Western Australia’s largest national park is a starkly beautiful place that gives travellers the chance to have a truly remote Outback experience.
What to expect
The park is 260km east of Newman, meaning it is a very remote area without facilities. You have to be well-prepared and self-sufficient to attempt to reach and traverse the park. The roads within the national park are a mix of good, bad and ugly. Expect sand, severe corrugations, eroded gullies, water courses and rocky terrain. Your vehicle should be high clearance, in top notch condition, and carrying recovery gear and communication equipment. It’s certainly a good idea to travel with two vehicles in case something goes wrong. If you are inexperienced, go on a tag-along tour. Leave your itinerary and expected return date with a responsible friend or family member before your trip.
WA’s biggest national park
Karlamilyi is the biggest national park in Western Australia at 1.5 million hectares; it is almost certainly its most remote too. The national park is located in the middle of the Great Sandy Desert and Little Sandy Desert. Rainfall is extremely unreliable, but the odd decaying cyclone can bring flooding rain. Some of this floodwater tops up soaks, waterholes and billabongs which provide oasis conditions for plants, animals and the occasional human visitor. Feral camels also inhabit the area, and although they make an arresting sight these animals are pests as they cause damage to watercourses. Wallabies, birds and a plethora of reptiles thrive under these conditions so it’s little wonder that the Martu Aborigines have inhabited this region for thousands of years. The indigenous landowners call this place Karlamilyi.
IMAGES: The majestic waterhole known as Desert Queen Baths.
The landscape around the Rudall River and the park at large is remarkably varied: red sand dunes drift across the spinifex and desert oak studded plains while outbreaks of sandstone and quartz date back more than 200 million years ago, a result of ancient glacial activity. Looking at the landscape today, it is hard to believe that glaciers were ever a feature around here. In stark contrast, rocky outcrops, rugged gorges and colourful cliffs stand abruptly within the Broadhurst and Fingoon ranges. Coolabah trees and river gums line pristine pools in Rudall River and other watercourses. The elegant-looking desert oak likes to grow on the sandplains along with spinifex.
For those embarking on a trip along the epic Canning Stock Route, a trip to Karlamilyi is a potential side trip; such is its proximity to this rare and remote part of Western Australia.
From Newman, head on the Marble Bar Road for 52km towards Nullagine before turning right. Go another 89km to Walgun where you turn left and head past Billinooka Station. After 61km turn right onto the Talawana Track, which was built by Len Beadell and his team in 1963. It is 116km along the track to the entry turnoff into Karlamilyi National Park.
From Marble Bar, leave town and head along the Ripon Hills Road. At 166km there’s a crossroad: head straight on. A further 104km takes you to a right turn. Go 27km then turn right just short of Telfer. A further 112km takes you to the Watrara Pool bush camping area within the park. You will pass by a water pump, just before the northern national park boundary.