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The Karijini National Park is the second largest national park in Western Australia. Previously known as the Hammersley Range National Park, Karijini is located in the Hammersley Ranges in the mineral-rich highlands of the Pilbara region and some 80 km west of the mining town of Newman.
The Karijini National Park is a truly spectacular area and features awe-inspiring gorges with sheer rock faces of varied colours that are reminiscent of America's Grand Canyon.
The visitor will also see waterfalls, rivers and pools and all of these against a backdrop of distinctive vegetation (cadjiput gums; spinifex) growing across the Hammersley Ranges.
The Visitors' Centre and the Eastern Gorges
The first place to visit is the Visitors' Centre (open daily open 9am-4pm). After paying your entry fee, view the display and picking up a copy of the walk trail guide, you visit the Eastern Gorges, including the Dales Gorge area (with the Fortescue Falls, the Fern Pool and the Circular Pool) and the Kalamina Gorge. The Fortescue Falls have a good lookout and are a great place for a swim.
The Four Gorges Area
This area includes the spectacular (but often dry) Joffre Falls, the Knox Gorge, and the Oxers Lookout.(the latter having truly breathtaking views over the confluence of the Red, Weano, Joffre and Hancock Gorges).
The Oxers Lookout is often praised as one of the greatest sights of the Australian Outback.
Also in this area are the Kermit's Pool and the Handrail Pool.
The Far Western Gorges
In this area you can visit the Hammersley Gorge (with its folded beds of blue-grey and orange rock) and the Rio Tinto Gorge.
When visiting the Karijini National Park, you will see "Gorge Risk" warning signs. Heed what they say very seriously. Do not venture beyond the guard rails. A number of deaths and serious accidents have occurred to naive people who ignored these warnings. Remember: if something goes wrong, you will be on your own, hundreds of kilometres from emergency aid or medical help.
Wittenoom and the Wittenoom Gorge
Just outside the boundaries of the Karijini National Park lies the town of Wittenoom and, just beyond the town, the Wittenoom Gorge.
The town of Wittenoom was for many years (1937-66) the site of extensive blue asbestos mining. The minerals themselves may have been safe enough, but, unfortunately, breathing in the dust produced during the crushing of the asbestos was found to be causing mesothelioma, a lung disease that led to the deaths of around 10% of the miners and baggers who had been working there.
It is not recommended that you risk visiting Wittenoom (now virtually a ghost town) or the Wittenoom Gorge, as there are still asbestos tailings dumps and landfill sites in the area from which microscopic fibres of asbestos can be breathed in.
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Author: David Paul Wagner
(David Paul Wagner on Google+)