Visiting Windjana Gorge National Park and Tunnel Creek involves a slight detour from the Gibb River Road of about 50km each way.
Windjana Gorge is a wide gorge with a sandy beach along the river bed, and there’s an easy 3.5km walk on a marked trail.
Sheer walls rise 100m up on either side of the gorge, and the limestone rocks are noticeably different from elsewhere in the Kimberley. Windjana Gorge cuts through the Napier Range, which is part of an ancient barrier reef which can also be seen at Tunnel Creek.
Windjana is best known for the many freshwater crocodiles which inhabit it. Freshwater crocodiles are normally very shy and are scared easily by humans. Not here. Groups of the little crocodiles happily laze around in the freshwater pools near the gorge entrance, and there’s lots of good photo opportunities.
While they are not as dangerous and aggressive as saltwater crocodiles, they can still seriously injure you. So be careful!
A few kilometres south of Windjana on the road to Tunnel Creek are the ruins of the Lillimulura Police Station, which are of historical significance because of their connection to Jandamarra (see below).
Tunnel Creek is 30km south of Windjana Gorge and lies in the Devonian Reef National Park.
The creek has carved a 750m long tunnel through a limestone section of the Napier Range.
In the dry season you can walk through the whole tunnel. Be prepared to see a few bats and wade through a few sections of knee-deep and cold water! It’s an easy walk and good fun, especially as it is something quite different to the other gorges along the Gibb River Road.
Make sure to bring a torch with fresh batteries!
The Story of Jandamarra
Jandamarra was an Aborigine who led one of the few armed resistances against the white occupation of Australia.
From the Bunuba tribe, Jandamarra became a talented young Aboriginal stockman, who was skilled with horses, sheep shears and guns even as an early teen. Working with a white stockman named Richardson, they found themselves unemployed when the station went broke.
Richardson then became a policeman and employed Jandamarra as his tracker. At this time there was ongoing conflict between the Bunuba Aboriginal people and the white settlers. The Bunuba people were outraged by the settlers who had invaded their land and shown little regard for their sacred sites. The settlers were struggling to survive in this harsh environment and were angry that their livestock were being stolen by the Bunuba.
Richardson, with Jadamarra’s help, rounded up the Bunuba elders and jailed them in the Lillimulura Police Station. There, the Bunuba elders convinced Jandamarra to murder Richardson and free them.
For the next few years ongoing battles were fought between the Bunuba and white settlers. Jandamarra was always able to evade capture and was nicknamed the ‘magic man’. In April 1897, Jandamarra was eventually found and killed by Aboriginal tracker Mongo Mick in his Tunnel Creek hideout.
There is a DEC (Department of Environment and Conservation) campground at Windjana Gorge.
The campground is wide and open, with fantastic views of the limestone face of the Napier Range. The views are great at sunset, when the rock face is lit up red by the setting sun. There are also hot showers at the campsite.
There is no camping at Tunnel Creek.
Camping is $11 a night for adults and national park entrance fees also apply.
There is a public payphone at the Windjana campground. Telephone cards are available from the ranger.
Interestingly, the phone box still has original Telecom signs on it – Telecom changed to Telstra in 1995.
Surely this is one of the last remaining Telecom phone boxes in Australia!