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Karijini National Park ... a journey into an ancient land.

Updated: Dec 16, 2023

Karijini National Park from the air with rain clouds moving in.
Karijini Savannah (photo credit Tristan McKenzie)

Karijini National Park is one of the Australia's true marvels ... One could even go so far as to say it is one of the planet's true marvels. It is a place that is on a lot of people's bucket lists and I would recommend that everyone visit at least once in their lifetime. Allow yourself at least 4 days to truly experience the whole park and not be rushed visiting all the amazing place this park has to offer. It is an essential part of the classic road trip up the Western Australian Coast and well worth the 700 km detour inland. Or you can drive the inland route, which is slighter faster, but far less scenic and there are quite a few roadtrains to contend with.

Situated about 1400 km and good 2 days drive north of Perth via the inland route, and around 1600 km via the more scenic coast route (, Karijini is the reason why I came back to Western Australia about 11 years ago. I came to work for somebody guiding restricted class 6 canyons in the park. I was then living and working in the Blue Mountains in New South Wales as a canyon guide.

The first time I visited Karijini was over 25 years ago and thought it was one of the most stunning places I had ever visited. Back then I only explored the public access areas of the park. When I came back to Western Australia from the Blue Mountains to work guiding the restricted access class 6 canyons I fell in love with the park even more.

When first arriving in Karijini one sees the ancient red hills covered with spinifex, which vary in colour from yellow to green depending on the season, and are dotted with snappy gums of white bark and green leaves ... aplty named the Karijini Savanah. The contrast is stunning. Large termite mounds can be seen covering the landscape, like giant monoliths they seem to stand guard everywhere you look.

Karijini National Park .... a large Karijini termite mound
Karijini Termite Mound (photo credit Nathan Dobie)

There is no obvious evidence of what lies beneath the surface at first glance. It is not until one begins the descent into this ancient earth that the true beauty of Karijini is revealed. It is like taking a step back in time where layers upon layers of banded ironstone reveal the ancient history of this place. Each layer is a volcanic sedimentation from eruptions of a bygone era. The sediments were deposited when the Earth was young and still forming. These formations are what give the gorges of Karijini their characteristic beauty. We will discuss their formation in another blog. From the air one can see the deep cracks cut into the earth over time. These are the must see parts of Karijini that most visitors come for.

Gorges Karijini National Park
Karijini Gorges from the air (photo credit Tristan McKenzie)

From the very first steps one takes when entering these gorges, it is like entering another world and a giant steps back in time the deeper you go. The heat of the day begins to drop a way as one descends deeper, and a cool breeze often drifts up from below with the smell of something enticing and enchanting. More and more water becomes evident, which serves a a stark contrast to the dry and often dusty land above. Karijini is classified as a semi-arid desert, with daytime temperature in the earlier (April and May) and later parts (September and October) of the season, often being 35 degree celsius or above. Situated above the 23rd parallel Karijini experiences dry and wet seasons. The dry season, which is peak season and the best time to visit to park, generally begins at the start of April and the wet season generally begins at the end of October. Over the years with the impact of anthropocentric climate change the regularity of the seasons have been upset. This has also negatively impacted the park as well as its flora and fauna. The relatively regular seasons to which all things within the park have adjusted over thousands of years, are finely balanced and as much as the Karijini landscape and its inhabitants are able to survive harsh extremes, they are also sensitive to this change. We are now experiencing dryer wet seasons as well as rain in the dry season. The overall water levels within the park have dropped over the years that I have been guiding there. The floods which used to cleanse the gorges, flushing out weeds and invasive species are no longer as high, nor come in as much regularity and with as much force as they used to. We will discuss some of this in another blog post.

Like most deserts, it gets colder in the evening where nighttime temperatures in June, July and August can drop to below zero. For the hottest summer months, heading deep into these gorgeous serves as a welcome reprieve. The water is nevertheless is still fresh as some of the pools are quite deep and the evening temperatures, even in summer, still drop enough to keep the pools cool. The coldest nighttime temperature I've experienced in Karijini was -7°C. It is not uncommon to have frost covering the naturasl and manmade landscape, in the July winter months. The daytime temperatures though are still a pleasant mid twenties and sometimes above. When visiting the park always bring something warm to wear, even in summer, as the nights are still cool and when the winds pick up at times it becomes cooler still.

