EXPLORE KENNEDY RANGE, WA
THE KENNEDY Range National Park in Western Australia sits approximately 830km north of Perth and 150km east of Carnarvon.
The steep rubble slopes of the south-eastern side are easily accessible via formed gravel roads from Gascoyne Junction. Already well developed by WAís Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW), it has a designated campground with drop toilets, while signposts lead to highlights like Honeycomb, Drapers and Temple Gorges.
However, the western side is a completely different story. It doesnít have the dramatic cliffs of the eastern side, but it does have permanent springs, shady river gums, creeks and water holes. Access is on unformed tracks via Mardathuna Station to the west or by crossing the Gascoyne River from the south.
There is also a rough 4WD track over the top of the range, and itís this isolation that keeps the Kennedy Rangeís western side in pristine condition.
Access to the south-west end of the range, across the Gascoyne River, can be fraught with danger and travellers should be aware that the riverbedís sand is coarse and does not compact well when wet, so you risk your tyres sinking in the quicksand.
Even when itís dry it can be challenging. Being up to 200 metres wide, if you do get stuck on the way across it could be a long reach to the nearest big tree or firm ground to winch yourself out.
Alternative access is from the west via Mardathuna Station. The Mardathuna Road passes the homestead, so itís worth a courtesy call to the station managers to ask if itís okay to pass through. From there, continue on to Mooka Station which will eventually lead to Pharoh Well at the base of the range. The road starts off being reasonably well-formed as far as the homestead, but from there on it varies between soft sand and rough rock, with plenty of washaways thrown into the mix.
Heading south along Mardathuna Road from Pharoh Well, travellers will find numerous permanent springs, waterholes and creeks along the base of the range waiting to
be explored. The largest of these is Chaffcutters Spring, which makes a lovely, tranquil place to camp among its pools of water and towering river gums.
Another point of interest a bit further south is the Mookaite deposit near Mooka Spring. This is the worldís only known source of this earthy-coloured Jasper rock. While itís well worth a fossick for this colourful gem, the rights to the mine is held by lessees, so donít be tempted to take any samples with you.
On paper, Mardathuna Road T-junctions with the Carnarvon-Mullewa Road, but youíll have to cross the aforementioned Gascoyne River to reach it. If itís too wet to cross, the area still makes a lovely spot to camp for a few days of swimming and relaxing in the shade of the huge river gums and paperbark trees.
When youíre ready to get back to exploring the Range, youíll need to backtrack to Pharoh Well, which should take two hours, without trouble. From there, you can make the decision to travel back along the roads you came in on, or take the more adventurous route and tackle the 4WD track over the top of the range.
Youíll find DPaW signs along the way, advising that ďthe top of the Range is currently not safely
accessible to visitorsĒ, but people still attempt the crossing. It is not maintained and the runoff from any rainfall can have a significant impact on the state of the track, so a high-clearance 4WD is required, as well as lowered tyre pressures and locked diffs.
Be prepared for some trackbuilding after recent rains, as the depth of the gullies made by runoff can make the track impassable.
It can be done, though, but itís not for the faint-hearted.
Those who are up to the challenge will be rewarded at the top of the range with a view of expansive red dunes and spinifex scrub.
In stark contrast to the rocky climb, once up the top itís smooth driving along sandy wheel ruts as the track loops between the lines of dunes.
Keep an eye out for the visitorsí book in its mounted metal box to make record of your crossing.
Youíre not out of rocky territory yet Ė as you approach the eastern side, the track soon turns rough again, however, this is where youíll find the crowning glory of the trip with the spectacular views it offers.
Make sure to take it in.
The track traces right along the edge of plunging mesa cliffs, and the most difficult decision youíll have to make is choosing which spot to set up camp so you can sit and watch the changing colours as the sun slowly sets.
Itís for moments like these, in locations like this, that you own a four-wheel drive!
Approx 830km north of Perth and 150km east of Carnarvon.
The western side can be accessed by either crossing the Gascoyne River from the south or via Mardathuna Road off North West Coastal Highway, north of Carnarvon.
The cooler months are April to October, but the river can be impassable after rain.
High clearance 4WD.
Conditions vary dependent on weather. You will be isolated.
The rough 4WD track over the top of the Range is not actively promoted due to the significant hazards. The track is not maintained.
Youíll need to be totally selfsufficient.
Bring a compressor, spare tyre, puncture repair kit and recovery gear.
It is suggested all vehicles carry a working fire extinguisher.
Itís all bush camping with no facilities. BYO everything.
There are plans afoot to develop the western side of the Range for low-key, 4WD-based camping and exploration. However, there are currently no designated campsites or facilities. Until the development occurs, the plan is to continue to allow the current informal and dispersed camping unless the area is compromised by such use. So, do the right thing and leave no trace, ensuring this place will remain accessible for others to enjoy the unique experience.