If you have ever dreamed of visiting Outback Australia, then Karijini National Park is the perfect place to start.
Brilliant, starlit night skies.
Red, red rock and dust.
And gorgeous gorges to explore and swim.
Let’s head down into Knox Gorge.
I was just a wee bit excited as we piled back into the dreaded mini-bus. Today we were off to visit our first real gorge. Yes, we had been to the stunning and highly popular Dales Gorge the day before, but today we were destined for a gorge slightly off the beaten track.
Knox Gorge is one of the many highlights of Karijini National Park. It is a short and easy drive, along bumpy and corrugated dirt roads from the Karijini Eco Retreat to the Gorge’s carpark and trailhead. Getting down into the Gorge itself however, is a completely different story.
After the obligatory photos, oohs, and aahs at the Knox Lookout, our group regathered and proceeded to straggle along the path edging the gorge. Our route became progressively steeper and rockier as it quickly changed from a garden-variety gravel path to a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-amongst-it rock climb.
Those people with a fear of heights and lower fitness or energy levels may choose to simply enjoy the short stroll to the Lookout and then return to their vehicle in the carpark, pull up a chair and open a good book under a shady tree. For the rest of us, the wonders of Knox Gorge are not to be missed.
OK, peering downwards, this was a little steeper than I expected, but I love a good rock scramble at the best of times and another ‘girl’ and I led the way. Down we went. Foothold, handhold, stretch this way, grab that tree trunk, twist and shout!
Pause to catch a breath, steady the trembling knees and take in the beauty that was enveloping us. Down some more. Down, down, down.
As we continued ever downwards, we left the bright sunshine behind and the gorge cliffs provided welcome shade as we clambered our way into a completely different microclimate. Finally on the Gorge floor, we looked back up to see where we had come from and were dazzled to comprehend the steepness of the ‘track’ and how we were dwarfed by the weathered cliffs and overhangs.
It was cool and relaxing sitting on the multilayered rock shelves, listening to a small stream babble along the Gorge floor. Large trees and shrubs had made the most of the good water source, sending their roots deep underground. Wily seeds had worked their way into cracks high up in the rock walls and had grown out into horizontal or vertical plants. Nature is so clever.
The rest of the group (minus one) eventually scrambled their way down to join us. They caught their breath and steadied their beating hearts, and then we all took to the path along the base of the gorge. Apparently our very own private rock pool and a refreshing swim was waiting for us at the end of the line.
Again, the feeling of ancientness overwhelmed me and I couldn’t help but reach out to touch the old rocks and cliff walls. They were layered and cracked and broken, and spoke of having been heaved every which way when the Earth was forming.
Following the small blue markers, we hopped across the stream which changed from stream to rock pool and back to stream again. Eventually we arrived at, what we thought was the end of the gorge and our swimming destination, but No. The rock climbing was set to start again.
I am sure we all looked like largescale goldfish with boggled eyes and open mouths as our guides explained that we must balance on a tiny ledge and tippy-toe around the cliff face, while only using small slippery hand and foot holds to stop us falling backwards into the water. Okaaaaaay, this was a little out of my comfort zone, but let’s have a crack. I think it stretched the comfort-zone boundaries for most of us and one lady decided she would swim around the cliff face rather than even attempt the climb. Clever lady!
Phew! Eventually we all made it to the other side and after another 300m of rock-hopping, arrived at our destination – a deep, cool, long strip of water. Our own private lap pool!
The water was fresh and crystal clear. As the sun rarely reaches this part of the Gorge, it was a perfect pick-me-up after a hot walk. Most of the group were happy to sit back and relax with a cuppa, but I wasn’t going to miss a swim, even if it was a tad chilly.
Time to return on the same path and everyone gulped at the thought of the cliff scramble again. Thankfully, no one miss-stepped and we arrived back on the other side safe and dry, except for our swimming lady who still wasn’t prepared to tackle the cliff face for love nor money.
If you decide to visit Knox Gorge, here are a few tips:
- Distance and Time: This path is approximately 2km long and they recommend you allow 3hours.
- Rating: This walk is rated 5/5 – the highest, hardest rating. It is not all that difficult, but the challenge lies in the rock scrambling and the heights. This walk would be unsuitable for those afraid of heights.
- Tallness: Short people and people with short legs may find this walk slightly more difficult as you must reach and stretch for hand and foot holds as you clamber down and up. Just take your time and you will be fine.
- Footwear: Solid footwear is recommend to provide good grip on the loose and/or smooth rocks.
- Poles: Think about carrying/using poles to provide extra stability. I didn’t use them as I preferred to use my hands, but many group members found them invaluable.
- Waymarking: Small coloured blue circles are attached to rocks to show you the safest path along the Gorge floor.
- Fitness: You don’t need a high level of fitness to enjoy this walk, but good, strong knees are a must.
- Safety: Be careful of slippery rocks. Take your time and step carefully. Also, beware of snakes! Apparently King Brown snakes are active 24/7 x 365 days. They are not a problem if you give them the respect they deserve and plenty of room to escape.
- Facilities: There are no facilities of any sort in the bottom of the Gorge. Composting toilets, picnic tables and a little shade are available in the carpark.
Despite huffing and puffing my way back up the rock face and collapsing in the carpark, I am sure I had a silly grin on my face. I had just done something amazing and seen something equally so. Life is pretty awesome in the Australian Outback.
When did you experience something truly special?
What: If you stand at the Knox Lookout, you get a panoramic view of Knox Gorge and can see how it intersects Wittenoom Gorge. When we visited there was also a beautiful array of wildflowers and termite mounds. Just fascinating.
Where: Knox Gorge is located approximately 11.5km north-east of the Karijini Eco Retreat.
When: Visit this gorge early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the light is at its best and the slanting rays bring the countryside and red, red rock to life.
Why: To wonder at the power of Nature and for a refreshing swim.
How: How about an early morning walk? Take a short-cut from the Eco Retreat via Joffre Gorge, and you cut off about 7km, making the return walk only about 8km. Just make sure you take water, a hat and sunscreen.
Who: For the young and adventurous at heart.
Related Posts: For another stunning swimming experience in Karijini National Park, don’t miss Dales Gorge.
Related Blogs: I don’t think Jo will take you quite so far off the beaten track, but her walks are no less enjoyable.
Read About It: Ready for a serious adventure in the remotest, hottest, most unforgiving part of Australia? Grab a copy of Tracks by Robin Davidson as she takes her camels on an epic 2,736km walk. Go straight to Book Depository.
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