Windjana Gorge,
Lillimooloora Police Station
and Tunnel Creek

Back TOP

Notes:  Windjana Gorge - Lillimooloora Police Station - Tunnel Creek

Our trip to the Kimberley was to include the Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek National Parks but when we got to the turn off we found one of our caravan shock absorbers was dragging on the ground.  After some other travellers, temporarily fixed the problem for us we decided to drive on to Derby and get the problem fixed properly.  The road was not in good condition so we decided to take a tour bus instead of driving back ourselves to see the Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek National Parks. 

The bus was a brute of a truck with massive tyres, just what was needed for this trip.  It was still a very bumpy ride there and back.  Our driver, a local had just taken over the operation of the tour and kept us entertained and informed during the journey.  We meet our 'on ground' guide for the day at Winjana Gorge, he is an aboriginal elder who told us about his upbringing and the history of the area, focusing on the aboriginal fighter, Jandamarra. 

It was a relaxed day, with many highlights including seeing lots of freshwater crocodiles up-close, wading through the tunnel, getting only our feet wet, stunning scenery and great commentary.  A great day out!

Map: Tour

Back  WGTop

Part 1:   Windjana Gorge
Map: Windjana Gorge    

Windjana Gorge was gazetted as a National Park in November 1971 because of the need to protect and preserve its natural attractions and to offer facilities to its many visitors. The park covers over 2000 hectares including Lillimooloora Police Station ruins and is situated 145 kilometres east of Derby and 150 kilometres north west of Fitzroy Crossing. 
The main attraction of Windjana is the scenic gorge carved by the Lennard River, through the Napier Range, which exposes the ancient reef system, regarded by geologists as a classic feature of world geology.  The Lennard River runs through the gorge in wet weather, but during the dry season it forms pools surrounded by trees and shrubs. 
The deep, moist soils of the riverbank support the tall broad-leaved leichardt tree, native figs and the paper-barked cadjeputs. These trees also provide shelter from the hot sun for many waterbirds, a colony of fruit bats and a large group of corellas. Freshwater crocodiles can often be seen in the pools. 
The walls of Windjana Gorge rise abruptly from the wide alluvial floodplain of the Lennard River, reaching about 100 metres high in some places. The 3.5 kilometre long gorge cuts through the limestone of the Napier Range; part of an ancient barrier reef, which can also be seen at Geikie Gorge and
Tunnel Creek National Parks.

(Information source - Department of Conservation and Land Management)

On the Gibb River Road east of Derby A Boab tree stands out in the bush Lots of Boabs
Bush, quite sparse. A very large Boab Our Bus: We stopped here for a photo break
A very large Boab Open bush Termite mounds, on higher ground
Termite mounds This road was very rutted; graders came though a few days later. Termite mounds
Flood plains, too wet for trees when it rains Interesting bush Our turn-off
The gorge ahead Morning Tea Our On-ground guide, a local Aboriginal Elder
Welcome ceremony We all pass through the smoke Explaining the tour
Walk Notes Windjana Gorge view Windjana Gorge view
Bower Bird nest Entering the Windjana Gorge Entering the Windjana Gorge
Entering the Windjana Gorge Safety sign.. Someone got bitten by a crocodile a few days later due to stupidity...take notice Rock walls overhang the walk
First view of the river, is that a crocodile down there? Overhanging rock walls Towering cliff face
Overhanging rock walls Overhanging rock walls Information sign... fossils abound in the limestone cliffs
Yes, we found a fossil. Yes, a crocodile! Oh, lots of crocodiles
crocodiles galore! A big crocodile There must be 20 plus over there!
Freshwater crocodile Many freshwater crocodiles Many freshwater crocodiles
Close-up freshwater crocodile Close-up freshwater crocodile Dragonfly
Close-up freshwater crocodile Freshwater crocodile Close-up freshwater crocodile
What large teeth you have! Close-up freshwater crocodile Close-up freshwater crocodile
Freshwater crocodile View up the Gorge View down the Gorge
View down the Gorge View down the Gorge View up the Gorge
View down the Gorge View down the river View down the river
Crocodile Crocodile More crocodiles
Crocodile Crocodile The last crocodile
View down the Gorge View down the Gorge View down the Gorge
View down the Gorge A sitting rock giant Your Bus needs tyres this big in this country
  Back   Top  

