Covering 627,422 hectares just north of the Tropic of Capricorn in the Hamersley Range, Karijini National Park is Western Australia’s second largest park.
Its climate can best be described as tropical semi-desert. A highly variable, mainly summer rainfall of 250–350 mm, often associated with thunderstorms and cyclones, is accompanied by temperatures frequently topping 40 degrees Celsius. The ideal times to visit the park are late autumn, winter and early spring. Winter days are warm and clear, but nights are cold and sometimes frosty.
Massive mountains and escarpments rise out of the flat valleys. The high plateau is dissected by breathtaking gorges, and stony, tree-lined watercourses wind their way over the dusty plain. Erosion has slowly carved this landscape out of rocks that are over 2,500 million years old. There are many beautiful gorges and sites to visit in Karijini National Park, but be sure to include Dales Gorge, Fortescue Falls, Weano Gorge and Oxers Lookout.
The park is the traditional home of the Banyjima, Kurrama and Innawonga Aboriginal people. The Banyjima name for the Hamersley Range is Karijini. Evidence of their early occupation dates back more than 20,000 years. During that period, Aboriginal land management practices, such as 'fire stick farming', resulted in a diversity of vegetation types and stages of succession that helped determine the nature of the plants and animals found in the park today.
Flora and fauna
Wildflowers vary with the seasons. In the cooler months the land is covered with yellow-flowering cassias and wattles, northern bluebells and purple mulla-mullas. After rain many plants bloom profusely.
Karijini is home to a variety of birds, red kangaroos and euros, rock-wallabies, echidnas and several bat species. Geckos, goannas, dragons, legless lizards, pythons and other snakes are abundant.
Look out for mounds of pebbles. These are built by the native rodent, the Western Pebble-mound mouse. Although the mice are small (average body length 60 mm), the mounds can be 500mm high and cover up to nine square metres.
Look also for the large, striking termite mounds, scattered throughout the hummock grasslands.
There is assisted wheelchair access to Junction Pool Lookout, the Weano Day Use area and Circular Pool Lookout. Independent wheelchair access is available at the Karijini National Park Visitor Centre and the Dales Day Use Area.
Blue asbestos is present in Yampire and Wittenoom Gorges. Asbestos dust may cause cancer if inhaled.
Gorges can be dangerous
Stay back from cliff edges – they are about 100 metres high, often with loose rocks near the edge.
Flash floods can occur – do not enter gorges if there is rain in the area. If it starts raining when you are in a gorge, leave immediately.
Even though inland waterways look inviting, especially when the surface is calm, they pose many hidden dangers. Know the risks and how to swim safely.
Deep, cold water
The water in gorge pools can be extremely cold, especially between April and September; hypothermia can occur. Do not dive or jump into water.
During summer, temperatures frequently top 40 degrees Celcius. Carry plenty of water at all times.
Dingoes are common around the Dales campground. They may scavenge for food and can be aggressive. Do not feed dingoes, supervise children at all times, walk in groups and store food in your vehicle.
Much of the southern half of the park is inaccessible. Visitors concentrate on the spectacular gorges in the north, with their rock pools, waterfalls and unique wildlife.
You can enter Karijini National Park from Tom Price, Roebourne, Port Hedland or Newman. The ideal times to visit the park are late autumn, winter and early spring. Winter days are warm and clear, but nights are cold and sometimes frosty.
The Karijini Visitor Centre is just off Banjima Drive and is open in season from 9am to 4pm daily. It is closed from early December to early February each year.