Winjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek are part of the Devonian Reef national park, the rock formations here are sharp and jagged and used to be a reef system millions of years ago when they were underwater. You can get the best idea of how this reef used to be from up high or a scenic flight.
Winjana gorge is located 22 kilometres down the Fairfield – Leopold Downs road which you can get onto from the Gibb River road 120kms out from Derby. Tunnel Creek is a further 37kms from Winjana, 59kms from the Gibb. Make sure you check the roads are open before you go, you can do this by visiting the Main Roads website or calling +61 (08) 9158 4333. Tunnel Creek can be visited at any time as it’s a cave system whilst Winjana is best in the early morning or late afternoon for the wildlife and the light. Around midday there are generally less people so it could be a good idea if your leaving from Derby in the morning to go past Winjana and visit Tunnel Creek first then back to Winjana for the afternoon and to camp. The Fairfield – Leopold Downs road is also accessible from the Great Northern highway and Tunnel Creek is only 70km from that turnoff.
Tunnel Creek is probably the best cave system I have ever visited. Its huge and open, theres plenty of rock formations and stalactites hanging from the ceiling, there are open areas where the light comes in as well as long dark sections and the creek runs through the whole thing so be prepared to get your legs wet. A torch is a must and you want a powerful one in order to appreciate the cave and see anything past where your next step is going to be. The entrance is a short walk from the parking area and as you enter there is a place on the right with some aboriginal rock art high up on the walls and ceiling. As you walk through the cave you come to the water pretty quickly, take your time to find the best route through, its not always in a straight line and don’t forget to look up and around to take in the cave. There are fish in the water and big freshwater prawns, you can also see bats flying around or hanging in the ceiling and if you look carefully with the torchlight you might see the reflections from the eyes of a freshwater crocodile. At the end of the cave you come out to a nice swimming area in the creek, a good spot to stop and watch the birds for a while.
Facilities: Parking, Toilets
Winjana gorge is long and beautiful with steep devonian rock cliffs on either side. A winding river runs through the gorge which has wider pools and narrow sections and is full of fresh water crocodiles. The crocs wont attack you and are very peaceful but there are so many that its not really a good place to swim because you will end up disturbing them and they might defend themselves. While I was there I had to call out to a woman who was about to step on one while walking along the river bank looking at her camera. There are paths which run along the river bank and through open sandy sections and thick bush closer to the cliff walls.
This gorge is full of birdlife as well as butterflies, reptiles and wallabies especially around dawn and dusk. If your lucky you might find a bowerbird nest in the gorge, they build a tunnel out of sticks and decorate the surrounding floor with any white objects they can find. Bowerbirds in the west collect white objects while those in the east prefer blue. Back in the campground there are a couple of large bushy trees near the shower block and if you look carefully in here there is usually a nest and a couple of bowerbirds hanging around but try not to disturb them, the tour guides haven’t found these ones yet.
One of the best sunrises I have ever seen has been at the top of Winjana gorge, it was a pretty tough climb and the rocks are extremely sharp so this is not for everyone but for me it was worth the climb. To climb, as you’re walking down the gorge at the end of the first sandy riverside section look up and you will see a high point in the gorge wall that sticks out, this is where you want to aim for. Make your way up through the bush until you reach the cliff wall underneath the high point then continue along the wall back in the direction of the gorge entrance until you find a cave which provides access upwards. This can be a fair way across depending on where you start along the wall. The cave is about 10m long, heading straight up and fairly narrow and smooth but once you go through there you can make your way around to the top. Im not going to lie this cave is pretty hard to find, I found it by luck and I’m not going to give a better description because this will help keep the tourists out so good luck and be careful on the rocks.
Facilities: Paid overnight camping, Hot showers, Toilets
Cheers for reading guys, remember to check out the rest of the blog for more info on other travel destinations across Australia so you can get out there and see it for yourself.