Mitchell Plateau & Kalumburu Road Conditions
The Kalumburu Road connects with the Gibb River Road, and provides access to the Mitchell Plateau Road and Kalumburu. The turn-off for the Kalumburu Road is located approx 295km from Kununurra, or 411km from Derby along the Gibb River Road. Tourists can start to travel the Mitchell Plateau and Kalumburu roads after the wet season ends, and the first opening grade has been completed (usually in May). The tourist season lasts until late October.
Kalumburu is Western Australia's most remote and isolated aboriginal community, and is the final destination along the Kulumburu Road. Kalumburu is located at the very northern tip of the State near the mouth of the King Edward River. It is cut off by road for 5-7 months per year depending on the length of the wet season and is only accessible by air and barge (from Darwin).
It has an indigenous population of 350 persons, of whom more than 50% are under 16 years, plus about 35 non-indigenous persons who work in the school, health clinic, mission, community store and Corporation office.
The Mitchell Plateau Road is accessible via the Kalumburu Road. This area is a completely unique biological entity within the context of the Northern Australian savannah woodlands, and has some of the most spectacular waterfalls such as The Mitchell Falls, scenery and rock art galleries in Australia. The Mitchell Plateau comprises the only occurrence of its kind of vast ancient palm forests (400 sq. kms. plus) to be found anywhere in Australasia.
Kalumburu Road En-route Description & Conditions
When you come to the famous ''T-Junction'' - the meeting of the Gibb and Kalumburu Roads there is a rare Main Roads Dept. rubbish depot plus a picnic shelter and information bay. This junction is very well sign-posted and a good place for a break. Please leave the rest area clean for following travelers even if a short clean-up is necessary on your behalf as this is a community place. Please also be careful with lighting campfires here, as in recent years, campfires from this area have been responsible for huge out of control wild fires that have completely dessimated the country.
About half of the Kalumburu Road between the T-Junction and Kalumburu has been upgraded, but still has rough patches. The condition of the Kalumburu Road is similar to the Gibb River Road, up to the Mitchell Plateau turn-off/Theda Station turn-off. There are some periodic rough patches, as with the Gibb Road, so drive carefully and slow down for oncoming traffic. Tourists are warned to pull over for road trains of cattle, as the road is very narrow. There is local station traffic between Theda Station and Doongan Station. Corrugations and dust are a real problem so drive carefully and slow down for oncoming traffic, and it is unwise to overtake in these conditions.
The Kalumburu Road is maintained by the Shire of Wyndham - East Kimberley (SWEK) with financial support from the Dept. of Main Roads, W.A. There is an extensive upgrade of the Kalumburu Road planned over the coming years to bring it up to the Gibb River Road standard. The northern end of the Kalumburu road is rough, but once the creeks and river crossings drop and the road dries out, it is passable for most of the dry season so long as travellers drive slowly and carefully.
REMEMBER - SPEED KILLS!and these roads require extra care and expertise.
There are 4 Cattle Station properties along the Kalumburu Road, all approximately 1 million acres in size, but only one is equipped to cater for the needs of travelers - the Drysdale River Station. Drysdale Station is about 50 mins to 1 hour north from the T-Junction along the Kalumburu Road.
From full camping facilities, fuel and store to reasonable accommodation and a wonderful bar and restaurant, Drysdale Station caters for all tastes. All travellers planning to head further north are urged to fuel up at Drysdale as there is no other fuel until Kalumburu.
From Dysdale River Station north there are no such facilities at the other stations until Kalumburu so be sure to carry enough fuel and spare tyres for your journey.
The first station north from Drysdale Station is Doongan Station - Doongan does not cater for tourists. It is a working cattle station. There are no tourism facilities here and camping or going off road exploring station tracks is not allowed and is strictly prohibited. The owners of Doongan Station ask that you do not explore station tracks or camp on their station lands as mustering takes place during the dry season as well as burning for control purposes. Straying off the main Kalumburu road is dangerous as well as illegal. Fines can apply.
The next signposted turn-off (after Doongan Station) along the Kalumburu Road (when heading north) is the Ngauwudu, Mitchell Plateau, turn-off. This is the start to an experience of arguably the most unique region within the many great contrasts that the Kimberley has to offer.
CLICK HERE FOR: ENROUTE DESCRIPTION OF MITCHELL PLATEAU ROAD
The next turn-off you'll see along the Kalumburu Road is for Theda Homestead. The same rules apply for Theda Station as for Doongan Station - so please respect the wishes of the pastoral lease holders whilst travelling through this country.
