good idea of where you want to go and what there is to see is a must. Google maps will not help you. As you travel along graded gravel roads you will see plenty of tracks heading out into the never-never, disappearing amid this vast landscape. Unless you know what is at the end of these tracks, stay off them.
Murchison Settlement offers a brief respite, a place to grab a hot shower and replenish supplies before you continue north. Just out of town is the Errabiddy Bluff, a landmark that dominates the surrounding landscape, visible from over 30km away.
We again head north, 150km from Murchison, heading for a spot where the Wooramel and North Wooramel River’s join. A “secret spot” defined by a well-worn track taking you off to the right of the main road. A gorge, carved out over eons, marks the location, offering weary travellers a place to spend some time enjoying this natural wonder.
Back on the track we continue north, stopping 5km further on at Bilung Pool, a permanent water source and a great place to stop for a spell. Soak up the atmosphere as you relax under shading gums.
Wooleen Station offers a station stay experience where travellers have the choice of several accommodation options. Bookings are essential. Owners David and Frances Pollock have taken a different approach to running this sprawling 378,000-acre pastoral lease, originally destocking it in a bid to allow the country to regenerate. Their approach to wild dogs and overall management of the property was seen to be controversial however what they have managed to achieve is truly remarkable. Spend some time in the heritage listed homestead and exploring their backyard.
From Wooleen, Glenburgh Station is another station stay recently opened to paying guests. As well as camping and hot showers, owners Ross and Anna Collins allow self-driving exploration of the property by purchasing a station map. As always, tread lightly and don’t go out of your way looking for a challenge, they tend to find you when you least expect them. The property boasts a spectacular landmark, Nature’s Bridge. A great spot to camp is at the base of the Mungarillah Cliffs, on the banks of Gerranoo Creek. Get up early and watch the cliff face come alive as the sun kisses its face.
Gascoyne Junction is another opportunity for fuel and to restock. From here the Gascoyne River is only a short drive away. Mooka Springs marks the southern boundary of the Kennedy Ranges and in the local aboriginal dialect means “running waters”. The opportunity for a refreshing swim and to relax under the shady whitegums should not be overlooked. The area is also known for being the only place you can find Mookaite.
You’ve arrived. The Kennedy Ranges beckons. Mundatharrda, formed over a millennial and born from the primordial pressures of a long-lost ocean, is often overlooked and yet holds its own amongst our natural wonders. This is truly a place to behold, where time has stood still, leaving behind a monument to creation. If the adventure to get here wasn’t enough, the national park has plenty to keep you occupied. Draper’s and Honeycomb Gorges, the vista from Sunrise View. The pyramid like structure at Temple Gorge.
There are quicker ways to arrive here. You can stick to the black top and follow the well-driven path, skipping the endless miles of gravel but why would you? Life moves so quickly as it is. For the most part we want instant gratification, skipping through to see how the story ends. Take the path less travelled, find yourself and rediscover what’s really important. Create a new chapter to your story.
If you're planning a 4WD adventure, make sure you check out the Western 4WDer website and guide books. They offer incredibly detailed information and planning tips for your next 4WD adventure.