Friday, 7 July 2017

Kalamina Gorge (Karijini National Park)


Arguably the most underrated gorge walk in Karijini National Park, Kalamina Gorge is one of the park's lesser known attractions due to being located deep within the park. While not as deep as the other gorges, Kalamina makes up for it by offering a unique and picturesque experience of stunning reflections on still pools and glowing red walls. A relatively easy walk, this is a perfect walk for adventurous young families.

Distance: 3 km (return)
Gradient: Generally easy, gentle gradients with a moderately easy descent into the gorge
Quality of Path: Largely on uneven, rocky and unmodified terrain with some ledge walking required
Quality of Signage: Generally well signed and clear
Experience Required: Bushwalking Experience Recommended
Time:  80 minutes
Steps: Many
Best Time to Visit: Winter
Entry Fee: Yes. National Park Fees apply.
Getting There: The trail starts at the Kalamina Gorge car park. From either the western or eastern entrance to the park, follow Banjima Dr into the 4WD only section of the road. Roughly halfway, take the Kalamina turn off north - the car park is at the end of the road



After finishing Dales Gorge in the morning, Alissa and I spent the middle of the day finally visiting the excellent Karijini Visitors Centre, refueling our car (and getting our front window cracked by a stone from a passing truck) at Auski Roadhouse, and enjoying the scenic drive along Great Northern Hwy where it goes through Munjina Gorge. After stopping to make use of the Wi-Fi at the rest stop along Karijini Drive, Alissa and I headed down the rough unsealed track to complete Kalamina Gorge - our last gorge walk in Karijini.

The easiest and shallowest gorge walk in the park, Kalamina Gorge is often the forgotten gorge due to it being the most inconvenient gorge to get to. It being scheduled as our last walk was no accident - it was the one I was prepared to skip if we ran out of time. Where Joffre, Knox, Weano and Hancock are all very close to the Eco Retreat and Dales Gorge is literally walking distance from Dales Campground, Kalamina is deep within the park on corrugated unsealed roads that Parks and Wildlife rate as being for 4WD only. While rough, our X-Trail was able to handle the terrain ably, and we saw some 2WDs travelling on the road without issue (though certainly at their own risk).



From the Kalamina Gorge car park, the trail descends a series of steps. Given that this is the shallowest gorge in the park, it should be of no surprise that this was the easiest and shortest descent of all.



Once reaching the bottom of the steps, the trail overlooks a large, beautiful pool lined with Snappy Gums. I hadn't expected much of Kalamina given its forgotten status, however I was immediately impressed by its beauty. The shallow and more open nature of the gorge reminded me of Kalbarri, especially the Loop Walk and the section of the Murchison Gorge near the Ross Graham Lookout.



The gorge trail continues to the left, however it is worth heading to the right first to check out Kalamina Falls.



A small, shallow waterfall, Kalamina Falls was like a (very) mini version of Joffre Falls. While not particularly spectacular at the time of our visit (July 2017), I've seen photos online that suggest Kalamina Falls can be quite pretty earlier in the year during the wet season.



Retracing our steps, Alissa and I made our way left from the entry steps along the actual gorge walk, which initially follows a fairly flat area in the dry part of the gorge. Similar to Dales Gorge, Kalamina is one of the more forested gorges in the park, with many tall trees and grasses growing along the watercourse.



Passing through the trees, the trail crosses Kalamina's stream over a series of stepping stones. Even without these stepping stones, the water along this section of the gorge is quite shallow and could easily be waded if one were so inclined.



The trail continues close to the gorge wall as it follows the stream down a series of gentle cascades to a sharp bend.



Up until the bend, Kalamina Gorge was very open and exposed compared to most of the other gorges in the park (Hamersley Gorge being a notable exception). Around the corner, the gorge became noticeably deeper and shadier. Being clear of obstacles and fairly easy, Alissa and I found Kalamina to be particularly popular with families with young children, and we ran into a number of families at various points along the trail.



With the gorge walls glowing red due to the reflected light, this particularly section of Kalamina Gorge really reminded Alissa and I of Kalbarri, in particular the bit of the Z Bend River Trail after the ladder climbs.