As you descend deeper into the gorges, the rocks feel like they are wrapping around you as they enclose above your head and start to narrow the view of the sky. This brings on an eerie light as well as providing further shelter from the heat above. Public access gorges range from classes 1 (wheelchair access at the lookout in Dales Gorge) to 5 (the most challenging public access areas), from easiest to more challenging. When accessing the gorges, a good sense of balance and awareness of how the ground changes underfoot, as well as a relatively good level of fitness, is required.

Spinifex Pigeon (photo credit Nathan Dobie)
Spinifex Pigeon (photo credit Nathan Dobie)

Although, the park is for all ages, I would say, know your limits. All too often I come across people that are really struggling and should not have gone as far as they have come. There have been quite a few deaths and injuries over the years, rescues are common place and occur each season. Most of these could have been avoided if more care was taken with regards to respecting the land one is walking on and not pushing yourself when you really shouldn't have. Loose rocks and slippery surfaces require careful navigation and suitable footwear. Thongs and bare feet are not the best options. Bare feet tend to slip quiet a lot on the slippery surfaces, as well as allowing for easy injury on the sharp stones and sticks which often can't be seen when walking through the shallow pools as one ventures deeper. Soft soled sneakers that you are comfortable getting wet, are the way to go. Volleys are one the best shoes for this. I have found Solomons and Keens, which both tend to have relatively hard soles, make it very easy to slip and not feel stable on your feet when walking on wet surfaces. Hiking shoes, which also tend to have harder soles, are in the same boat.

Walking sticks/poles are 100% not recommended as far I am concerned. If you're not stable enough on your feet, and/or carry an injury that requires these, this not the place for you. Sticks and poles can easily get stuck in crevices/cracks, throwing you off balance, they can easily slip when you rely on them too much, and they don't leave your hands free to maintain 3 points of contact where needed, nor allow you to protect yourself with your hands if you fall over. Seeing people with poles in the class 4 and 5 areas always makes me very nervous.

Another thing that is not recommended, is babies/small kids in carriers. You know the ones strapped to your front or back (especially the ones that sit high up). These also make me very nervous. These gorges require people of all ages, including kids that can walk by themselves, to treat them with respect and an awareness of the remoteness of Karijini. Rescues by the State Emergency Services (SES), can take up to 10 hours, and require a lot of resources. People that make up a rescue team, often have to come from hours away. This can be extremely difficult especially when there is roping involved. I have been part of a few rescues and know all too well how long they can take and how difficult they can be. Most accidents happen in the public access areas.

Karijini boasts some of the oldest naturally exposed rocks on the planet. Some of these rocks have been dated 2.5 billion years old. The gorges/canyons of Karijini have been carved out by water and natural erosion for billions of years. The word canyon and gorges are interchangeable, and depend on where you come from in the world. A canyon or gorge, refers to geology carved out by water over time. The stunning red rocks of Karijini are rusting, which gives them their iconic colour. The natural process of oxidation occurs due to the large quantities of iron ore found within these rocks. This ore not only gives Karijini it's iconic colour but unfortunately also leads to an extensive network of mining operations surrounding the park. As much as these mining operations bring vast amount of wealth to Western Australia and Australia as a whole, they unfortunately are also responsible for negative impacts on the park.

Native Dingo (photo credit Anton Wilk)
Native Dingo - DO NOT FEED THESE (photo credit Anton Wilk)

Karijini is the second largest national park in Western Australia and covers an area of 627,422 ha. It is currently ranked in the top five visitor experiences for the state, and is one of my all-time favourite places in the world.

Karijini used to be called the Hamersley Range National Park, and was discovered by a party led by explorer F.T Gregory who explored the area in 1861. He named the Hamersley Range which runs through the National Park after his good friend Edward Hamersley. The National Park was then named after the range; Hamersley Range National Park.

It was renamed Karijini, which means hilly place in the Banyjima tongue, in 1991 to recognise the traditional owners and custodians of the land. This land is home to 3 traditional aboriginal groups; the Banyjima, the Kaurrama and the Innawonga. The traditional custodians of Karijini, have ancestors that lived on the land for over 30,000 years.

