Geikie Gorge National Park
The Most Accessible National Park In The Kimberley
Geikie Gorge National Park is the most easily accessible national park in the Kimberley.
It's only 20 km outside the small Kimberley town Fitzroy Crossing, and you don't even have to leave the bitumen to get to the gorge.
Geikie Gorge is situated at the junction of the Oscar and the Geikie Ranges. The mighty Fitzroy River has carved a 30 metre deep gorge into the remains of the ancient limestone barrier reef that existed here in the Devonian period.
When the Fitzroy is in full flood during the wet season it covers the whole national park. Those floods rise over 16 metres up the gorge walls and the continuous rise and fall of the water has left the bottom of the walls bleached white, an intriguing sight which makes Geikie Gorge very popular with photographers.
Geikie Gorge National Park Visitor Information
As already mentioned, getting to Geikie Gorge National Park is very easy. If you need directions just duck into the Fitzroy Crossing Tourist Information Centre. They'll give you a map and directions, and lots of other interesting info about Fitzroy Crossing as well. (You can find a printable map of Fitzroy Crossing here, it shows at least the turn off).
Geikie Gorge National Park is a day use park only. Camping is not allowed, but there are picnic shelters and barbecue facilities, water and toilets.
You can explore the park on several walking trails or join one of the boat cruises. You can also launch your own boat, but access to the boat ramp is restricted (you can only get there when there are no tours) and you need to contact the ranger first.
Boat Tours At Geikie Gorge National Park
The best way to see Geikie Gorge is to join a boat tour. One option is the CALM operated boat tour. (CALM is the Department of Conservation and Land Management, which looks after this and the other Kimberley national parks.)
The CALM boat tours depart once or twice a day and are guided by one of the rangers. The tours last for about an hour and tickets can only be bought at the gorge prior to the tour, and only with cash!
Your other option is the Darngku Heritage Cruise, a half day (5 hour) tour that includes a guided walk.
Darngku is the Aboriginal name of Geikie Gorge, given to it by the traditional owners, the Bunaba, who will be your guides on these tours. The guides have been authorised by their people to take visitors to places that you wouldn't usually have access to, and they will share with you their knowledge of the flora and fauna, tell stories from their 30.000 year old culture, show you how to find bush foods and more. This is a good tour for people who are keen to learn more about the rich Aboriginal history of the Kimberley region.
(By the way, DHC also operate Darlngunaya Backpackers, the budget hostel in Fitzroy Crossings historic post office building.)
Walks At Geikie Gorge National Park
There are two walks in Geikie Gorge National Park. (A third walk was being constructed while I last visited in 2006.)
The Reef Walk is the longer one. It will take you about 1.5 hours to follow the trail across the floodplains to the point where the western gorge wall meets the river, and to return along the river bank.
It's the only walk that allows you good views of the bleached eastern gorge walls.
There is also a short loop walk, branching off the first part of the Reef Walk, which will take you up into the limestone rocks and through a different habitat and vegetation.
The other walk is called River Walk and only takes about 20 minutes.
It leads down to a sandbank on the river where you can have a fish, maybe spot some freshwater crocodiles, and if you're brave you can even go for a swim.
(Freshwater crocodiles are harmless as long as you don't annoy them.)
The main interest on these walks is supposed to be the riverine vegetation and the abundant wildlife. To someone who doesn't know the Kimberley the thick greenery may seem appealing, but I was shocked. I know that the Fitzroy River has serious problems with infestations of noxious weeds along its banks. I know that introduced weeds are one of the big environmental threats the Kimberley is facing, and that it's a battle that we are losing. But it's one thing to read about it, and quite another to see first hand a place where the battle was lost years ago.
The weed problem isn't mentioned anywhere in the information shelter, and to tourists it might seem that everything is just fine. The truth is that a lot of the growth that you find along the trails are introduced weeds that shouldn't be there. Rampant climbers that choke native vegetation, thorny shrubs, grasses with hooks and burrs that attach themselves to anything that touches them and are spread that way, you name it, it's there. Of course these weeds are not just at Geikie Gorge, they are like that along the whole length of the Fitzroy River, right through the supposedly pristine and untouched Kimberley wilderness...
As always when I find myself in a situation where I am forced to have a realistic look at the future of the Kimberley I left Geikie Gorge National Park rather depressed. To look at the Fitzroy breaks my heart. Sorry if I depressed you too, but I don't like to do what everybody else in the tourism industry does: pretend everything is fine. The poor Fitzroy isn't fine at all.