Steve Madgwick tackled the beautiful canyons of Karijini in the Pilbara last year. Here he describes why it’s a must for outback adventurers. 

1. What’s so special about the Karijini canyons?

Karijini is renowned for its older-than-animals geology and colours that feel like they have no place in one of the harshest environments on Earth. But what the vibrant image on this page doesn’t convey is the ancient, intangible energy – almost personality – that each of the gorges radiates. It’s like they’re trying to communicate with you.


2. Is it tough negotiating the gorges?

Many of the gorges, like Dales and Joffre, can be accessed by a (fairly energetic) walk down from their respective car parks. To go deeper (with canyoning operator West OZ Active) you will have to clamber, climb, abseil and swim (with a life jacket and inner-tube). You’ll need to be of reasonable fitness (or better), with no lingering injuries or morbid fears of heights or tight spaces.


3. How much time do you spend in the water?

Canyoning by its nature follows the natural water course so you’ll be in and out of streams, pools and creeks all day, albeit in a thick wetsuit and boots. You even get to abseil straight down a waterfall and slide (a few metres) off another.


4. Is there a cultural significance to this area?

Karijini has an intense cultural significance to the Banyjima, Yinhawangka and Kurrama peoples. The gorges acted as ancient meeting places and sheltered sacred sites so you’re encouraged to show respect; keep the noise down, don’t go where you shouldn’t and don’t remove anything.


5. What natural history do you encounter?

The rock here is some of the oldest exposed anywhere in the world. Too old for animal fossils, but not for stromatolites, the oldest known fossils going, comprised of former towers of symbiotic microbes. Tackle Karijini’s canyons yourself.



Go deeper…  Karijini Karma – in search of the enigma deep inside the gorges

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