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Guide to Keep River National Park

An easy day trip from Kununurra or spend a few days unlocking the secrets of Keep River National Park in the Northern Territory. Explore ancient gorges and valleys lined with towering palm trees while enjoying the diversity of bird calls, wildlife and wild flowers.


By Tracey Diddams

Keep River National Park is considered one of the Northern Territory’s most remote parks, located almost 750 kilometres (466 miles) from Darwin. Don’t let distance fool you however, as this park, although in the NT, shares a border with Western Australia and is located a very easy 35 minute drive (53 kilometres or 33 miles) from the Kimberley township of Kununurra. 

With its ancient geological and cultural landscape and a mix of sub-tropical meets desert, Keep River boasts the best of both habitats which can be experienced in the diversity of landscapes, plants and animals within the park.

The park has four walking tracks and two campgrounds and is the perfect place for a day trip from Kununurra or Lake Argyle, or spend a couple of days camping under a blanket of stars and waking to a symphony of bird call.

HOW TO GET THERE

On the Victoria Highway, Keep River National Park is either a 450 kilometre (280 miles) drive from Katherine in the Northern Territory, or a 53 kilometre (33 miles) drive from Kununurra, WA.  Although the park has dirt roads, all are classified as 2WD accessible.
 

DON’T MISS

  • The twice weekly ranger guided walks at Goorandalang
  • Strapping on your hiking boots to explore the 7.5 kilometre (4.7 mile) return Jarnem Loop Walk
  • Learn about culture and unique Aboriginal structures at Ginger’s Hill

KEEP RIVER NATIONAL PARK HIGHLIGHTS

TOP THINGS TO DO IN KEEP RIVER NATIONAL PARK

Learn to read country with a park ranger at Goorrandalang
Start at the Keep River Ranger Station which also houses an interpretive display overlooking Cockatoo Billabong. Learn more about the park and pick up your park note for orientation. Also look out for the NT Parks and Wildlife free Territory Alive Program, where each year during the dry season (May to October), park rangers lead walks, talks and presentations across several of the Territory’s parks.

Twice weekly (Tuesdays and Fridays) you can join a park ranger for a morning walk at Goorrandalang (3.4 kilometre/2.1 mile return). This walk explores the 250 million year old geological features which were part of the Kimberley formation. Similar to the domes at Purnululu’s Bungles, learn about how these ancient sandstone structures came to be. Keep River is also rich in diverse plant and animal life from both tropical and desert environments. Your ranger guide will help you to learn to "read country", identifying different seasons, native plant uses and wildlife.

Get your hiking boots out to trek the Jarnem Loop Walk
The 7.5 kilometre (4.6 miles) return Jarnem Loop Walk is a moderately difficult walk which will leave you breathless as you trek through gorges, dry creek beds, monsoon forests filled with butterflies, atop the escarpment for panoramic views and through ancient rock shelters featuring Aboriginal rock art. Listen out for the unmistakable heart stopping flutter of the white-quilled rock pigeon, observe rock wallabies grazing in the shade or one of the 39 species of frogs dwelling in the creeks and billabongs.

This walk is an absolute highlight and showcases the best Keep River National Park has to offer. Start early and finish off with a picnic lunch in the campground where there are plenty of picnic tables and shady trees to relax under. If you are on a day out from Kununurra, grab yourself a take-away roll, sandwich or salad from either the Cornerside Café or Kimbercrust Bakery

Learn about unique traditional hunting techniques at Ginger’s Hill
Named after Aboriginal Elder Ginger Packsaddle Banmanyari, Ginger’s Hill is a short walk introducing the park’s important Aboriginal heritage. On top of Ginger’s Hill is a traditional structure – you are asked to guess its purpose before unveiling the surprise revealed at the top.

Exploring Keep River can be done as a full day visit from Kununurra, or perhaps consider staying at picturesque Lake Argyle Resort, 40 kilometres (24.8 miles) away on the WA side. Like to camp but want a few creature comforts? The Zebra Rock Mine campground is only 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) from the national park (NT side) and even includes safari tents if you haven’t brought your camping gear.

Otherwise, take your time and relax in one of the park’s campgrounds toasting the glorious sunset by your campfire, listening to the birds nestle in the surrounding trees and gazing at the millions of stars twinkling overhead.

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