Rudall River NP - Exploring the northwest edge of the Throssell Ranges - Turtle Rockhole

Saturday, Jul 12, 2008 at 00:00


Saturday 12th July, 2008
Yandagooge Creek, Throssell Ranges (Rudall River) WA
22 19 18.8 S, 122 03 5.699 E

It was a reasonable early start to the day having a quick breakfast by the fire and then tackling the side staked ATR. I managed to get a bucket of washing done while sitting round the fire so after that and patch selection, we moved on to the tyre. We had broken the beads on both sides of the rim the previous evening so this morning’s effort was simply to pull the three plugs and patch them as well as the major sidewall stake. All went well although the glue seemed a bit dodgy. We utilized the butane method of reseating the tire, all captured by Gaby on her trust camcorder. Unfortunately the patches didn’t seem to hold to well on the interior of the tyre so we pulled it off again and inserted a tube. That was a bit of work.

We opted then for a midmorning walk along the Watrara creek to locate the pools of the same name. They were marked as being about 400 metres west along the creek from Tjarra pool. It didn’t take as long to find. The stony creek bed broke into a long, wide and sandy bottomed stretch of 150 metres or so. The banks were about 1.5 metres high and it was easy to see that this area would hold a lot of water after a good rain. There was a sizable pool remaining at the western end of the creek, joined tenuously to a second pool that sat in the junction of the Watrara and a minor creek. This billabong like section was bordered on either side by red rocky hills and white eucalypts. A very pretty spot but unfortunately no easy vehicle access to the site.

After a spot of tea, we headed back out onto the main Rudall – Telfer track and headed north towards the Desert Queen Baths junction and the claypan several kilometers past there that was our actual destination. I had seen this claypan a couple of years earlier on my first trip into the park coming from the north and had since found some landscapes of interest in the hills to the west of it while scouring the area on Google Earth (GE). The hills had been the site of various mining exploration activities in the 70’s and 80’s with the remains of old tracks and an airstrip clearly visible on GE images. The track in commenced on the northern end of the claypan. On arriving in the general area, we soon found that this area had suffered the ravages of fire The claypan was easily visible on the western side of the track. I found the access track but unfortunately, what had appeared to be good tracks from the air, had actually been ripped on the retreat of the mining companies. This was obviously to promote the rehabilitation of the area. The track appeared to have had some infrequent vehicle use and was navigable.

Some 2.5 kilometers in, there is a sandy creek crossing with a low hill on the other side. We forded through and continued around the northern side of the hill. Some distance off to the north was the position of theold airstrip although we did not go looking for it. At the western end of the hill we picked up a track again and headed on a more northerly track of 327 degrees passing between two hills before reaching the sandy course of the Yandagooge Creek. Again we pushed across and onto the other side. The track was somewhat eroded and every now and then were scraps of 50mm black poly pipe poking out of the earth. The track was largely overgrown and we spent a bit of time clearing the odd bit of dead timber, more from an anti staking objective than anything else. Seven kilometers found us at a very narrow, deep creek area at the base of a rocky range. There were numerous larger shady gums about so rather than ford the creek, we parked in the shade and walked the hundred or so metres to the ranges and started exploring the valleys and gorges.

Our objective has been a feature that I identified on a GE image and reckoned could have been a large water hole. It wasn’t long before Gaby found a dry rockhole in a broad sandy valley. The rockhole was about 10 metres long, five wide and 3 deep with a largely sandy bottom. It is shaded by a couple of eucalypts. It wasn’t what I was looking for though. The floor of this valley was scattered with petroglyphs chiseled into the flat stone surfaces of larger rocks. One of the most prominent was that of a turtle, it’s long neck crossing the face of a slab of rock right to the edge of the stone (22 16.592 S, 122 01.680 E). Again it shows the strange characteristic of never displaying the subject’s head which has been a common theme in the western desert carvings. This glyph was only 60 metres to the north of the dry rockhole which we dubbed Turtle Rockhole.

Walking further along the gorge, we eventually arrived at a much larger rockhole which sat 150 metres further into the gorge and at the base of a large sandstone wall (22 16 33.28 S, 122 1 39.12 E). The second rockhole is of much more impressive dimensions and sits at the end of the gorge with high rock walls surrounding it. It is easy to detect the previous water levels from the marks on the surrounding rock. Unfortunately once again, the pool was dry. I found a patch of damp earth at the very bottom of the pool hard against the rock wall where I reckon with a bit of digging you would tease some water out. We didn’t try though. When walking along the gorge, we found numerous carvings on the rocks high up the gorge wall. Lizards, kangaroos and animal tracks were the predominant themes, all positioned to overlook the waterholes and gorge. One particular carving appeared to be of a figure with a hat clutching either a boomerang in each hand, or a gun. Strange indeed! It was very hard to judge the age of this one as it appeared to be a totally different style and technique of many other etchings. We climbed the short distance to the top of the northern wall and were rewarded with good views in all directions. The range is deceptively flat on top forming a high plateau of a square kilometre or so. It would certainly promote good runoff into the surrounding rocky valleys.

It was an amazing place but exceptionally dry. When walking you broke through the brittle crust of dry earth into a grey dust. Good rains have not fallen here for some time I’d reckon. Had the main pool held water I reckon we would have stayed the night. As it was we returned to the vehicles and had a bit of lunch in the shade offered by a large gum, vainly trying to beat the flies to our dried biscuits. We decided to retrace our route several kilometers and attempt to locate another track that headed south along the Yandagooge Creek. We managed to find the remains amongst the burnt out scrub but it was fairly rough. We actually moved cross country to the Yandagooge and then followed its course for several kilometers before finding a good place to set up camp on a lower embankment beside the creek. This provided us with a bit of shelter with a high bank to our back, a large tree for shade and a view across the sandy creek, perfect in my book.

It didn’t take long to have camp set up and firewood gathered. We unloaded both ATV’s and cleaned away several thousand kilometers of dust before getting equipment together for tomorrows trip. By way of a test, we took both units north along the creek in search of the Yarku waterhole. The quads moved well across the deep loose sand although it did prompt us to lower the tyre pressures again. We followed the creek North West for seven kilometers finding the remains of the Yarku, a series of dry shallow pools, and then moving a kilometer or so past this to the junction of another large, unnamed creek. This was the creek we had first crossed on our trek in from the Rudall Road. It has Pinpi Waterhole on its course some 7 kilometers south of this junction.

Returning to camp, I got dinner underway while Scott prepared the tanks and spares for tomorrows departure. It was a great sunset enjoyed by the fire in the sandy creek bed.

Authors Note: It is unfortunate that this magnificent area and the sites described, now fall within the recently developed CAMECO uranium lease and as such, are off limits to the casual visitor. This area was excised from the park in a single V shaped bite soon after the parks gazetting due to the large deposits or uranium discovered during exploration in the 1980's. What will become of these gorges and simply incredible and dinstinctive carvings can only be surmised. While a supporter of the development of our mineral wealth, I can only hope that a balance is struck to preserve the rich cultural heritage this site. Mick. Nov - 2010

''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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