Karijini Dragon (photo credit Anton Wilk)
Karijini Dragon (photo credit Anton Wilk)

The Karijini Creation Myth

Aboriginal dreamtime stories speak of a giant serpent which is known by many names throughout Australia but known as the Warlu in the Banyjima language. The Warlu that is said to have made its way from Coral Bay, all the way to Jirndawurrunha (Millstream National Park), created all the gorges, waterways and pools in Karijini. This Warlu was a sea serpent and called Barrimirndi. Legend has it, Barrimirndi became angry with two boys who cooked and ate a parrot. Barrimirndi followed the scent of the singed feathers in search of the boys. Travelling underground, he wove his way up the river now known as the Fortescue, cutting gorges and rivers into the landscape. Sometimes he broke through the surface to check for the scent, creating a waterhole before disappearing underground again.

He reached his destination at Jirndawurrunha and came up at Nhanggangunha (Deep Reach Pool).

Barrimirndi found the boys there, raised them up into a wananggaa or willy willy (a dust devil) in which they were injured. When they fell back down to the ground, he ate them whole. The local people tried to pull them from the serpent’s stomach, but were unsuccessful. Angered by the people’s actions, Barrimirndi drowned them in a flood. Barrimirndi still lives in Nhanggangunha.

When one enters the pool, one must take a sip of water into the mouth and spit it out calling “nguru” to let the serpent hear your respect for the land.

The traditional owners of the land still practise this out of deference to Barrimirndi every time they enter the waters of Karijini. We also do this and ask our clients to do the same when we enter the gorges.

Karijini from the air
Hamersley Ranges, Karijini National Park (photo credit Tristan McKenzie)

Mount Bruce, Karijini National Park
Mount Punurrunha, aka Mount Bruce (photo credit Nathan Dobie)

Mount Punurrunha, also known as Mount Bruce is a solitary monolith which stands at the entrance of Karijini National Park when approaching it from the Western side. It is the second largest mountain, if one can call it that by global standards, in Western Australia. It is 1234 meters high ... convenient height and almost seems not real. It is climbed by many people and makes for an outstanding hike best done early in the morning as it can get very hot during the middle of the day in the later months of the season. Take plenty of water and make sure you have sun protection. The return journey varies depending on your level of fitness anywhere from 3 hours to 6 hours. We do offer this trip as part of our multi-day Karijini adventures.

The Public Access Gorges of Karijini

Hancock Gorge

Hancock gorge is one of the most iconic gorges of Karijini National Park. It contains the well-known Spidewalk and Kermit's Pool. In my humble opinion, if you were to come to Karijini National Park and only had time to see one gorge this would be the one I would recommend. It was definitely the gorge which caught my eyes and heart when I first came to Karijini over 20 years ago. When first entering the gorge via the new steel ladders, you are met with sweeping views from the top which overlook a large portion of this amazing gorge. After heading down the ladders, one then has to scramble across some rocks under native fig trees and decend one last steel ladder to get to the bottom of this gorge. This is by no means the very bottom of the gorge, but it is the bottom of the public access areas of Hancock Gorge. Stunning banded ironstone formations are everywhere. The gentle flowing water, which varies from season to season and is very much dependent on how much water is in the ground water reservoir, flows over rocks and forms of a variety of pools as you head deeper.

When you get to the Sheep Dip, depending on the depth of the water, you may need to do some swimming unless you wish to scramble along the side where you can stay dry ... unless you fall off. The scrambling can be a little bit challenging at times. Most of our clients do this with success though. The swimming is not too bad but the temperature can vary depending on the time of the year. In July it is bitter cold. The depth of the water varies depending on when in the season you visit the park. At the end of the wet season from April to the end of May, when we have a proper wet season, the water can be easily shoulder to head deep in this area.

Past the Sheep Dip, to the right, is the Amphitheatre. Please be aware that rockfalls have been recorded in this area and do not sit too high up past the "Do Not Sit" signs. The ledge above is pretty unstable and could collapse at any time. Heading around the corner is the iconic Spiderwalk. This part of the gorge is named for its narrow nature and for how people used to traverse this section. You may have seen photos online of people straddling this section with the legs and arms far apart touching each wall on either side. This is now discouraged due to a large number of incidents where people got hurt. Some of these people needed evacuating. As mentioned earlier, evacuations from the park are extremely difficult and require a lot of manpower and resources. We no longer allow our clients to do this either in keeping with the advice from the Rangers.

