At 1,283,706 hectares (12837 square km), the Karlamilyi National Park (was Rudall River
National Park) is the largest national park in Western Australia
and one of the largest in the world. It is more than two-and-a-half times a large as the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. As well as being so vast, it is also one of the most remote places
in the world.
The park sits on the boundary between the Great Sandy and Little Sandy Deserts and includes the watershed of the Rudall River
. Salt lakes, which are part of a palaeodrainage system, are characteristic of these desert regions. Lakes Dora, Blanche, Winifred, George and Auld form a U-shaped group east of Rudall River
, with only Lakes Dora and Blanche lying inside the park boundary. Lake Dora
is 198 metres above sea level and it is only for a short time after particularly heavy rains that there is any
appreciable quantity of surface water in this or any of the other lakes.
Sand dunes cover much of the desert areas in the eastern and south-western parts of the park. They form parallel ridges of between 20-40 metres high, trending mainly south-east to north-west, lying between 200 metres and six kilometres apart and often extending for more than 40 kilometres in length. The central rocky area, between the two desert areas, is flatter and it is here where the main tracks cross the park: from Telfer in the north to the Talawana Track in the south, and westwards from the Rudall River
crossing to Hanging Rock
, on the western boundary of the park.
The Rudall River
was named by Frank Hann after the surveyor and explorer William Frederick Rudall (pronounced Roo-dal, with stress on the second syllable). To the Aboriginal people who live in this remote desert region, it is called Karlamilyi. The first European explorations of the Rudall River
area itself came in 1896-97, when surveyor William Frederick Rudall led a party of men in search of George Jones and Charles Wells, the missing men from the Calvert Expedition. Rudall made three trips through the present park area, during which he named several of its features -- including Mt
Connaughton, after one of the members of the search party, and Hanging Rock
-or recorded their Aboriginal names. At that time, Rudall noted that there was good gold-bearing land, but that the remoteness and sheer inhospitality of the area made it uneconomical to investigate further. He crossed the river several times and in his account of the search, written a few years later, he commented that:
"The Rudall River
is a series of deep gulches 8-10 feet between banks and altogether is about 200 yards wide. There must be large quantities of water run
down it in a rainy season."
Someone else who was in the area at about the same time was Frank H Hann. Hann was a versatile and wide-ranging prospector, surveyor and explorer who was investigating the area for stock grazing. Hann, then about 60 years old, entered the Broadhurst Range, just north of the park, on 31 May, 1897. He continued south to the river, then north-east to Lake Misery (later renamed Lake Dora
by Rudall after his fiancee Dora Miller). He tried his hand prospecting for gold
near Mt Eva before heading south to the McKay Range and then westwards. As he approached the area near Hanging Rock
, and was running short of water, he saw smoke in the distance. He followed the smoke and 'bumped into' Rudall and his search party in a place later named Meeting Gorge
. Rudall described him as, "a hardy old bushman".
The Karlamilyi National Park (was Rudall River
National Park) is a beautiful and haunting place, rich in history and culture. This ancient land is one of only a few areas in Australia
that remain rarely visited. Its secrets are known only to all a few hardy travellers, scientists, researchers and explorers
, and of course, the traditional Aboriginal groups, who have lived there for tens of thousands of years.