The Kimberley WA - A stroll to the incredible Mitchell Falls (and a helicopter home)

Monday, Jun 26, 2006 at 00:00

Mick O

Monday 26th June,
Mitchell, Plateau W.A.

It was not until 1921 that Europeans explored this remote area. William Easton led a State government expedition into the north Kimberley, naming the Mitchell River after Sir James Mitchell, then Premier of Western Australia. The road to the Plateau area was cleared in the mid 60’s with a mining camp established on the plateau by Amax Bauxite in 1965. Thankfully mining in the area was deemed unviable, but the decision to manage the area for recreation and conservation purposes wasn't made until 1998. In 2000 the Mitchell Plateau was finally made a National Park. In June 2006, we were up fairly early and having a breakfast of bacon and eggs in preparation for the big hike.

A little after 8:00 a.m. we were over at the helicopter place for our weigh in, safety briefing and to pay for our return flight. Then it was off. It was a lovely stroll through tropical woodlands, across spinifex plateaus and then in the Merton Creek Gorge. At Merton falls we walked along the creek and then back in around the low cliffs that form a horseshoe shape surrounding, and which the falls flow over. Here aboriginal rock art adorned the overhangs dating from 17000 years through to several thousand. Stick figures, cross-legged people, animals, serpents all in varying styles. Lots of photos were taken. Walking along the stream, we ventured in and crossing to where I saw a large overhang higher on the wall bordering the eastern side of the stream. I had to clamber over room sized builders and up through a crevasse but in doing so, I found paintings of “swimmers” adorning the cavern wall. They were identical to the swimmer characters that anyone seeing the film the English Patient would remember from the walls of the cave in the middle east.

Returning to the main track we continued along to where the Stream plummets over the precipitous drop of Big Merton falls. Here it is possible to perch on the side and look down the 80 metres or so to the floor of the gorge. We picked our way across the stream and walked on to Mitchell falls. There are two methods of crossing the Mitchell River, the first for the brave or foolhardy is not to far from the first falls. The main crossing is about 500 metres further upstream. From here you can hike across the flat plateau area and around to the far side of the gorge which presents you with a fantastic view back up the gorge. We had arrived at about 11.30-ish which was the optimal time for photographing the falls, the sun being in just the right place.

After a photo session, we had a bite to eat and John partook of a poppy nap while Amanda and I swam in the upper reaches of the Mitchell. Found a great little spa area on a minor water fall. The fast flowing water forced you to concentrate to keep the undies and shorts on though.

Helicopter flight out at 1.45. Open doored Bell Jet-ranger.The pilot did several circuits of the falls and upper reaches of the falls before heading south downstream to the lower Merton Falls. Great cannoning through the canyons and across the rugged ranges and hills if the plateau. Bought us home overland via sacred burial grounds and cliffs dotted with rock art. Great ride. Jules was funny grabbing a seat near the door for her camera and spending the trip clutching the handrail in front of her and leaning in hard against Amanda. Great fun and worth the hundred bucks.

Home at 2.20 p.m. and a leisurely afternoon punctuated by a few screw tightenings on the vehicle and a refuelling, a swim and a cool drink. Take two on the bread by BMJ and a BBQ dinner.





''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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