Continuing along into the gorge, the trail once again crosses over to the other side via a series of stepping stones.



While the depth of the other gorges is part of what makes them spectacular, the shallowness of Kalamina was also a strength it is own right - there were so many moments along the walk when we would round a corner and come across a picture perfect scene of a reflection on a perfectly still pool like the one picture above. From the wide ledge on the left, the trail goes through the boulders in the middle of the photo before heading back across to the other side of the gorge.



The gorge is wide and quite deep at this point, and the trail traverses a series of narrow ledges along its side. While not easy per se, Alissa and I watched many young children enjoying the challenge.



Clearing the large pool and ledges, the trail heads through a slightly swampy section filled with tall reeds and paperbarks.



At this point, walkers are greeted by yet another series of stepping stones as the trail crosses right through the middle of the swampy section to the other side of the gorge.



The trail then runs next to the left gorge wall along a path that seems to have been naturally (if unevenly) paved in slabs of rock that have been worn off from the gorge wall.



Along this stretch are a number of narrow ledge sections, and on the day we walked the trail they created a bit of a bottleneck in both directions.



Beyond the narrow ledges, the trail one again widens for some easy walking along broad rocky platforms. Along this stretch, the watercourse becomes a shallow series of cascades leading to the next section of deep water.





The trail crosses over to the other side one last time. The trail rounds the corner along another narrow ledge as it reaches the trail's final destination.



This is Rock Arch Pool, named after the rock arch pictured towards the middle right of the photo above. While less impressive an end point than the way Fern Pool and Circular Pool bookend either side of Dales Gorge, or the rugged beauty of Handrail Pool in Weano Gorge, Rock Arch Pool was nevertheless a satisfying end point for the walk. That said, it did have me thinking that there might well be more to Kalamina Gorge beyond the trail. I decided to walk up to Rock Arch Pool and realised that a handful of European backpackers were having a picnic under the arch after having scrambled up the gorge wall. It had me thinking - unlike the other gorges that had signs restricting access, the only reason Kalamina seems to end at Rock Arch Pool is that there is no more ledges or platforms to walk on, but it might be possible to climb up and over the other side of Rock Arch or to swim to a beach I could see beyond the narrowing of the gorge near the arch. All exciting possibilities that I would have to save for another visit.



From Rock Arch, Alissa and I retraced our steps back to the car, having finished our final walk in Karijini National Park. Although Kalamina had not been high on my list of places to check out in Karijini, Alissa and I agreed that it is probably the most underrated gorge in the park. While not as deep as all of the other gorges, the fact it was quite different ended up being an asset as it allowed Kalamina Gorge to stand out as a unique and picturesque trail in its own right. While Joffre and Knox Gorge could be considered more spectacular than Kalamina, their general similarity to the superior Weano and Hancock Gorges made them less memorable. The fact that Kalamina seems to continue on around the corner is very intriguing to me, and I would happily do Kalamina again to explore further. 

2 comments:

  1. Hi Don, I've really enjoyed these posts on Karijini, it's been good to show Sam some photos on what's on offer. I hadn't heard of Kalamina Gorge before so it was interesting to see what it was all about, it might be one that I could check out over summer without as much danger of flash floods. Some of the deeper narrow gorges are a little too dodgy (even for me!) in the wet season I think. Your Camel Trail post was interesting too, last time I was swimming in the Python Pool was just after a cyclone had gone through years ago, there was no walking the Camel Trail on that visit though so I've always wondered what it was like. Did you check out the Cape Range NP on the coast on the way home? Cheers Kevin

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    1. Hi Kevin, glad the Karijini posts has been of help. Kalamina is probably the safest of the gorges for further exploration unlike the flash flooding prone Weano and Hancock Gorges. I've done a bit of research since coming home and it looks like there definitely is more to see further upstream in Kalamina. Definitely something I want to check out next time.

      We took Great Northern Hwy both there and back rather than the coast road so we didn't go to Cape Range. I'm hoping to do a Ningaloo/Cape Range trip some other time in the future. If you're ever there, the Badjirrajirra Trail is supposed to be the best walk in the park but they keep it quiet as someone died doing it a few years ago.

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