Bell Gorge / Silent Grove
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The Wunaamin-Miliwundi Range. (formerly King Leopold Ranges) extend for some 300 kilometres from Walcott Inlet, in the west to about 100 kilometres from Halls Creek in the east. The ranges consist of long, rugged, spinifex-covered ridges and escarpments. Mount Ord at 947 metres above sea level and Mount Broome at 935 metres are the highest peaks in the range.
The most abundant of the tilted strata are white and pink quartz sandstone, buff siltstone and brown mudstone. There are also layers of grey-green basalt that solidified from lava flows and grey dolerite formed from molten rock which invaded the older sedimentary rock to form layers.
This sequence of rocks formed in a region known as the Kimberley Basin, which is, in places 5000 metres thick. It was deposited in shallow water on a slowly subsiding large continental mass in Precambrian times, about 1800 million years ago.
About 560 million years ago the generally flat-lying layers were thrust from the north-east over older granite, volcanic and metamorphosed sedimentary rocks of the Hooper Complex. This caused the rocks on the leading edge to crumble in a major mountain building exercise. Subsequent erosion formed the King Leopold Ranges today.
Following wet season rains, great volumes of water cascading from the range drain to the west through a series of creek systems such as the Lennard River and Bell Creek. This water ultimately flows into the sea at King Sound and Walcott Inlet.
In 1897 Alexander Forrest's survey party travelling from the De Grey River to Port Darwin named the Ranges "After King Leopold of Belgium, in recognition of the great interest taken by His Majesty in exploration". The Belgian king's bloodthirsty reign over the Congo Free State, estimated to have cause caused the deaths of up to 10 million people, has triggered long-running calls for the ranges to be renamed. These ranges are now called the Wunaamin-Miliwundi Range.
However they were unable to find a way through the rugged ranges.
In 1898 the explorer and stockman Frank Hann managed to cross the ranges via the pass which bears his name.
Hann named Bell Creek "after Mr Bell of Derby".
The Mount Hart pastoral lease, which encompasses Bell Gorge and Silent Grove, was first taken up around 1919. Since then there have been a succession of pastoralists who went broke, and walked off the lease because the land was too rugged and unsuitable for pasture.
In 1991 the Department of Conservation and Land Management acquired the land to create the proposed King Leopold Conservation Park, now the Wunaamin-Miliwundi Conservation Park. The park, which covers over 392,000 hectares, is situated approximately 200 kilometres from Derby and 450 kilometres from Kununurra via the Gibb River Road.
The Silent Grove Campground takes its name from the old station homestead.
It has showers, flushing toilets and drinking water can be obtained from the taps in the grounds. Fires may be lit in the fire rings provided, subject to fire restrictions. Bring your own firewood.
The National Park Rangers collect camping fees & entry fees in the late afternoon and evening. Bookings can also be made online at https://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/park-stay
Please note: No camping allowed at Bell Creek.
Things To Do
Water flowing west from the Wunaamin-Miliwundi Range has cut down through the ancient rock to form spectacular gorges such as Bell and Lennard Gorges. Bell Gorge, about 300 metres above sea level is the beginning of a series of waterfalls which descend through the Isdell Range to Walcott Inlet.
Bell Gorge is a spectacular spot for swimming, photography and enjoying what nature has to offer. The falls are reached by a one kilometre walk from the car park. Once you have come to the top of the waterfall you may wish to swim or relax in the top pool or cross, further up the creek, to the opposite side. From there it is a reasonable walk over the top of the hill and through the spinifex to the bottom pool. Here is an excellent swimming hole and a magnificent view of the waterfall and the gorge to the west.
Things You Need To Know
Where is it?
238 kilometres from Derby and 281 kilometres from Fitzroy Crossing.
Three hours from Derby and three and a half hours from Fitzroy Crossing.
What to do
Camping, sightseeing, walking, photography, nature observation.
May to September. May be inaccessible during the wet season.
(Information supplied by the Parks and Wildlife Services )