Karijini National Park
Directions - Coming from the Weano Day Use Area, take Banjima Drive east until you reach Kalamina Drive. From Dales Campground follow Banjima Drive west until you reach Kalamina Drive. It's is a dead end with the trail head located a short distance away.
The Hike - Day Two of my Karijini adventures and with a fantastic morning spent exploring Weano Gorge and Handrail Pool, we decided to move on to Kalamina Gorge. Being a bit out of the way from the main tourist spots at the Eco Resort and Dales Campground, we thought it might be a little quieter. Arriving at the car park that certainly didn't turn out to be the case with a good number of cars there but not stupidly so like at Weano Gorge. Having heard mixed reviews about Kalamina Gorge, some saying it was the lesser of all the gorges and others saying it was a pleasant surprise, I was keen to check it out for myself so went in with an open mind.
Being one of the longest stretches of gorge you can walk through, Kalamina begins like all the others with a short but steep descent down into the valley. From above you are greeted with a stunning view as the green colours of the stream contrast well with the Snappy Gums and thick grasses lining the banks. You have two options when you reach the bottom, turn right and take the small side trip to Kalamina Falls or turn left and walk all the way to the turnaround point at Rock Arch Pool. Given Kalamina Falls was quite busy we decided to do the full trail first and then check out Kalamina Falls when it hopefully wouldn't be as popular. The first section you come across is very open and doesn't feel like you are walking through a gorge system at all. The mature Snappy Gums are always a highlight and the wide stream was another unusual feature compared to Weano and Hancock Gorges. With lots of sunshine and water, the grasses have gone wild here but the trail is easy to find as you cross the stream that is thankfully a lot smaller. Further along you reach a more familiar Karijini setting with the high red walls of billion year old layered rock, ledges worn smooth by the water and a trickling stream finding the path of least resistance. Like with all the other walks in Karijini, the circle markers attached to the rock guide you along which side of the gorge you are meant to be walking along.
As a Class 4 walk, this is one of the easier hikes with only minor amounts of ledge shuffling and no drops or climbs that would present a hazard to a regular person. Now into the deeper part of the gorge, it is a relaxing walk along the wide floor as it weaves through the landscape. While I enjoyed the scrambling and wading of Handrail Pool and Hancock Gorge, this was a different experience and one I was enjoying quite a lot. As I reach my twilight years I am starting to slow down a lot more on hikes when the mood hits me and this was one of those occasions. Ambling is probably the best word to describe it with no hurry in my step and I was loving it. With both sides of the gorge in the shade there were a few good photo opportunities but this didn't last long as the gorge once again opened up. This was no issue though as the trade-off was a very wide pool of water with Snappy Gums on the other side providing excellent reflections. This is where the trail gets a little narrow but the circle markers are there to guide your path and it isn't a problem at all. Having the contrast of being able to walk right through the centre of a wide gorge and then being forced up against the walls is a fun experience that certainly makes for a memorable hike. I passed a couple coming the other way that required some forward planning given the narrowness of the ledge but we managed and I moved on to the next section of overgrown reeds and grasses.
Here is where we found a few interesting rocks that had been deposited into the centre of the gorge many moons ago and it was fascinating to see the twisted layers that were on display. It wasn't just the rocks that had fallen down too, the walls had some amazing geological patterns caused by the various forces over billions of years. Where the grasses grow wild and the Snappy Gums reappear you cross the stream to the left hand side of the gorge and move on to the end point at Rock Arch Pool. There are parts of this final stretch that were quite muddy and wet so picking a line on the exposed rocks was a fun challenge to avoid getting the shoes too muddy and potentially slipping and falling butt first into the waiting muck. With my shorts and shirt spared the experience of getting dirty it was a short walk along the ledges to reach the natural finishing point of this hike. There are no signs to tell you this is the end but the ledge just sort of runs out at Rock Arch Pool and you are left staring at the amazing scene ahead of you. It felt very much like an Indiana Jones movie with the titular rock arch marking the spot for a great archaeological find and some adventurous canyon climbing to reach the treasure. Although this wasn't the case, it was fun to imagine what lied beyond the reflective pool and around the corner.
My imagination really enjoyed this spot as it looked so inviting to continue and I loved it looked like a perfect oasis was around the bend just waiting to be explored. Apparently if you brave the cold water and swim past it does keep going for a while but I decided to leave that for another time. It does seem the kind of place that would be best experienced from the comfort of an inflatable donut as you glide around the still waters. For now I was content with trying to photograph the green and red reflections, along with capturing the arch and steep gorge walls. I could have stayed there for a long time and thankfully we were not joined by anyone else so could spend as much time as we wanted. The waters did look inviting for a wade but the rock ledges were coated in a slippery algae so we decided against trying to wade out into the middle for better photos given how easy it is to slip over and potentially ruin your camera. With the end point reached and our memory cards brimming with photos we headed back to the start where hopefully the crowds weren't too bad at Kalamina Falls and we could get a few clear shots. While you do have to walk back the way you came, the changing light made for a new experience and I always love seeing a trail from a different perspective as you see things you might miss going in the opposite direction.
We passed a few people on the way back but this was one of the less crowded gorge hikes we did on the whole trip so it never felt like there were a lot of tourists about. Arriving at Kalamina Falls we found one couple there but the guy was having a lot of photos taken of himself in front of the falls so we waited patiently and enjoyed the bright green colours of the stream and the view back down the gorge. Mercifully he got the right profile picture and we were allowed to have a look at the falls as nature intended them to be. While not very tall or gushing as some of the other streams in the park, there is a Snappy Gum that has grown over the falls and has draped itself all over the scene from the ground above. It makes for an interesting feature to photograph so we did just that before we were joined by a large family climbing along the narrow and slippery ledges. Deciding that was our cue to leave we headed back up the trail to the car park with yet another fantastic hike under our belts.