Karlamilyi (Rudall River) NP - Into the gap (The Yandagooge at last!)

Tuesday, Jul 09, 2013 at 19:00


Tuesday 9th July, 2013 - Yandagooge Gap (at Last)

I’m a stickler for research and this modern computer age provides many tools our forbears could never dream of. The details around the early mineral exploration of Western Australia is now stored across the world wide web waiting to reward the person patient enough to spend the time and effort mining for riches of a different sort…information! From previous expeditions into the Throssell Ranges, I knew there to be a wealth of mining tracks and survey lines in and around the Karlamilyi park boundaries. I was keen to find a southern access route into the broad valley that sits at the southern end of the Yandagooge Gap, having previously accessed the area from the north in 2008 and identifying many old mining and drill sites. Research indicated many of the exploration holes were capped or destroyed as samples contained high levels of radium, an indication of the rich uranium deposits under much of the area.

With perseverance (and a few good contacts), I located two maps of significance to my quest. One 1970’s chart of survey and seismic lines for much of the Great Sandy and Little Sandy Deserts, as well as some of the exploration test drill sites in the Rudall Basin, an area later proclaimed as a National Park. In a twist of irony, a good swath of the park was excised out once a sizable deposit of uranium was discovered under it! A long retired earth moving contractor, provided maps of exploration tracks, drill and camp sites graded across the Rudall and Canning Basins. That allowed me to narrow down my search area and good old Google Earth helped pinpoint the desired tracks and lines. While the passage of time often means the on-ground reality differs from that of 1977, much remains discernible even to this day. With plans formulated, we had done as much as we could to ensure the success of our venture. Read on………

We had squared away most of the camp the previous evening and were on the road by 8:30 a.m., bidding farewell to Tjarra Pool and our Tasmanian neighbours. The drive south on the Hanging Rock Track involved negotiating a few creeks the banks of which had been ravaged by torrents of water. I always enjoy crossing the switchback over the saw tooth ridge. Here the track flicks back across the jagged ridge and heads west into sand country. It was incredibly green with abundant fresh growth and the track overgrown in many places and deep wheel ruts in others.

We saw a few mobs of camels along the way before we pushed through one last patch of thick scrub to reach Curran Curran Rockhole. Stopping by the large eucalypt tree at the mouth of the gorge, we had morning tea. Knowing we were heading onto long overgrown tracks, I took the opportunity to fit shade cloth across the front of the vehicle to guard the radiator from clogging spinifex and grass seeds. When satisfied that I’d plugged all holes and fixed the guard securely, I wandered up the rocky gorge finding the waterhole brimming. The old gnarled tree wrapped through the rocks above the waterhole looked magnificent. This was the fullest the waterhole had been in my many visits to the area.

Continuing the trek west for some kilometres we found the old track we were seeking. The country to the south and west of Curran Curran is largely wide laterite plains and sand hills. From nine kilometres west of Curran Curran, we could look north across scrub choked plains to see a feint range of hills ten kilometres away. This range forms the southern most wall of a broad Valley running southwest to northwest, the northern side of the valley forming the first rugged ramparts of the Throssell Range.

The old exploration track led into the only gap in the hills allowing access into the valley. We had ten kilometres to travel on a track that was difficult to follow. On some of the laterite rises the track was still as clear as day only to disappear in the sand country beyond. With the quads scouting ahead, we managed to keep fairly faithful to the route. On reaching the gap we found it to be a smooth entrance approximately 1.5 kilometres wide bordered by low, rough ranges. The hills channel water off the surrounding country out onto the plains below. The alluvial fan the wash makes as it spreads out on the valley floor is rich in plant material resulting in an explosion of growth. This phenomenon is obvious in areal and satellite images. Such was the case for us. The valley was thick with acacia, mulga and spinifex forcing a detour . We skirted the forest for three kilometres into the valley before picking up on an east-west track following the route of our first quad expedition in 2008. Turning west for a few short kilometres we then bore north between the sentinel hills that mark the wide opening of the Yandagooge Gap.

There had been a significant fire in the area since my previous expedition ,five years ago making the going much easier. Driving through the first protruding fingers of rock into the gap, we pulled up under some gum trees for a quick lunch. I took the opportunity to scout on ahead looking for a decent campsite in the gorge proper. Being fairly open and sandy, I didn’t locate any water holes in the surrounding hills but found a suitable spot in the lee of a rocky spur. Leading the vehicles in, camp was set up in no time at all. As we were here for a few days and shade was at a premium, I broke out the awning.

Later that afternoon, Larry and I explored on the quads then, as a group we climbed to the summit of the ridge above camp to enjoy the sunset. From our vantage point we could look south over the valley enjoying the features of, and an expansive night sky, brilliant with stars.

Join our 2008 expedition in search of the Yandagooge Gap

''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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