North of Theda Station is Carson River Station, owned and run by the Kalumburu Aboriginal Community. This is the only access road to the Drysdale River National Park, and permission for entry must be obtained from the traditional owners in Kalumburu. PH: (08)9161 4300 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The final distination along the Kalumburu Road is Kalumburu Aboriginal Community/Kalumburu Mission. All visitors to Kalumburu are required to purchase 2 permits to gain access to the community. The first free access permit can be obtained from the Department of Indigenous Affairs: Ph-(08)9235 8000 (Perth) or (08)9168 2550 (Kununurra). You need to allow at least one week for your application to be processed. This permit can also be obtained online at:
The second permit is obtainable from the Kalumburu Aboriginal Corporation and can be obtained in Kalumburu at the Corporation's office, or it can be posted on receipt of a cheque. Entry permit costs $40 per vehicle (up to 5 passengers)- valid for 1 week. Longer permits require renewal. Ph: (08)9161 4300 or E-mail: email@example.com
Kalumburu Corporation Office is open 8:30 am to 4:30 pm Monday to Friday. The Corporation's mission is to provide the best possible services and support to the Kalumburu community within the resources available to it. The Kalumburu Aboriginal Corporation provides services to, and represents the interests of, the community living in Kalumburu. The services provided by the Corporation include:- A Community Employment Development Program (CDEP) for up to 95 persons,a Centrelink agency, Municipal services including power, water, sewerage and waste management,Housing upgrades,Tourist information and assistance,Cultural and art development and support,Youth and family support services,Co-ordinating initial emergency responses to natural disasters e.g. flood and cyclones.
The Uraro Community Store and Service Station are open from 7:30am to 11:30pm and 1:30pm - 4:00pm Monday to Friday. Provides take-away food, grocery stores (dried, chilled and frozen), fishing, air conditioned donga accommodation, lawn covered camping grounds (with some powered sites), tyres, fuel and oils, hardware and kitchenware. Eftpos and automatic teller machine available.
CLICK HERE FOR: URARO COMMUNITY STORE'S WEBSITE
The Kalumburu Museum is a place where you can learn the history of one of Australia's most isolated missions. Every Monday/Wednesday/Saturday there is a guided tour. Self guided tours Tuesday/Thursday/Friday. Museum opening hours: 8:30am-10:30am. $10 Entry Fee.
Out of town camping at Kulumburu is available at three beach side facilities which are operated by Kalumburu families. Facilities are basic so it is recommended that campers be as self sufficent as possible. To camp at Honeymoon Bay contact the French Family on (08)9161 4366. If you want to visit or camp at McGowans Island or Pago you'll need to ask in town - camping fees are payable to local families - simple shower and toilet facilities available.
KALUMBURU ROAD DISTANCES CAN BE FOUND HERE
Mitchell Plateau Road Conditions
The Mitchell Plateau Track is rougher and narrower than the Gibb River & Kalumburu Roads, so if you travel later in the year (between late August-November)you will encounter ridges of corrugation and washouts. Similarly if you travel the road during the early tourist season months, just after the wet season has finished in April/May, you will encounter difficulty crossing rivers such as the King Edward.
If a second grade is completed later in the year it makes travelling the Mitchell Plateau Road much easier, and less harsh on vehicles especially during the months of October and November, but unfortunately a second grade of the Mitchell Plateau track is not always completed.
Up here the Shire or council will only fund the grading of a road if it leads to a station. Thus, both the shire and the Department of Environment & Conservation pool their their available funds and grading/maintenance of the Mitchell Plateau Track takes place on this basis. In the last couple of years the Mitchell Plateau Road has received at least one grade a year, sometimes two but that’s rare.
CLICK HERE FOR: MITCHELL PLATEAU ROAD EN-ROUTE DESCRIPTION
The King Edward River Crossing – Munurru: If you decide to leave the Kalumburu road and take the turn off onto the Mitchell Plateau Road, there is a short drive to the King Edward River Crossing. This crossing can be treacherous early in the tourist season, especially in the months of April & May. It can be deep and rocky and should be approached with respect as a number of vehicles have found out over the years.
Successive graders have dug the crossing out to deeper than it appears at first sight and during the months of April/May it should be walked first before attempting to cross by vehicle, a good excuse for a swim. There is no risk of crocodile attack here but you must be careful walking across the crossing as the rocks can be slippery.
Usually the crossing becomes much less challenging as time passes after the wet, and the water levels have usually dropped significantly by late May/early June.
Safe Driving Information
Remember at all times drive carefully. Many people seem to think that speed is the only way to drive on corrugated roads, locals can argue against this theory. Speed causes corrugations and it is not necessary to “ride over the top” of them to reduce the impact on your vehicle. In fact the faster people drive on a narrow track such as the Mitchell Falls track the more danger they put themselves and other road users in and the more damage they do to their vehicles.
Please slow down and allow oncoming traffic to pass safely, bear to the left and if possible find a wide section of track to pull over into. If everyone shows courtesy then everyone’s experience of this wonderful place will be enhanced.
The key to a successful and happy trip always is not to rush and to enjoy the journey. Those people who have no time, who speed and damage their vehicles, do not enjoy their travels. Travel safely at all times as other vehicles can appear out of nowhere and on very short notice. This means that planning ahead and not attempting too tight a schedule is often the difference between a great and memorable holiday and a ‘blink and you miss it’ (dangerous) drive through the Kimberley.
Take time and enjoy the feels, smells and the timeless aura of the Kimberley region. Spend time talking to locals and visiting the stations. Plan to pull up in time for a dip in a waterhole before dark, in fact pull up during the day and walk in the surrounding bush and look at the termite mounds, the trees and the country. (Always keep eyes on the ground when walking.)Above all – travel safely.
CLICK HERE FOR: CURRENT MITCHELL PLATEAU & KALUMBURU ROAD CONDITIONS
Information generously supplied by Chris Brown (Browney), Susan Bradley (Doongan Station) and Mt Hart Wilderness Lodge. Photos supplied by Mt Hart Wilderness Lodge and Drysdale Station.