Part 2:   Lillimooloora Police Station


   In the 1890s an Aboriginal man named Jandamarra, often referred to as 'Pigeon', gained a notoriety that rivaled that of the Kelly Gang in Victoria.

Using the caves and surroundings of Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek as hideouts, he led an organised armed rebellion by Kimberley Aboriginal people against European settlers. These activities prevented pastoralists from opening up a large part of the Kimberley for some time.

Aboriginal people in the Kimberley were dispossessed of their land by pastoralists, deprived of their traditional hunting areas and forced to work on the stations. If they were charged with spearing sheep or cattle, they were chained around the neck and walked to Derby, where they worked off their sentences in chains. 

Jandamarra was a Bunuba Aborigine who lived in the Napier and Oscar Ranges for most of his life. During his early contact with Europeans, while working on stations and while in gaol for spearing sheep, he became a highly skilled horseman and marksman. However, the stint in jail interrupted his tribal education, and he was not properly trained in the Law. On his return home, he was effectively banished from Bunuba society because of having broken strict kinship rules that prohibited sexual relations with particular women.

After befriending another loner, the Police Constable Richardson, Jandamarra became an unofficial tracker for the police. During a patrol of the Napier Ranges with Richardson, Jandamarra helped to capture a large group of his kinsmen and women. But over the next few days, while they were held at Lillimooloora Police Post, his tribal loyalties gained the upper hand. He shot Richardson, stole some guns and set the captives free.

On November 10, 1894 Jandamarra and his followers attacked a party of five Europeans who were driving cattle to set up a large station in the heart of Bunuba land. Two of them, Burke and Gibbs, were killed at Windjana Gorge. This was the first time that guns were used against European settlers in an organised fashion.

In late 1894 a group of 30 or so heavily armed police and settlers attacked Jandamarra and his followers, who had staked out Windjana Gorge in readiness. Jandamarra was seriously wounded and was believed to have died. However, the police then embarked on a military-style operation against Aboriginal camps around Fitzroy Crossing. Many Aboriginal people were killed, despite none being identified as rebels.

For three years, Jandamarra tried to defend his lands and his people against police and white settlers. His vanishing tricks became legendary. At one point a police patrol managed to follow him to his hideout at the entrance to the Cave of Bats (Tunnel Creek) when word was received that he had raided Lillimooloora Police Post during their absence. Jandamarra was held in awe by other Aboriginal people as a magical person who could "fly like a bird and disappear like a ghost". They believed he was immortal, his body simply a physical manifestation of a spirit that resided in a water soak near Tunnel Creek. Only an Aboriginal person with similar mystical powers could kill him.

The tide finally turned in favour of the police, when they recruited a remarkable black tracker from the Pilbara, known as Micki. Micki was said to possess magical powers and did not fear Jandamarra. Jandamarra was finally tracked down and killed by Micki at Tunnel Creek on April 1, 1897, finally ending the battle for Bunuba lands.

(Information source - Department of Conservation and Land Management)

A quick bus trip to the old ruins of the Lillimooloora Police Station Then a short walk The usual safety sign
Our guide talks about the Jandamarra story From the Aboriginal viewpoint Ruins of the Lillimooloora Police Station
Ruins of the Lillimooloora Police Station Ruins of the Lillimooloora Police Station Ruins of the Lillimooloora Police Station
Ruins of the Lillimooloora Police Station Looking back to the ruins Onto Tunnel Creek National Park
  Back   Top  
   Part 3: Tunnel Creek
Map: Possible Tunnel Creek Walk Path

   Western Australia's oldest cave system, in Tunnel Creek National Park, is famous as a hideout used in the late 1800s by an Aboriginal leader known as Jandamarra. He was killed outside its entrance in 1897.

