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Ngauwudu is the name Wunambal Aboriginal people give to the Mitchell Plateau area in the far north Kimberley. At Punamii-unpuu, the Mitchell River and its tributaries have carved spectacular gorges and waterfalls into the sandstone bordering the laterite-capped plateau.
The area is biologically important with landscapes around the plateau varying from mangroves and swamps to woodlands and lush rainforest patches, with diverse wildlife. Darngarna (livistona palm) woodland is found on the latertic soils of the plateau. Endemic to the north Kimberley, darngarna may grow 18 metres tall. Some palms are up to 280 years old.
The rugged sandstone areas are home to some rare residents such as the monjon (a small rock wallaby), the rough-scaled python and dalal, the black grasswren.
Wunambal Aboriginal people have lived in the vicinity of Ngauwudu for thousands of years. Wunambal people refer to Wandjina as Gulingi. They believe that Gulingi and Wunggurr creators travelled the land making the earth, seas, mountains, rivers, waterholes and all living things. The Gulingi and Wunggurr then gave the Wunambal people the land and the law for living in the land. Wunambal people welcome visitors to their country but ask that visitors respect their responsibility and authority for the land and the Wandjina-Wunggurr Law.
It was not until 1921 that Europeans explored the area. William Easton led a State government expedition into the north Kimberley, naming the Mitchell River after Sir James Mitchell, then Premier of Western Australia.
In 1965 a mining camp was established on the plateau by Amax Bauxite.
The plateau is 350 kilometres north east of Derby and 270 kilometres north west of Wyndham by air. Vehicle access is via the Mitchell Plateau track (4WD only) from the Kalumburu Road, 172 kilometres north of the Gibb River Road junction. The track may have washouts and corrugations so drive with extreme care. Tracks north of the airstrip are rough while track north of Anuauyu (Surveryors Pool) are very rough and may be impassable. Tracks and raods may be closed during the wet season (November to April).
There are camping areas with toilets at Munurru (King Edward River Crossing) and at Punamii-unpuu. It is advisable to boil or treat water taken from creeks before drinking. Do not leave food or rubbish unattended where animals can scavenge. Please take your rubbish with you as there is no rubbish collection facility. Collect firewood only from the designated firewood collection zones. Use fuel stoves wherever possible and use firewood sparingly, as dead wood is an important ecological resource.
Camp fees are now applicable and collected by Department of Environment & Conservation (DEC) at the King Edward River campground on the road to Mitchell River National Park. These fees will be collected on behalf of the Kandiwal Aboriginal Corporation. Entry fees will be applicable at Mitchell River National Park.
Pets are not permitted.
Things To Do
Walking, nature obseravation, scenic helicopter flights. Visitor activities such as guided walks are held periodically: check with the ranger.
Punamii-unpuu - Mitchell Falls Walk
The 6km return walk to Punamii-unpuu (Mitchell Falls) from the camping area is moderate to difficult as it traverses rock terrain. Take care near the many cliffs. The track continues past Little Mertens Falls and Big Mertens Falls.
Wunambal people know the falls as a powerful place for their Wandjina-Wunggurr law and one of the main homes for Wunggurr. They ask visitors to show respect, approcah the area quietly and stop for a moment to think about where they are.
Aunauyu - Surveyors Pool Walk
It is an easy to moderate 8km return walk to Aunauyu (Surveyors Pool) from the car park. Aunauyu is also an important place for Wunggurr. The big white rocks found there are the eggs of the snake.
Things You Need To Know
Where is it?
578 kilometres from Derby and 458 kilometres from Kununurra.
1-2 days from Derby, Fitzroy Crossing or Kununurra
What to do
Camping, sightseeing, walking, photography, nature observation, scenic helicopter flights.
May to September. May be inaccessible during the wet season.
Aboriginal sites are of special significance to Aboriginal people and important to the cultural heritage of all Australians. They are also protected by law. Do not touch paintings or engravings and do not disturb or remove artefacts.
(Information supplied by Parks and Wildlife Services)