Vans & trailers-Gibb River / Kalumburu Road.

Submitted: Sunday, May 14, 2006 at 21:42
ThreadID: 33893 Views:2460 Replies:8 FollowUps:5
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Every year we get stacks of questions regarding can I / should I tow on the roads in the North Kimberley.
This is a page from our web site minus the photos.
www.drysdaleriver.com.au

One of the most frequently asked questions is
' What will the road be like when I come in ......... ?

Can you bear with me while I tell a long story and explain the way the roads work up here.
It's a gravel road. The wet happens, road closes for up to 5 months and it can wash out big time depending on the size of the wet AND the way it fell : i.e. we could get quite a large total but it fell well spread in small storms OR we could get a small or normal wet but the skies opened and it dropped 200 / 300 mm in a few hours, this type of fast heavy rainfall creates serious road damage.
So we get to April / May and depending again on the wet the road opens but only after they have inspected it and the rivers are low enough to cross without being washed off a crossing or drowning your vehicle. If the damage is bad they won't open until they do 'an opening grade' this means the grader rushes through fixing only the wash outs. At that point there are no corrugations because the wet has flattened them all but the rivers may be 600/900 mm deep. The earliest I have seen the road open to us is the 1st April but the latest was the 9th June.

OK then they open it and the grader starts and does a ' full grade ' At that point probably in May ( some years April) the road is fully graded and the rivers are only about 300/ 500 mm deep. The road is then great, one year my eldest son and wife had no problem coming in with his falcon with our three grandsons, a trailer and a dog!

Then the traffic starts getting busier, the rivers drop and the corrugations build up. When really bad can disintegrate a caravan and some trailers.
The road gets rougher and rougher until depending on, money available, number of complaints received and availability of grader. They grade it again, BUT the the road repair is in fact done by two separate bodies. Main Roads for the Gibb River Road and Shire Wyndham East Kimberley for the Kalumburu Road so the grades are not tied to happening at the same time.
The second grade timing depends totally on above plus if the road opened first time on just say 1st April or 24th May, this first open time then flows on to all other timings. They then do the second grade and the road is perfect( for a gravel road) by then we are in busy season June / July and the traffic pours in.
People fly along it and the corrugations fly right in after them.

Next depending on same things again plus myself and other locals phoning and complaining about the damage being suffered by the cattle trucks, the amount of complaints we are hearing and the amount of damage we are seeing and fixing, they grade it again.
OK so now we get a dirt highway again. People fly along and back come the corrugations and it doesn't take long either.
If they do a third full grade depends mainly on money, they may just do the real bad patches because of course on top of all else the road isn't the same all along the over 1000 km we are discussing. Some patches are hilly and rocky, some patches are soft and bull dust and some patches they have fully rebuilt in the last couple of years and they remain great throughout.
There is no way ANYONE can tell you the timing of these grades in much advance, so you may have a perfect trip all the way to Kalumburu but a month later ( or earlier) and it can be pretty rough.
I have to say that overall the condition of the road especially the width and the creek crossings have improved a lot over the last few years.
The Mitchell Plateau track is a different funding set up again and is most years only graded once per year, sometimes twice, until a few years back it wasn't even done every single year.
Hope you found it worth reading, and now have an understanding why it is impossible for any of us to advance forecast the road conditions or tell you if you will be ok towing anything or not.
This also explains why there is such a huge difference in what one person has to say about the roads compared to what another has to say.
It is all in the timing - lucky or unlucky !!!!
Cheers, Anne

Drysdale River Station

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Reply By: Keith_A (Qld) - Sunday, May 14, 2006 at 22:12

Sunday, May 14, 2006 at 22:12
Thanks for such a thorough explanation Anne. Much appreicated.
................Keith
AnswerID: 172677

Reply By: roscoea26 - Monday, May 15, 2006 at 07:34

Monday, May 15, 2006 at 07:34
Anne,

I have to agree with Keith. Your explanation is by far the best I have read...I have a much better understandiong now of why there are so many differing stories about this famous road. If I make it to Drysdale I will pop in and say hello.

