Deep Gorge Murujuga

Deep Gorge

Murujuga National Park

Directions - Located 30 minutes west of Karratha, Deep Gorge is located within Murujuga National Park. From the centre of town, take the Dampier Hwy west until you reach Burrup Rd. Follow Burrup Rd for 6km then follow the signs at the Hearson Cove Rd turnoff for Deep Gorge and Hearson Cove. 

The Hike - With an invitation to participate in a special Parks and Wildlife project in the Pilbara, I was afforded an opportunity to explore this amazing part of the world that I couldn't say no to. Teaming up with Project Officer Ben for the week and a half long trip, we would be travelling to the national parks of the Pilbara on our duties and I had been given permission to sneak in some blog posts. Meeting at the airport for a very early 6am flight up to Karratha, we both cut it a little fine with the timing but that didn't end up mattering as our flight was delayed when they couldn't close the airplane door (kind of critical).

We eventually arrived in the sunny and warm locale of Karratha, picked up our hire car and headed to the district DBCA office for briefing, equipment pickup and to organise our trip out to Murujuga National Park. One of the newest national parks in Western Australia, Murujuga was created in 2013 and was the first jointly managed national park in WA with the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation (MAC) working with DBCA to look after the land. The MAC was formed by bringing together five groups, the Ngarluma, Yindjibarndi, Yaburara, Mardudhunera and the Woon-goo-tt-oo and a Council of Elders was formed to make decisions relating to the land. The system seems to be working very well and I hope it is the start of something bigger. The Burrup Peninsula that the park is located on is home to the largest collection of ancient rock art in the world dating back tens of thousands of years and is culturally significant to the traditional owners as it depicts all their rituals, zone off areas for special uses, history and warns of dangers. Before we were allowed out to visit the site we had chosen for the day, Deep Gorge, we were required to be put through a cultural awareness session run by the MAC. Matt, the Murujuga Joint Management Officer came out with us to the MAC office in the park and we met some of the rangers that would run the training session and join us on our trip to Deep Gorge. Conrad and Brandon would be running us through the training through a slideshow presentation and provided a fantastic insight into the land, the history and how this project came to be.

 

I learned things in this session that had a big impact for the rest of the trip and was one of the most interesting information sessions I'd been to (including any university lecture I’d ever attended). For a guy who admittedly was very shy when he first started as a ranger, Conrad is a natural at it now. With our cultural awareness training over, we headed on over to the Deep Gorge car park with everyone at the MAC Centre commenting on how my new white shoes would not last that colour in the red dirt of the Pilbara (I had a pair of hiking boots I quickly changed in to). One of the things that strikes you as you drive through the park are what look like piles of rocks just dumped there by a heavy loader. Given the unsightly industrial areas found on the Burrup Peninsula it's a fair observation but these rock piles are a naturally occurring formation and are home to a lot of the ancient rock art. Deep Gorge explores one of these areas and has been opened to the wider population so they can experience the rock art from a safe distance (please stick to the formal track and do not go climbing into these culturally sensitive areas). We arrived at the Deep Gorge car park and Conrad gave us a welcome to country that explained to the spirits who we were and what we were doing in the area. With Conrad's voice echoing off the rocks it was a powerful moment. We took some photos of everyone in front of the Deep Gorge sign to mark the occasion and started on the trail.