Once past the Spiderwalk one comes to the iconic Kermit's Pool. This is a quaint little pool at the end of the class 5 section and the beginning of the class 6 section of Hancock Gorge, is a beautiful place to sit, reflect and to have lunch if you have brought some with you. The best time of the day is early in the morning before the crowds arrive as this small section can get extremely busy during the school holidays and during the peak of the day. Unfortunately the section also has a lot of people jumping from the ledges that surround the small pool and it can get very noisy. We strongly discourage people from doing this and do not allow this on our tours both from a safety perspective but also out of respect for the area. The locals have always seen these places as special and sacred, and have treated them accordingly. On our tours we try to enjoy the quietness of this ancient landscape and to allow nature to gently seep into every pore.

Past this point, there is a chain with one of our signs which marks the beginning of the restricted class 6 area of Hancock Gorge. Do not go past this chain for your own safety. Fines apply. We will discuss this class 6 restricted canyon a little bit further along in this blog post.

Hancock Gorge, Kermit's Pool, Karijini National Park
Hancock Gorge, class 5: Kermit's Pool (photo credit Tristan McKenzie)

Hancock Gorge, class 5 looking into class 6  at Kermit's Pool
Hancock Gorge, class 5 looking into class 6 at Kermit's Pool (photo credit Anton Wilk)

Weano Gorge

Weano Gorge is located in the same car park as Hancock Gorge. These two gorges are often done on the same day. Weano Gorge offers the iconic Handrail Pool within the public access areas, and also Jade pool which lies beyond the chain and in the restricted class 6 area of Weano.

This gorge is easier to access than Hancock gorge. It starts off with some rock stairs which lead gently down to the base of the gorge. Once at the base there are two paths which you can take. To the left you can follow the gorge upstream and do a trail walk through the dryer parts of the gorge. This eventually leads you back up to the car park. Please see the map at the top of the gorge for details on this. When there is enough water in Weano, there is a stunning pool for swimming to the left at the end of the stairs. At this pool, there is also a great place to sit and have lunch after having completed Hancock Gorge. This small pool is often missed by most people which do Weano Gorge.

To the right is the iconic gorge walk which most people do. This leads you to Handrail Pool. Handrail Pool is aptly named as it has a handrail. His handrail is quite large in diameter. Its size is due to Parks having tried several sizes over its first inception but all of these got washed away by flash floods over time. Thus the large size, which it currently is, was settled upon. To get to the handrail you traverse through smaller pools with varying water levels depending on the season and how much rain fell during the wet season. The gorge begins to narrow drastically just before the handrail. This makes for stunning sculptural banded ironstone walls which can be easily touched by reaching your hands out to either side.

You then travel through another small circular pool and follow the flowing water through a very narrow section to the start of the handrail. Once at the handrail please be very careful as this section gets extremely slippery. The rock has been worn smooth overtime by both water and people. There is a metal grate with a chain hand rail. just before the tubular handrail begins to descend down into Handrail Pool. There is a small waterfall which flows into the pool below. This grated platform is relatively new and was put into place after a tragic accident a couple of years ago where an elderly gentleman fell from the top of the small waterfall. Unfortunately he did not survive this after the rescue. We were part of this rescue and were asked to assist with along with our clients when we came out of one of our class 6 canyoning trips. Unfortunately this is not the only tragedy where we have assisted.

To descend the handrail, have both hands on the rail and walk backwards to where the rail begins to go down. As the rail descends, place the rail between your legs and use the rocks which serve as footholds ... just like a ladder. The rocks are large enough to accommodate most feet and fit into the landscape extremely well. As such, unfortunately people often don't see the first rock. Placing the handrail between your legs makes the alternating rock steps very easy to descend.

Please ensure that you assist your smaller children with descending. The steps can be a little bit too far apart for small children. Once at the bottom, the edges around the pool are very slippery, again due to water flow over time and the number of people that have traversed this section. This pool is circular in nature and larger than the small circular pool at the top of the handrail.

Both these pools have been carved out by water being pushed under great pressure which has built up due the large volumes accumulated during flash floods, and being forced around one side due to the geology. Water travelling in a circular path results in circular pools. If you look closely at the walls you can see which direction the water comes out of the narrow gaps and travels to form the circles. The smoother and more polished, darker sections get impacted by larger volumes of water. Circular Pool is stunning and great place to seek shelter from the heat above. Be aware though, you won't be the only person with this idea .... so get there early :)

During the hotter months of the dry season. April/May and September/October, you may wish to explore further and wade and/or swim (depending on the depth of the pool) by heading deeper into the Gorge. It is well worth braving the "refreshing" water.