Tunnel Creek flows through a water worn tunnel beneath the limestone of the Napier Range, part of the 375 to 350 million-year-old Devonian Reef system. You can walk 750 metres through the tunnel to the other side of Napier Range, wading through several permanent pools and watching for bats and the stalactites that descend from the roof in many places.

Fauna Tunnel Creek was once known as the "cave of bats". At least five species of bat are known to use the cave. These include the Western Cave Bat, the common Bentwing bat and the rare Ghost Bat, Australia's only carnivorous bat, which preys on frogs, lizards, small birds and mammals including other bats.

The Yellow-lipped Bat, found only in the Kimberley, has been little studied but apears to be a strict cave dweller. The Orange leaf-nose bat named for its golden fur prefers limestone caves which provide warmth and humidity to help maintain its body temperature when resting. Unlike other bats, Orange leaf-nosed bats do not huddle together to keep warm.

Many of these bats are particularly sensitive to disturbance. Ghost bats and the orange leaf-nosed bat may abandon their refuges if too much artificial light penetrates the cave. At times a colony of Little Red fruit bats roost where the roof of the tunnel has collapsed. During the day the tunnel provides a protected retreat. At dusk they leave en masse to seek out the blossoms of woodland trees.

The tunnel is up to 12 metres high and 15 metres wide in parts. Near the centre of the cave the roof has collapsed and is an excellent place to observe the colony of fruit bats. Take a torch, wear sneakers and be prepared to get wet and possibly cold.

Geology The limestone reef is made up of calcium carbonate, which is readily dissolved by rainwater seeping from the surface into the rock. Over many thousands of years, water flowing along cracks, joints and bedding surfaces dissolves the limestone away, opening them out to form caves. Cave systems have formed wherever the reef has been exposed at the Earths surface. This first occurred 250 million years ago, and the present system of active caves may have reused the same channels they created over the last 20 million years or so.

Tunnel Creek follows a prominent joint through the limestone. A old river valley on top of the range formed at a time when the climate was wetter, and the water table (the level to which rock beneath the surface is saturated with ground water) was higher. Erosion has since exhumed the reef, preserving the old river course.

The presence of underground pools along the floors of the cave is due to the water table being just below the present erosion surface. Water only flows through the cave after prolonged heavy rain during the wet season. During the dry season, water dripping from the roof of the caves and onto the floor precipitates calcite to form stalactites and stalagmites, or flows down the walls to form curtains of flowstones.

(Information source - Department of Conservation and Land Management)

Tunnel Creek NP coming into view Tunnel Creek NP car park Information area
Walking into Tunnel Creek Caves area The usual risk sign Tunnel Creek scenery
Signs telling the Jandamarra story Signs telling the Jandamarra story Our guide talking about the local area
 Grinding stone Walking down into the cave Amazing rock, looks like Jasper
The start of the cave walk, time to get our feet wet The start of the cave walk The start of the cave walk - looking back
The start of the cave walk - looking back Limestone- stalactites Half way through the cave at the roof collapse
Half way through the cave at the roof collapse Roof collapse, looking out Flying Foxes in the trees
Heading on More stalactites More stalactites - close-up
The end comes into view The end comes into view The end comes into view
The end comes into view The end comes into view Creek flowing into the cave system
Creek view Creek view Looking back into the cave entrance
Heading back in to retrace our steps More stalactites  Retracing our steps
The roof collapse area The roof collapse area Almost back at the start
Almost back at the start In the bus and just exiting the Tunnel NP The graders are coming
We pass them by ... the same old horrible road Heading to Derby Heading to Derby
Heading to Derby Heading to Derby Heading to Derby

Back   Top