The Hike To The Mitchell Falls
I had no idea how big and impressive the Mitchell Falls are, and I had no idea what an amazing region the whole Mitchell Plateau is.
If you visit the Kimberley you really should try to make time for a visit to this area, even though it means setting at least a few days aside for it.
It's worth it!
On this page I describe the walk from the Mitchell Falls camping area to the bottom of the last tier of the falls, and I show you some pictures (even though they don't do the area justice).
This walk will take you 4 to 6 hours return. It's rough country and there are many sidetracks to explore on the way. Here is just a tiny glimpse of what you will find...
The Walk To The Mitchell Falls
The walk to the Mitchell Falls starts at the Mitchell Falls campsite. At the beginning of the walk is a stand with many leaflets with info about the diverse plant and animal life, even species lists for the serious nature buff and bird lover.
There is also info about the Aboriginal owners of the area, and about the rock art that you will see on the way.
And last but not least there is a route description with trek notes. Everything you could possibly ask for. (I really like the way the area is managed...)
Your hike begins with the crossing of the pretty Mertens Creek. (This is the place where you will flop into the water for a relaxing soak in the evening.)
From here it's only about 15 minutes to get to Little Mertens Falls. (They have actually now been renamed to Mertens Falls, and the former Big Mertens Falls are called Mertens Gorge. We'll get there later.)
Little Mertens Falls isn't little at all! It drops quite a way, so be careful near the edge.
You can walk across the top of the falls to the other side. There are many rock ledges, pools and rapids, shady spots to sit down and just listen to the water, natural spas to cool down in...
It's a great place to hang out for an hour or two. We did so on the first day, as we had arrived in the afternoon.
The most intriguing feature of Mertens Falls can be found underneath.
If you stay on the right side of it and just follow the main track you will, soon after climbing down a small rock face, see a path to your left.
Follow it and it will take you to a cave underneath the falls.
On the cliff face here you will find some beautiful ancient Bradshaw paintings. Further in the walls are covered with delicate rock ferns. The dripping moisture has given the rocks are lovely pattern.
And all the while the falls are thundering from above. It's easy to see why this place was of spiritual significance to the creators of the rock art...
Once you leave Mertens Falls behind and continue your way towards Mitchell Falls the path leads you through a shady patch of rainforest. When it opens up again you soon hear the creek to your left as there are more rapids.
If you leave the path and climb over the rock slabs down to the creek you find another irresistible swimming pool. And if you look up you see another big rock slab covered in Bradshaws.
On a hot day I'd stop here for a swim on the way in and back. It's a lovely spot, so peaceful. I could sit here forever...
The next stop is the Big Mertens Falls, or Mertens Gorge as it's now called. Now these are big, (though not as big as the Mitchell Falls).
If you walk along the top of the falls to the far right you get the best view of them. But be extremely careful here, it's a looong way down...
The gorge below is narrow and dramatic, and impossible to capture in a good photo. Not much light enters the bottom, but at the top of the falls the sun was blazing even though it was only early in the morning.
To get to Mitchell Falls you need to make your way across the top of Mertens Gorge and continue on the other side.
The walk gets more difficut now. It's very rocky terrain, big boulders to climb over, clumps of spiky spinifex, loose gravel... It's easy to slip if you don't look where you're walking, as I found out. But then again, I was walking in thongs (flip-flops) as always... hehe.
(You're supposed to wear real shoes.)
The Mitchell Falls are just around the corner now.
We didn't even realise what we were looking at when we first saw them, because you approach them from the top.
There was this amazing view along the Mitchell River (not shown) and a thundering noise.
If you climb up on the big rock slabs on the right you get to see what's on the other side.
We stood there spell bound for a while, taking in the magnitude of the view below us and wondering why no information we had read had mentioned this fall.
Finally it sank in that it was the top tier of the four tiered Mitchell Falls that we were looking at... I wonder how many people actually make the detour over this way...
The path continues around the left and you cross the Mitchell River not far from the top of the falls. So early in the season the crossing is an adventure in itself. It's wide, it's deep, and the current is quite something...
On the other side we got lost a bit, there were no arrows or rock cairns anywhere, but it doesn't really matter. Just make your way over the top of the rocks and you can't miss the helipad. On the other side of the helicopter landing area you will pick up some arrows again.
From here the path is much better marked, because all the non bush walkers that use the helicopter to get here need to be able to find their way to the official photo lookout :).
We even had to stand in line a bit to get to take our photos. If all that sounds like a bit of a let down in the end fear not. There is more to come yet...
Before you get to the photo lookout there is a path branching off to your left. If you have some energy left follow it.
It will take you to the bottom of the falls. It's not easy to get down there. Maybe it is easier later in the season, but we were amongst the first people for the year, so we had to fight our way through a wet season's worth of growth. And in our climate that is a lot of growth!
Thank god there are many rock cairns. At least it isn't hard to see the way, and it's not that far either because it goes pretty much straight down. (Another way of saying it's rather steep...)
Once you reach the bottom you will have to follow the river back up until you get to the bottom of the Mitchell Falls.
Wow. You are a lot closer to the Mitchell Falls down here than you are at the lookout. You can even feel the spray drift.
And there won't be many people down here. When we were here the Mitchell Falls had been open to tourists for two weeks and we saw only one other set of foot prints down here...
We had our well deserved lunch break high up on a rock ledge, a perfect table and bench in the shade of the tall walls.
If you are tempted to go for a swim here I have to disappoint you. Not only is this a sacred place, so swimming isn't allowed.
It's also saltwater crocodile country, and I wouldn't take any chances with those...
(Anywhere above the Mitchell Falls is safe.)
It took us about three hours to get here, but we didn't stop for any swims on the way in. We sure did on the way out, though. The return trip was done at a more leisurely pace, since now we knew we had all the time we needed. And although I was knackered by the time we got back to the Mitchell Falls campsite I enjoyed every minute of it.
My feeling is, unless you are scratched and bruised, battered and exhausted, wind and sun burned, you haven't really been there...
But if you feel the whole return trip would be a bit much you can always walk just one way and use the helicopter for the way back. That's actually what most people do. Just don't restrict yourself to only the helicopter flight and the Mitchell Falls photo lookout. That would be a crime...
Mitchell Falls main page.