Handrail Pool, Weano Gorge, Karijini National Park
Weano Gorge, class 5: Handrail Pool ... with our clients on the way to abseil the waterfall in class 6. (photo credit Tristan McKenzie)

Weano Gorge, class 5 swim through (photo credit George Crisp)
Weano Gorge, class 5 swim through (photo credit George Crisp)

Weano Gorge, class 5  (photo credit George Crisp)
Weano Gorge, class 5 (photo credit George Crisp)

Knox Gorge

Knox Gorge is a slightly more challenging gorge to access. It is by far the hardest gorge to enter out of all the public access gorges. It is a stunning gorge and well worth a visit if you are able to descend and ascend the steep path which leads into the gorge. This path is covered in loose rocks and at times it can be quite undefined depending on the time of year. The path becomes worn after rain as water makes its way down into the gorge via the track and washes away a fair bit of it. Also as people use it, lots of rocks get kicked off ledges and sit loose all over the path. When descending this track be aware at the Pilbara dust which settles over everything and can be quite slippery when stepping on surfaces which are smooth and covered by the dust. This is especially important to pay attention to when the rocks are angled. Some of these should not be stepped on as the outcome will possible result in a sore bottom or worse.

The path does require a fairly good level of fitness, especially if you are doing it as a public access entry and need to come back up the same way that you came into the gorge. For our class 6 canyons we only go down into the gorge and exit via a different path.

Knox Gorge, Karijini National Park (photo credit Sven Borg)
Knox Gorge, class 5 (photo credit Sven Borg)

Knox Gorge, class 5 (photo credit Sven Borg)
Knox Gorge, class 5 (photo credit Sven Borg)

Joffre Gorge

The gorge is easily accessible by a short walk from the Eco Retreat. Look for the sign which says Joffre Avenue as turn off from the main road leading to the Eco Tents, and follow this to the top of the path that leads into the gorge. Ask your friendly Eco Retreat staff for directions. There are now ladders that lead down into the gorge. Back when I first started guiding in Karijini, the path in without ladders was challenging. Due to significant amounts of accidents which occurred in this section, DBCA eventually installed ladders to gain access to the bottom of the gorge.

Joffre Gorge is a stunning gorge which has two lookouts. The older of the two lookouts, is accessible from the Eco Retreat side and is located just before you head down into the gorge. It is well worth a look and gives you an entirely different perspective than the main look out on the other side of the gorge. Once you head down into the gorge, and just before the ladders, you have an option to turn right or left. The right takes you across the top of Joffre Falls, to the other side of the gorge where the main lookout is located. Some people choose to enter the gorge, as well as access the Eco Retreat, from the car park which is located at this main lookout.

Continuing to the left, the path leads you to the top of the ladders which lead you down into the gorge.

Once at the bottom to the left is the amphitheatre which is the base of the Joffre Waterfall. This waterfall is seasonal and does not flow all through the dry season. It is fed by two small tributaries at the top of the falls. Normally it continues to flow after the wet for potentially a couple of months, depending on how much water has fallen during the wet season. I have seen a video which was taken by some of the Eco Retreat managers that stayed on during the wet season, where the waterfall was pumping out horizontally. The volume of water that this section and most of Karijini can have during the wet season is phenomenal. This water is what has shaped the gorges of Karijini over millennia. It is also the reason the park is at times closed and has restricted access during the wet season and rain is forcast during the dry season. Flash Floods can occur with devastating consequences. Observe all signage put into place by the rangers.

Heading to the right, and downstream, is the Olympic Pool. Aptly named due to its length of roughly 300+ metres. It is an amazing place to take a swim on a hot day. Please be aware this pool is very deep and not suitable for people that are not strong swimmers. This pool can also still be very cold during the hot months due to its depth and length. The more shallow pool just before the Olympic Pool at the base of the ladders, is more suitable for people that are not strong swimmers nor like the cold water. Later on in the year this pool can get rather stagnant and not pleasant for swimming.

