Start - Millstream Homestead
Finish - Deep Reach Pool
Length - 8.5km (One Way)
Grade - Orange
Terrain - Single Track
Vertical Climb - 62m
Cost - National Park Fees Apply
Time - 2-4 hours
Signed - Yes
Date Hiked - 16th July 2018
Best Time - April to September
Directions - Located an hour’s drive south of Karratha, Millstream Chichester NP is located on the south side of Roebourne-Wittenoom Rd. Take Millstream Rd until you reach the entrance signs for Kanjenjie-Millstream Rd and follow this road until you reach the car park for the Homestead.
The Hike - With our short stay at Millstream Chichester National Park coming to a close, we had one afternoon left and I wasn't going to miss out on the opportunity to take in one last hike. With our adventures on the Camel Trail in the morning leaving us hungry we enjoyed a spot of lunch in the sunshine at Mulla Mulla Camp before making plans on how we were going to tackle the Warrungunha Trail in the afternoon. This wasn't on our original itinerary as it was thought we wouldn't have time but we were keen to experience everything and thought it was best if we took in one last walk.
Looking at the brochure for Millstream while we were in Karijini, I noticed this trail listed and at 8.5km it peaked my interest. Even if it meant getting up super early or walking back to the homestead (adding a good distance to the walk), I was determined to do it. Luckily Ben was also keen and we were once again offered a lift to the end point by the campground hosts at Mulla Mulla. With the Landcruiser parked up at Deep Reach Pool we were transported back to the campsite and began the walk around 3pm. Starting at a familiar location with the enjoyable Wetlands Walk taken in the previous day, we departed onto a new trail leading along the edge of the wetlands. The native cadjeput tree lines this part of the trail with a very similar appearance to paper bark, these examples are clearly quite old with some boasting massive trunks. The grassy fringes of the trail had me thinking I was back in Perth on a warm spring day walking Kitty's Gorge or Noble Falls and was very different to the endless spinifex normally found everywhere in the Pilbara. A few smoothed barked snappy gums also livened up this part of the walk as it skirted the edge of the Miliyana Campground. Having already visited a few points along this trail in our travels over the past few days I knew what to expect at the start, middle and end and really hoped that the trail would not be an uninteresting walk through the spinifex plains to connect the dots.
My fears were not put to rest when we exited the walk along the wetlands to open land dotted with scraggly bushes and a small red hill that looked like it was building rubble. Thankfully though this lasted a very short while and I was thrown into some very unexpected forest. We had seen the non-native date palms on our wetlands walk and they dominated the native Millstream Palm so I was looking forward to seeing the native palms in a more natural setting. The red dirt trail entered an area like this and it was a very surreal experience wondering through a native eucalyptus forest of white trunked snappy gums mixed in with tropical looking palm trees. Not all the palms were of the Millstream variety but I enjoyed this out of the ordinary scene and began snapping away with my camera. The ranger had mentioned that there is a resident bull that lives in this area and you can see evidence of his trampling around the place but I did not encounter him this afternoon. One thing I did encounter was a lovely patch of Mulla Mulla, something that had been advertised as everywhere in the Pilbara this time of year but something we had not spotted so far. I thought it was a bit odd that our camp was named after this purple cone-shaped wildflower but didn't seem to have any about (we would later find a lot of it hidden away behind one of the buildings).
The trail soon meets a small cliff section and a set of stairs leading out of the forest are perched next to a bench. The stairs take you out onto a transformed landscape as you rise ever so slightly above the trees and gaze upon the open land around you. This will be a feature of the walk for the remainder of the journey and something I couldn't get enough of. You would think that the novelty of endless horizons, sweeping plains and rugged mountain ranges would wear thin by now but it hadn't and I kept taking way too many photos as I ventured on towards the next lookout. The trail is now a wide red path that shares the same route as the Red Roo Trail for mountain bikers until the finishing point at Deep Reach Pool. Having not seen any mountain bike trails in Karijini it was nice to see something at Millstream as quite often the caravaners carry a bike or two and it really is a great way to see a lot of the land in a short amount of time. The walk along the wide path came with a few delights, both near and far with a small lizard gracing the path long enough for a photo and what looked like a dingo print in the dirt. Far into the distance to the south was the beginning of the Hamersley Range and a nice reminder of the fun times we'd had there. I tried to capture a few iconic photos here with a lone snappy gum contrasted against the distance ranges and managed to get a few panoramas that caught the moment well.