Roscoe
AnswerID: 172710

Reply By: maroni - Monday, May 15, 2006 at 09:58

Monday, May 15, 2006 at 09:58
hi there Anne, good to hear from you again..can understand where you are coming from.this year we had floods(lake grace) 10inches and you can imagine the roads conditions, and they are the black stuff!! but around our farm was different all our internal roads were washed away, found things very difficult to drive around to assess damage as no roads and ofcourse paddocks very wet! to cut along story short we have just finsished , had to get the shire in with grader and 2 six wheel trucks carting gravel and fixing internal roads, not to mention the extra expense of it all!Also Anne just wondering if Norm if still the grader driver on the Gibb river, we met him last time we were up there, what a charater!! well must go cheers and thanks for all the information,will be up your way in august looking forward to using that phone in the Fridge!!
bye for now
H
AnswerID: 172743

Follow Up By: Anne from Drysdale River Station - Monday, May 15, 2006 at 16:12

Monday, May 15, 2006 at 16:12
You are correct, Normie takes some beating when it come to character !
Some of the funniest things I have ever seen and heard involved Norm.
Yes although the family are no longer living at Ellenbrea Station, Norm is still driving his grader on the roads.
cheers, Anne

Drysdale River Station

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Follow Up By: Lyds- Monday, May 15, 2006 at 20:42

Monday, May 15, 2006 at 20:42
Norm the funny bugger...

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Reply By: Member - Beatit (QLD) - Monday, May 15, 2006 at 10:04

Monday, May 15, 2006 at 10:04
Hi Anne,

A great trip there no matter what. We were there last year and our time in that part of the Kimberley was one of our hightlights.

The homestead camp ground,


And some pot luck on the road to Kalumburu,


Kind regards

AnswerID: 172746

Follow Up By: Anne from Drysdale River Station - Monday, May 15, 2006 at 16:13

Monday, May 15, 2006 at 16:13
Nice trye !
Better photos !!!!
cheers, Anne
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Reply By: Wayne (NSW) - Monday, May 15, 2006 at 10:36

Monday, May 15, 2006 at 10:36
Anne,

This post will be used a lot to answer a lot of questions about the area.

You have said that after the road is graded the corrugations come back soon after vehicle traffic rushes through. Do you think that driving at high speed brings on the corrugations faster and deeper?

The road to Mitchell Plateau, will it be graded this year, and if it is, can you get them to hold off until we go there in August?

Between you and Ruth at Birdsville the first hand road reports are so important to all us travellers. Keep up the good work.

Wayne

AnswerID: 172754

Follow Up By: Anne from Drysdale River Station - Monday, May 15, 2006 at 16:26

Monday, May 15, 2006 at 16:26
Yes you can see the speed has a large effect as where vehicles have to slow to head into a corner on that side of the road the correguations are much less, come round corner and where foot is planted they are much deeper.
Gossip says that some upgrade work will in fact be done on the plateau track this season, lets hope that is correct.
cheers, Anne

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Reply By: snailbait (Blue mntns) - Monday, May 15, 2006 at 21:33

Monday, May 15, 2006 at 21:33
Anne from Drysdale River Station asked for information on Vans & trailers-Gibb river / Kalumburu Road.
hi ANNE
Thank you for you report
Snailbait
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Reply By: Member - Tony T (VIC) - Monday, May 15, 2006 at 22:28

Monday, May 15, 2006 at 22:28
Thanks Anne- u gave me good advice some time ago when I was just dreaming about getting up there- now will be doing a slow lap in July- hope u don't get toooo busy. Cheers TonyT
AnswerID: 172868

Reply By: Ruth from Birdsville Caravan Park - Tuesday, May 16, 2006 at 07:34

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 at 07:34
Hello Anne, great to hear from you - been wondering how you were faring. We are all go here - driest I have ever seen it in 10 years. Flood in the river for the stations though - most cattle have been trucked out. Our roads aren't faring too well - mainly because dry grading causes bull dust holes as you know. Weather is nice though and flies dropping off. Plenty of visitors and plenty trying to wind their way up to you. Hope you have a good season.
AnswerID: 172890

Follow Up By: Anne from Drysdale River Station - Thursday, May 18, 2006 at 20:40

Thursday, May 18, 2006 at 20:40
Hi Ruth,

I was watching the radar and the rain go through Qld and honestly hoping and thinking you must get some of it but doesn't sound like you did. What a pity , can't pick it can you !
My cousin moved to Cairns from SA and they are still in shock from the rain they got there this year, tropical rain can be bit of a shock to newcommers.
We also are pretty busy despit the road North still not open, won't be long now though it will
open next week sometime.
regards, Anne
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