At the end of the Olympic Pool is a stunning pebble/sandbar with paperbark trees. This is visible from the old and look out on the Eco Retreat side. This is the start of the restricted class 6 part of Joffre Gorge. The warning sign unfortunately can be a little bit difficult to see and is located on a large boulder to the right on the bank as you exit the pool. Please be aware proceeding past this point will incur fines and is dangerous. We both enter and exit via this point for our Joffre Journey Adventure.

Joffre Gorge, Karijini National Park
Joffre Gorge, class 5 ... Eco Retreat side: The Amphitheatre (photo credit Tristan McKenzie)

Joffre Gorge, Karijini Western Australia
The top of Joffre Falls, class 5 (photo credit Tristan McKenzie)

Joffre Gorge, looking into the Olympic Pool (photo credit Tristan McKenzie)
Joffre Gorge, class 5: Looking into the Olympic Pool after heavy rain ... hence the water being brown. Part of our 7 day Canyoning Adventures. (photo credit Tristan McKenzie)

Kalamina Gorge

This gorge, along with Dales Gorge, are part of our 7 day Canyoning Adventures; Karijini Yoga & Canyoning Adventure and Karijini Painting & Canyoning Adventure.

Kalamina is a by far the easiest of all the gorges to access, with a short set of stone stairs into the gorge. Once at the bottom, to the right is a beautiful waterfall and a great pool for a swim. Well worth the very short detour. To the left, the gorge walk which leads you all the way to end of public access part of the gorge and a stunning pool to swim in and have lunch at. At the end you will also find Karijini's version of Nature's Window ... we think far more impressive than Kalbarri's ;)

Kalamina Gorge offers different colours and formations of banded ironstone combared to the other gorges and is more open, as well as not as deep. It is well worth a visit and nice rebrief from the more challenging gorges. We like Kalamina :) It is also where we run one of our yoga sessions as part of the Karijini Yoga & Canyoning Adventure.

Kalamina Gorge yoga session. Part of our Karijini Yoga & Canyoning Adventure. (photo credit Sven Borg)
Kalamina Gorge yoga session. Part of our Karijini Yoga & Canyoning Adventure. (photo credit Sven Borg)

Dales Gorge

Dales gorge is one of the iconic public access gorges to visit within Karijini and relatively easy to access for most people with an extensive beautifully constructed stair system into the gorge. The stairs with their rusty finish, blend perfectly into the landscape and are a testimony to the passion and craftsmanship of the workers that painstakingly constructed them. The stairs lead you right down to the pool at the base of Fortescue Falls, offering stunning views and plenty of places to rest on the way down. Once at the bottom, Fortescue Falls offers plenty of places to lounch, rest, relax, eat in both sun and shade for most of the day, as well as a refeshing dip.

Continuing past the falls to the left, a picturesque path lined with ferns and paperbarks, leads you to Fern Pool.

Fern Pool, like the name suggests, is lined with lots of ferns and creates a tropical feel. There is a stunning Waterfall that plunges from a ledge above into the pool. To swim over to it and sit under the waterfall, is a must do. As is sitting on the viewing platform and dangling your feet in the pool and letting the native carp gently nibble on your toes.

If you turn right at the base of the stairs at Fortescue Falls, you will walk a picturesque path along the bottom of the gorge. It winds and weaves along the edges of the gorge lined with ferns, reeds, and mainly papwerbarks. Most fo the path is in the shade and can be done in the middle fo the day. The path crosses the water in a few places, with a few detours for spectacualr views along the way. It is possble to keep your feet dry, but can be a little tricky at times ... it is fun to do though :) Once at the end of the path, there are stone stairs that lead back up to the top. These are steep and take a relatively good level of fitness to ascend. At the top, you follow the Rim Walk back to where you started :)

Please see the map at top of Dales Gorge for details.

