DESTINATIONS - TRAVEL DESTINATIONS
At 1,283,706 hectares, Rudall River (Karlamilyi) National Park was declared on 22 April 1977. It’s the largest national park in Western Australia and one of the largest in the world.
Rudall River National Park is one of the most remote national parks in Australia and is strictly for experienced and well equipped 4WD travellers.
Other than a water tap at the north entrance and another to the south – neither of which should be relied upon – there are no facilities of any kind and there is no resident ranger.
The Park is 420km from Marble Bar and 260km from Newman. Access to the park is difficult, the conditions rough and facilities non-existent. People are not encouraged to visit Rudall River unless they are extremely well equipped for desert travel.
Visitors need to be completely self-sufficient and have a satphone and, ideally, HF “Flying Doctor’ radio.
We’ve visited here before and, most recently, OTA Team’s Linda and Darrell White and Juana and Tony Ford checked out the Park in June 2016. All tracks were rough and unmaintained and had suffered much flood erosion damage.
The Team used the southern entrance and visited Watrara Pool and Desert Queen Baths, before exiting via the northern access road that passes Christmas Pool.
The Martu Aboriginal people continue their long association with this country and there are two communities within the Park, at Punmu (08) 9176 9110 and Parnngurr (08) 9176 9009. Both communities have limited shop and fuel facilities.
Access from Newman is via Walgun and Billinnooka along the Talawana Track to the park turnoff (approx. 300km). Contact the Newman Visitor Centre (08) 9175 2888 for more information.
Access via Marble Bar is along the Ripon Hills Road and Telfer Road to the northern park boundary.
The Park sits on the boundary between two deserts and embraces the Rudall River flows and those of its tributaries. Like most desert-region river systems the Rudall River has intermittent flows in a bed that carves its sandy course north-east, between dunes.
The Rudall River is unique in this arid region, being a major watercourse with seasonal water flows and permanent pools.
Rudall River National Park can be roughly divided into three landscapes: the Little Sandy Desert in the south-west, a central belt of stony hills and flattish plains, and the Great Sandy Desert to the north-east.
A mixture of trees and shrubs covers the sand dunes and rocky flats and hills. The main variations are around watercourses, where there are eucalypts, including river red gums and coolabahs. Between the sandhills is a mixed shrub of acacias and spinifex, occasionally with tree species,
The most commonly seen animals in the Park are birds and more than 90 species, including waterbirds, have been recorded.
The salt lakes Dora and Blanche are inside the park boundary and the Rudall flows into Lake Dora after heavy rain. If you travel to Rudall River National Park from the north-east, via the Gary Junction Road, you pass by the community of Punmu, which is on the eastern shore of Lake Dora.
Large sand dunes cover much of the Park, but the central rocky area, between the eastern and western desert areas, is where the main tracks cross the park: from Telfer in the north to the Talawana Track in the south, and westwards from the Rudall River crossing to Hanging Rock, on the western boundary of the park.
The western desert Aboriginal people were among the last in Australia to be affected by European encroachment. It was not until the late 1800s that explorers began crossing this region.
Most Aboriginal people started leaving the western deserts in the early 1900s, but some have returned since the 1980s, to live in communities.
From 1872-74, Colonel Peter Egerton Warburton crossed the western deserts, north of Rudall River, on his journey from Alice Springs to Roebourne. It was during this journey that he incorrectly fixed the position of Joanna Spring, a mistake that partly contributed to the deaths of two men from the Calvert
Expedition of 1896, which passed east of the area now covered by the Park.
The first European explorations of the Rudall River area came in 1896-97, when surveyor William Frederick Rudall led a party of men in search of George Jones and Charles Wells, the missing men from the Calvert Expedition.
Our visit in 2016 showed that the only currently passable tracks are the main north-south route and side tracks to Watrara Pool and the Desert Queen Baths. The western route to Hanging Rock and Meeting Gorge is impassable, because of extensive erosion.
Incidentally, ‘Meeting Gorge’ was called that after Frank H Hann, a wide-ranging prospector, surveyor and explorer ‘bumped into’ Rudall and his Calvert Expedition search party at that remote place. Rudall described him as, “a hardy old bushman”.
The Rudall River was named by Frank Hann.
Since those early visits 120 years ago by Rudall and Hann there have been few other visitors except for pastoralists, prospectors, mining surveyors and naturalists until the creation of the Telfer
mining town site in 1975. Since then, there has been an increasing, but still very low, number of people visiting the park for recreation.
Rudall River National Park is a wildly beautiful place that is rich in history and Aboriginal culture.
This Park is one of only a few areas in Australia that remain rarely visited and its harsh beauty is known only to the traditional Aboriginal groups, who have lived there for tens of thousands of years, plus a few hardy travellers, scientists, researchers and explorers.
Check out Linda White’s video, for an appreciation of the driving conditions: