Next stop on the Big Trip was Fitzroy Crossing, a comfortable 650km or so down the road – including a side trip to the old port of Wyndham which used to service the cattle trade and has now expanded into other areas. I was hoping to see a salty (salt water croc) but I was disappointed.
As usual, the road barrels along between low, eroded hills and passes over dry river beds. The bridges are narrow, with room for only one car so drivers have to exercise common sense if another car is coming the other way.
Everywhere you’ll see termite mounds, their colours reflecting the ground, sometimes deep red, sometimes limestone pale. In between is the usual sclerophyll scrub, some taller eucalypts and the signature boab trees. The largest of those can be over one thousand years old. This one is framed by a grass fire, probably started by some vandal and quite uncontrollable.
The mighty Fitzroy River is among the largest in Australia – when it’s running, of course. We’re talking about Sydney Harbours of water pouring into the sea in the Wet. In the Dry, a series of deep pools keep the local wildlife alive.
In this land of extremes, it’s hard to get across to people from more equitable climates how dramatic those changes can be. These pictures of the Fitzroy at Fitzroy Crossing might give you an idea.
Not too many years ago, all rivers were crossed using fords which later were at least cast in concrete. This one lane ford over the Fitzroy plunges steeply down from the river bank to the bed, then up the other side. At the height of the wet season, the road is impassable.
So they built a bridge. Now, towards the end of the Dry, the pools still trickle from one to the other. I’m standing on the river bank taking the picture.
Far below me, a Jabiru flies over the pools looking for breakfast. At the height of the 2011 floods, the water would have been over my head – and over that bridge. Bear in mind we’re a long way from the river’s mouth into King Sound. Further down its length we crossed three major channels funnelling the Fitzroy’s water to the ocean. I’ve included a picture of the 2011 floods from the visitor centre at Geikie Gorge to give you some idea of what I’m talking about.
Of course, the Fitzroy has its share of spectacular gorges formed at rocky ground where deep water can last. Twenty kilometres from the town of Fitzroy Crossing is such a place – Geikie Gorge.
This is a very special place. The rocks are so different from most in this red, sunburnt land. Yes, it’s limestone but it’s steep and sharp. This little article about the gorge is eye-opening and accurate about the park’s current condition. And they’re expecting cane toads to arrive with the next flood. Those introduced toads will decimate the unique wildlife. The gorge contains sawfish and stingrays which have evolved to survive in this very different environment. Read more about the place here.
I’d like to see more done about preserving these incredible places. When we were there work had commenced on cleaning up the area around the visitor centre but much more needs to be done to clear away the introduced weeds choking the trees and covering the rocks. Because the land must cope with extremes in its own way, it is very fragile, unsuited to coping with the introduced species.
We didn’t have time to take the two-hour boat trip to look at the gorge from the water. A pity. But it won’t be the only thing I’ll miss on this trip.
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