“The estuary appeared this morning even more lovely than yesterday, and as the heavy morning mists arose, unfolding its beauties to our view, all those feelings came thrilling through my mind which explorers alone can know; flowering shrubs and trees, drooping foliage, a wide and placid expanse of water met the view; trickling springs and fertile flats were passed over by us; there was much barren land visible in the distance, though many a sign and token might lead the practical explorer to hope that he was about to enter upon a tract of an extent and fertility yet unknown in south-west Australia” – George Grey, Journals of two expeditions of discovery
When Sir George Grey and his exploring party stranded in Kalbarri in 1839, they were the first Europeans to see the mouth of the Murchison river, with 820 kilometres the second longest river in Western Australia. It rises north of Meekatharra in central Western Australia, from where it flows southwest to the Indian Ocean. For about 80 kilometres, when the river enters Kalbarri National Park, it meanders through a narrow and steep gorge carved out of the 400 million years old red and white bended Tumblagooda sandstone. The outstanding beauty of the gorge make this pristine wilderness a major drawcard, however, further exploration of the Park’s pretty estuary and rugged coastline is highly recommended.
The coastal section of Kalbarri National Park consists of steep sandstone cliffs, where the relentless force of the Indian Ocean has created remarkable features such as Mushroom Rock, Island Rock and Natural Bridge out of the layered sandstone. These landmarks are all connected by the eight kilometres long Bigurdu trail, named after the Nanda word for the Common Wallaroo or Euro (Macropus robustus), a marsupial that can be encountered grazing on the coastal heath at dusk and dawn.
Although it can be tricky to distinguish the Common Wallaroo from the Western Grey Kangaroo (Macropus filiginosus), a closer look learns they are markedly different: Wallaroos not only have shorter limbs, they also have a shorter fur that ranges in colour from reddish brown to ironstone red. As opposed to Western Grey Kangaroos, Wallaroos exhibit embryonic diapause, and although a female can become pregnant soon after giving birth, the new embryo remains underdeveloped until the pouch is free.
Wallaroos can be found feeding in the open expanse relatively easy, however, some individuals prefer steep and rocky areas, earning them the nickname ‘Hill Kangaroo’. In this habitat overhanging rocks, ledges and even caves are used for shelter against the often extreme heat. And for those who dare to look beyond the edge another world unfolds. Call it a lucky day!