Arriving at the Fortescue River lookout on the cliffs above the water, we had previously been here on another visit but in the late afternoon air it had a different quality to it. The long tree-lined river is quite magnificent to behold from the cliff tops and playing in the water was a pelican. I'm not sure why but I had no idea they lived this far north (they live all around the coastline of Australia apparently) so was taken back. Given this was the halfway point we had a little break before Ben remembered he had to make our daily scheduled call at 4pm and the sat phone was in the Landcruiser. So the air and sea rescue didn't get called in unnecessarily he sprinted off into the distance and I would continue at my own pace. The trail from the lookout runs almost parallel with the road network from here on out but is far enough away that you don't realise unless a car drives past. You leave the relative height of the cliffs and wander down into the spinifex plains with a very distinct point where the low scrub just ends and the spinifex begins (see gallery). In the warm afternoon sun this was an enjoyable, if not a little monotonous section of trail leading all the way to Deep Reach Pool. You pass the signs for the Stargazers Campground and given the fun shots I'd captured at the homestead the night before, I wondered if this area was any better or if it is just a cool name to give it some appeal.
With some relaxing tunes keeping me company I felt at home as I walked through the spinifex and towards the final destination. As I approached the car park for Deep Reach Pool Ben popped into view and it turns out I wasn't walking as slow as I felt I was. The final part of the trail leads back down to the Fortescue River where Deep Reach Pool is located (there is no separate pool, just a wide bit of the river perfect for swimming). There were a few people still around but they were packing up and soon we had the place all to ourselves. With the sun sitting low in the sky and streaming through the canopy of the trees lining the picnic area, this was truly idyllic. There are three areas connecting you to the river including a little fenced off boardwalk and two staircases leading directly into the water. Even though I had worked up quite a sweat I didn't really feel like a swim so took off my shoes and sat on the far staircase with my legs in the water taking photos of the river and watching the fish swim around. With no wind about (still wasn't used to that feeling) the river was matching the deep blue of the sky and the palms and forest reflected strongly in the still water.
This made for some nice photos and just a nice place to relax with no cares in the world. I put the camera down for a while and just sat there in the moment knowing that this was the last hike of the trip and it would be back to Karratha the next day and home the day after. It also dawned on me that my hiking shoes that had served me for 10 years had finished their last hike and would never be worn again. They'd been slowly falling apart for a couple of years and despite being on my second replacement pair since their first retirement, I brought them up here because I didn't want to hike around the wet gorges in proper boots. With a few chunks now missing after a week and a bit in the Pilbara, they are back home having been recycled as holders for a couple of cacti in my backyard. With a bit of a sombre but enjoyable end to the trip at Deep Reach Pool we headed back to the camp just before sunset. It's been an unforgettable experience touring the Pilbara and this was a great way to finish.
Final Thoughts - Millstream Chichester National Park seems to be one of those great places that gets lost in the noise of a nearby attraction, in this case Karijini. An oasis in the desert and something completely unexpected if you were to judge from driving by on the main road.
With some great memories made on the Wetlands Walk and Camel Trail, the Warrungunha Trail was the cherry on top of a fantastic visit to this underrated park.
Admittedly I wasn't expecting a lot from this walk based off the drive in to Millstream but I stand thoroughly corrected. Rather than being one dimensional, you get paper bark lined wetlands, expansive views towards the Hamersley Range, views over the Fortescue River, meandering through spinifex plains and a finish at the impressive Deep Reach Pool.
Saying goodbye to the Pilbara for now was tough but that finish at a calm Fortescue River made it a nice process. A lovely trail to end the trip and hopefully you include it in your travels when you visit Millstream.
Get out there and experience it!
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