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Mitchell Falls

The Mitchell River National Park covers approximately 115,300 hectares. The Mitchell Plateau was the site of a planned bauxite mine. An Australian company held the lease for the mine and returned the lease to the state recently. The area is now part of the Kimberley National Park.

Mitchell Falls

Mitchell Falls

Is located on the Mitchell River 350 km NE of Derby and 270 km NW of Wyndham.  Access is via the Mitchell Plateau track from the Kalumburu to Gibb River Road, 172 km north of the Gibb River Road junction and 95 km south of Kalumburu.  The multi-tiered falls are spectacular both from the air and the ground. The road from the airstrip to the Falls is a 14-16 km drive that takes 30 minutes or up to 8 hours on foot as the terrain is very uneven.

The Landscape

The Mitchell Plateau is the remains of an elevated laterite capped plain.  It occupies part of an area known as the Kimberley basin where about 1800 million years ago in Precambrian times, a thick sequence of layered sedimentary rock was deposited on a slowly subsiding large continental mass.  A basin is a low area in the earth’s crust where sediments have accumulated.

The Plants

Over 640 different species of plants have been recorded in the vicinity of Mitchell Falls.  The landscape varies from mangroves and swamps, to woodlands and lush rainforest patches, accounting for the diversity and richness of the wildlife.  One of the most conspicuous plants is the Mitchell Plateau Fan Palm (Livistona eastonii) which thrives on the lateriteic soils and is restricted to the Plateau and a smaller area on Doongan Station.  Growing up to a height of 18m, some palms have been estimated to be up to 280 years old.  The growing shoot was considered an important food by Aboriginal people.  The Mitchell Plateau has some of the richest rainforest pockets to be found in WA.  Cycads are common in some areas on the Plateau and waterlilies abound in the pools.  Twenty-three types of fern are known within this area.

The Animals

The wide diversity of habitats, including many rainforest patches and the longer wet season, make the Mitchell Falls one of the most important areas for wildlife in the Kimberley.  As grazing by domestic stock in the area is quite recent compared with other parts of the Kimberley, there has been relatively little degradation of wildlife habitats.  Up to 50 mammal species, 220 bird species and 86 kinds of reptiles and amphibians may occur in the area, including the saltwater crocodile, death adder, king brown and taipan.  21 species of fish have been recorded from creeks and rivers.

Traditional Owners

The national park is part of the traditional lands of three groups of Aboriginal people. The groups are Worrora, Wunambal-Gaambera and Ngarinyin. Ties with the country are still very strong and they have written a management plan for the Mitchell Plateau area, which is known to them as Ngauwudu. The falls are known as Punamii-unpuu and Surveyor's Pool is more correctly named Aunauyu. The Wungurr (or creator snakes) live in the deep pools below the Punamii-unpuu and Aunauya and swimming is not allowed in these pools.

Explorers

In 1819, Phillip Parker King entered Admiralty Gulf in the “Mermaid” and anchored in a harbour which he called Port Warrender.  William Easton is believed to be the first European to traverse the Plateau in 1921 when he led a State Government expedition into the North Kimberley.  He named the Mitchell River after Sir James Mitchell, the Premier of the State at that time.

Mining

There have been potentially commercial deposits of bauxite found on the Plateau.  In 1971, the Government recognised the significance of the bauxite resources and ratified an Agreement Act that allows the conservation, mining and recreational values of the Plateau to be managed.  In 1979, the mining rights covered by this Agreement were acquired by the Mitchell Plateau Bauxite Company, these have since been returned to the government.

Mitchell Falls Photos

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