Dales Gorge, class 4: Fortescue Falls Pool (photo credit Tristan McKenzie)
Dales Gorge, class 4: Fortescue Falls Pool yoga session. Part of our Yoga & Canyoning Adventure. (photo credit Tristan McKenzie)

Dales Gorge, class 4: Fern Falls Pool (photo credit Tristan McKenzie)
Dales Gorge, class 4: Fern Falls Pool. Part of our 7 day Canyoning Adventures. (photo credit Tristan McKenzie)

Circular Pool, class 5 - currently closed
Circular Pool, class 5 - currently closed. Part of our 7 day Canyoning Adventures. (photo credit Sven Borg)

Circular Pool, an offshoot of Dales Gorge, is currently closed and has been for a number of years due the risk of rockfall from two big boulders that are wedged above the pool. DBCA is waiting for a big flashflood to knock them down. Unfortunately they maybe waiting for a few more years, as it has been quite a number of years since Karijini has seen the big flash floods it once used to. As mentioned before, anthropocentric climate change has affected the park, like it has the rest of our planet, and the gorges are not getting flushed like they used to. The view from the lookout is still very much worth the visit and not far from the Dales' carpark. If you do the gorge Rim Walk as a circuit walk in either direction, you go past the lookout with a very short detour. The the circuit Rim Walk is well worth it as it allows you to experience the best parts of the rest of Dales Gorge beyond Fortescue Falls and Fern Pool.

Hamersley Gorge

We do not visit this gorge as part of any of our tours, as it is out of the way from our usual locations and we feel that the 100+km of corrugations as a round trip from the main road, for what the gorge offers, is not worth the journey when compared with the other gorges we visit. I have personally only been there twice in my 20+ years of coming to the park. This Gorge contains the iconic Spa Pool and is often visited by the locals from Tom Price for a swim on a hot weekend. It can get very busy here during the peak times. Spa Pool is a very photographed location. The photos always make it look much bigger than it is, with most people being surprised at its small size. In fairness, it has been a number of years since I have been here, so my judgement may not be the most valid :) We have so many other amazing places to go to though, that as this stage Hamersley Gorge is not on our current itinerary.

Spa Pool, Hamersley Gorge (photo credit Anton Wilk)
Spa Pool, Hamersley Gorge (photo credit Anton Wilk)

The Restricted Class 6 Gorges of Karijini

Class 6 gorges are the restricted access gorges, these go deeper and become even more stunning!

Do not attempt to access these gorges without a guide or by obtaining a lawful authority from National Parks. As well as being dangerous, heavy fines are imposed. Over the years of guiding in the park, I have unfortunately caught a few people down there illegally, some needed rescuing. The best way and the safest way to access these areas is on a guided tour.

This is where we come in ;) To date, with hundreds of trips under my belt over 10 years, I have not had an evacuation. My staff and I, take safety very seriously and our motto is: Safety first without exceptions. I have turned people away that are not suitable for our trips. We do try to accomodate most people and are always open to a discussion. Our decisions are final though and always based on the safety for all participants. The youngest we have taken into class 6 to date was 6.5 years old, and the oldest I have taken was 84 ... he was very fit and ran rings around some the younger members of the group. We never want to let age get in the way of an adventure :)

The gorges that have class 6 access parts are all located on the western side of the park near the Karijini Eco Retreat. These Gorges are; Hancock Gorge, Weano Gorge, Knox Gorge and Joffre Gorge. Red Gorge connects them all.

Hancock Gorge

Hancock Gorge, class 6: Centre of the Earth (photo credit Anton Wilk)
Hancock Gorge, class 6: Centre of the Earth. Part of all our class 6 adventures. (photo credit Anton Wilk)

Red Gorge

This gorge is only accessible with a licensed commercial operator like us. The entirety of the gorge is within the restricted class 6 canyons of Karijini. This gorge connects Wittenoom Gorge, Knox Gorge, Weano Gorge, Hancock Gorge and Joffre Gorge. Even though it has its own name, technically it is an extension of Joffre Gorge going around a right angle corner at Junction Pool, which then becomes Wittenoom Gorge. Wittenoom Gorge technically is also an extension of Joffre Gorge, where Red Gorge goes around another right angle corner, forming a Z from the air. The gorge flows from Joffre Falls downstream around both of these corners and exits via Wittenoom Gorge.

