Keep River National Park

So why, if our first stop was Keep River, does this page start with a photo of Lake Argyle? Well, if you remember all those illusions to burning off the bush, there was a purpose. This time it wasn't traditional burning, but the rangers at Keep River had decided to do some aerial burns a few days prior to our arrival and subsequently had a few problems keeping them under control - hence they closed the park to visitors, hopefully to be reopened the day after we had been sitting disappointed at the blocked entry.

This forced us to push on into Western Australia and, instead of spending our night in the isolated bush setting of Keep River, we found ourselves sharing the manicured lawns of Lake Argyle Tourist Park with the caravans and camper vans of the famous "grey nomads".

Late afternoon at Lake Argyle - largest man-made lake in Australia

Pied butcherbird - songster of the bush

Still it was a peaceful setting and gave us a chance to watch the last rays of the sun illuminate the red rock walls of this immense man-made lake. Hopefully, we could backtrack to Keep River the next day and still get to see some of its natural and cultural attractions.


We left Lake Argyle at 7am western time to arrive at the entry to Keep River 30 minutes later at 9am central time. The signs were still out - Road Closed and opening today, so we drove in a few kilometres to the ranger station to find out the story. Half an hour passed chatting to another couple part way through an 18 month grand northern circuit, when finally the duty ranger appeared. He had been out all night trying to keep the fires from damaging areas they were not designed to and had finally returned to give the all clear and re-open the Park - tough life, being a ranger at Keep River.

Start of the Gurrandalng Track

The sandstone ridges of Keep River National Park

Spinifex pigeon

Livistona palms growing at the base of the rocky outcrops

Sadly, the main walk at Jarnem in the north of the Park had not yet been opened since the wet season, so we were restricted to doing the remaining two very short walks. The first of these was the Gurrandalng Walk, a 2km loop track that gives a taste of the sandstone ridge country. When we arrived at Gurrandalng campground, we could see that the fire had burnt right up to the edge of the campsite - it would have been an interesting night had we stayed there!!

From the campsite, we followed the track up through ancient red and orange sandstones, strangely carved throughout the eons since they were formed at the bottom of the sea. Grey-leafed acacias, white-trunked eucalypts and the odd fan palm lined the track as it wound its rocky way through clumps of spinifex. From the top we had superb views of the escarpment opposite and the burnt sandy flats below.

The plain beyond

Looking up the walls of the sandstone escarpment

Tree still smouldering from last night's fire

White trunked gum amongst the sandstone

The track descended to wind back to the campground along these flats, the smell of recently burnt ash still strong in the air and the odd waft of smoke drifted from the trunk of a smouldering tree. Lake Argyle campground the previous night suddenly seemed so much better.

A curious sandstone pillar

Burnt area of savannah woodland

Passing a big boab

Leaving Gurrandalng, we headed further north into the park to the Jinumum Walk, a 3km in-out walk to an old aboriginal living shelter and art site up the narrow Keep River Gorge. However, we had only just left the boab trees of the flat and entered the rocky gorge section when we started to smell the smoke.

Ahead a faint plume of white smoke was drifting above the red cliffs - as we stopped to take stock, a voice from behind called out. It was our overworked duty ranger back again to check out the fire; embers had blown into the gorge starting a fresh outbreak and he was now officially closing the track. Sadly, we returned to our bushcamper - our efforts to visit the aboriginal art site thwarted by fire. The Park was slowly closing down again.

Ranger checking out the spot fire ahead

Jinimum Track into the Keep River Gorge

Stone hawk trap once used by aboriginal people

Keep River country - viewed from Ginger's Hill

Still, on the way out of the park, we did do the very brief climb up Ginger's Hill to see the stone "hawk trap" built by aboriginals to lure and catch birds of prey. From the top of the hill, we had one final superb view over the dry-forest plains to the distant escarpments beyond. It confirmed that Keep River National Park is an area of great natural beauty. Our visit was cut short, but if any one is passing through this area, it's worth the detour. Keep River - keep it in mind!