Red Gorge, class 5: Junction Pool, looking into Centre of the Earth. Part of all our class 6 adventures.
Red Gorge, class 5: Junction Pool. Part of all our class 6 adventures. (photo credit Sven Borg)

Weano Gorge

Weano Gorge, class 6: Weano Descent Waterfall Abseil (photo credit Tristan McKenzie)
Weano Gorge, class 6: Weano Descent Waterfall Abseil (photo credit Tristan McKenzie)

Weano Gorge, class 6: Jade Pool (photo credit Nathan Dobie)
Weano Gorge, class 6: Jade Pool. Part of our Weano Descent Adventure. (photo credit Nathan Dobie)

Knox Gorge

Knox Gorge, class 6. Part of our Red Gorge Adventure. Top of the Slide.
Knox Gorge, class 6: Top of the Slide. Part of our Red Gorge Adventure. (photo credit Anton Wilk)

Knox Gorge, class 6. The Slide and Pool. Part of our Red Gorge Adventure. (photo credit George Crisp)
Knox Gorge, class 6: The Slide and Pool. Part of our Red Gorge Adventure. (photo credit George Crisp)

Knox Gorge, class 6. Part of our Red Gorge Adventure. Pool after the Slide Pool.
Knox Gorge, class 6: Pool after slide pool. Part of our Red Gorge Adventure. (photo credit Sven Borg)

Joffre Gorge

Joffre Gorge, class 6: The hidden parts within the 6km of restricted canyon.
Joffre Gorge, class 6: The hidden parts within the 6km of restricted canyon. Part of our Joffre Journey Adventure.

Joffre Gorge, class 6: The hidden parts within the 6km of restricted canyon.
Joffre Gorge, class 6: The hidden parts within the 6km of restricted canyon. Part of our Joffre Journey Adventure (photo credit Tristan McKenzie)

We run a variety of trips into these restricted access gorges, ranging from day trips to multi day trips. We began running restricted canyons with the Karijini Adventure, Original almost 10 years ago. Back then there was another commercial operator located in the park that ran restricted class 6 canyons as single day trips only. So as to not compete with this operator and to offer something different, we only ran multi day trips with accommodation, food and airport shuttles included. We also offered one extra class 6 canyon trip in this package that noone else was offering, the Joffre Journey. We still offer this to this day. It is a stunning trip that starts at 8 o'clock in the morning entering via Hancock gorge for its entire length and into class 6 where it descends deep into the heart of Karijini. It runs for the full length of Joffre gorge, over 6.5 km, and exiting at the Eco Retreat around 4 o'clock in the afternoon. This gorge is part of the intenrary for all of our multi day adventures.

When this operator closed its doors during Covid, we stepped up operations and began running Karijini Day Adventures as well as three other multi day trips: the Karijini Yoga & Canyoning Adventure, the Karijini Painting & Canyoning Adventure, and the Karijini Photography Adventure. We are a Perth based business and only come up for the dates listed on our website. These dates are updated regularly. Please check these for our availability and plan your trip around these dates if you are looking to come on one of our adventures. We have run private trips in the past and can come up outside these times. This will require a minimum number and minimum cost. Please contact us to discuss this.

Although the public access gorges are stunning and definitely worth a visit, the real magic happens when you go deeper, away from the crowds and as deep as you can go into the heart of Karijini. Some of these restricted gorges are up to 135 metres deep. They have pools that never run dry, of which the bottom cannot be seen or easily reached. These restricted Gorges are all connected to one another and we run our adventures with different exit and entry points at the western end of the park where the Karijini Eco Retreat is located. If you are looking at joining us for a adventure, the Eco Retreat offers both camping, eco-tents and cabin style accommodation. If you are looking at staying on this side of the park, please book your accommodation well in advance as the retreat books out during the school holidays well in advance. We run our class 6 day trips during the school holidays as this is the busiest time in Karijini and we need to maximise the return on our investment of coming up from Perth. For our multi day trips we sort the accommodation for you in eco-tents with ensuite bathrooms.

Please check the website links above for full details of all our Karijini adventures. If you have something specific in mind for teambuilding and/or a special occasion, please get in touch. We are more than happy to look at catering a bespoke adventure for you and your group.

Karijini National Park, Hancock Gorge, class 6, via ferrata
Hancock Gorge, class 6: Via Ferrata. Part of our Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Weano Descent and Joffre Journey. (photo credit Anton Wilk)

Karijini National Park, Hancock Gorge, class 6: The Chute
Hancock Gorge, class 6: The Chute. Part of our Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Weano Descent and Joffre Journey. (photo credit Tyler Stewart)

Knox Gorge, Karijini National Park
Knox Gorge class 6: The Slide. Part of our Red Gorge Adventure. (photo credit Anton Wilk)

My next blog post on Karijini will cover it's geological creation and connection to the theory of Panspermia and why we are all possibly Martians. Worth a read ... and backed by science :)

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