Fitzroy Crossing - Cities, Towns and Localities
Located 400 km east of Broome, 300 km west of
Halls Creek, and 250 km south
east of Derby, is the
quintessential outback Australian town of
Fitzroy Crossing. set on the banks of the mighty Fitzroy River.
1873 by George Grey in the HMS Beagle, Fitzroy River was named after the former
commander of the ship, Captain Robert Fitzroy. RN. The river rises in the King
Leopold and Mueller Ranges, flowing through rugged hills and plains some 750 km
before entering King Sound, south of Derby.
great stopping point for visitors on their way to many of the Kimberley
attractions, Fitzroy Crossing has an interesting history. Created out of
necessity, the early settlers needed a place from which to ford the river. The
old crossing was the shortest and safest route.
Fitzroy Crossing was also the base for the search for the famous Aboriginal
outlaw, Jandamarra and his gang.
The town is approximately 114 metres above sea level and is surrounded by the
vast flood plains of the Fitzroy River. From May to October, days are warm and
dry and nights are cool. From December to March of most years, tropical storms
transform the surrounding countryside into a waving sea of green.
Check out our listing of
Fitzroy Crossing accommodation. In addition to our listed online travel guide information, contact the local
tourism visitor centre for your destination for more attractions, tours, local maps
and other information.
A must see is the original town site where Crossing Inn is located, built in
1897 on the banks of the Fitzroy River. The Crossing Inn was originally built by
Joseph Blythe as a store and pub for passing stockmen, prospectors and bullock
team drivers. The building is now over a hundred years old and is the oldest
established hotel in the entire Kimberley’s region. There are accommodation,
public bar, pool tables and take-away liquor facilities.
Old Fitzroy Crossing Town
Located just a few kilometres out of town, on the Geikie Gorge Road, is the old
Fitzroy Crossing town site, which is no more than a few disused buildings.
Tunnel Creek National Park
Tunnel Creek is approximately 63 km from the main Derby-Fitzroy
Crossing Road. It is Western Australia's oldest cave system, and gained fame as
the hideout used by the Aboriginal leader known as Jandamarra, who was also
killed there in 1897.
Tunnel Creek is a unique formation created by waters from the creek cutting a
750 metre tunnel through the ancient Devonian Reef system. The tunnel is 15
metres wide and up to 12 metres high and offers visitors a great opportunity to
walk through the tunnel to the other side. You will be wading through several
permanent pools, see stalactites, as well as get the opportunity to catch a
glimpse of bats, of which there are at least five species living in the caves,
including ghost bats and fruit bats. Freshwater crocodiles are occasionally
found in the pools.
Geikie Gorge National Park
Located about 20 km from Fitzroy Crossing, Geikie Gorge National Park is one of
the most easily accessible parks in the Kimberley.
The traditional owners, the Bunaba Aboriginal people, call the gorge ‘Darngku’.
It was here that a blind Aboriginal elder drowned in the ‘Dreamin’, after leaving
his tribe to go wandering. The old man sighed and sneezed before he sank to the
bottom for the last time. It is said his sighs can still be heard when the gorge
This and other stories in the ‘Dreaming’ can be heard on a
boat tour giving
visitors an Aboriginal perspective of the park and its flora and fauna.
With European discovery the gorge was named in 1883 after the British geologist
Sir Archibald Geikie, who was the Director General of Geological Survey for
Great Britain and Ireland.
Situated at the junction of the Oscar and Geikie Ranges, the gorge was formed by
the mighty Fitzroy River, with the river rising some 16.5 metres during the wet
season. The flood levels can be seen clearly on the walls, where the abrasive
action of the floodwaters on the ancient limestone has scoured the surface
white. Fossils are sometimes spotted embedded in the limestone. During the wet
seasons, the flood covers the whole national park, hence the park is usually
only accessible during the dry season - April to November. For more information
NatureBase, Depart of
Environment and Conservation.
The walls of Windjana Gorge rise abruptly from the wide alluvial floodplain of
the Lennard River, reaching about 100 metres high in some places. At about 3.5
km long the gorge cuts through the limestone of the Napier Range, part of an
ancient Devonian Reef system, which can also be seen at Geikie Gorge National
Park and Tunnel Creek National
There is 3.5 km (7 km return) walking trail at Windjana Gorge which allows visitors to
experience the beauty of the gorge. The walk runs along the course of the
Lennard Rive, which becomes a series of pools in the dry season. This is a great
time to have a closer look at some of the resident wildlife from fruit bats,
corellas to freshwater crocodiles.
Windjana Gorge is 95 km from the main Derby-Fitzroy
Crossing Road, about 150 km from Fitzroy Crossing and 145 km from Derby. The
best time to visit is around May to September. During the wet season, it may be
inaccessible. Camping is permitted, contact
NatureBase, Depart of Environment
and Conservation for details about park passes and camping.
Fitzroy Crossing History
Jandamarra and the Bunuba Aboriginal People
Occupation by white settlers, starting up cattle and sheep stations was resisted
by the Bunuba Aboriginal people, who would often spear the pastoralists stock.
Out of this resistance came Jandamarra, or ‘Pigeon’, as he was known to the
whites. Jandamarra gained notoriety, leading his people in a guerrilla style
warfare, in one of the few instances of armed insurrection, against white
settlers in Australia.
A Bunuba man who lived in the Kimberley region from
1870-1897, Jandamarra’s early years saw him living and working for the white
settlers from about the age of 11. He was an exceptionally talented stockman and
skilled marksman. By the time he had reached his teens, Jandamarra was initiated
and put through the Bunuba law. It was after his initiation when he met his
uncle Ellemarra, an Elder of the Bunuba people. It was through his uncle that
Jandamarra became more aware of the problems being caused by the white settlers.
Like his younger brother Barney, by the age of 20, Jandamarra had become a
police tracker whor the white peopl. Jandamarra had become friends with a white
fella named Richardson, who later on became Constable Richardson. Their
friendship grew and together Richardson and Jandamarra were the most outstanding
couple in the police force at that time.
Jandamarra was involved with tracking down Aboriginal offenders. This worked
well until they ordered him to track down and chain his own people.
It was during a patrol of the Napier Ranges in the West Kimberley, that
Jandamarra assisted in the capture of a group of his people, including his
uncle, Ellemarra. It was whilst they were being held at Lillimooloora Station
awaiting transport to the coast and prison, that Jandamarra had to make a
decision where his loyalties lay. Whilst his friend Constable Richardson slept,
his uncle and tribal law giver forced Jandamarra to make a terrible choice.
Where did his loyalties lie? To his friend Richardson or to his people? After
some intense conversation, Jandamarra was ordered to kill Richardson or face the
rest of his life as an outcast. Jandamarra shot Richardson, releasing his
people, fled into his country1.
One of the great battles occurred two weeks after Richardson was shot. The
police and Jandamarra’s band faced each other at one of the Bunuba’s most sacred
places - Windjana Gorge. Today, the palce is a popular tourist destination, with
its permanent water, wildlife and extraordinary beauty. The place is also deeply
significant in Bunuba culture, because it was here that Jandamarra staged his
biggest battle to protect his culture. After eight hours of shooting, Ellemarra
was killed. Jandamarra was also wounded. The police thought he was dead.
Jandamarra escape with his band into the wilderness on the top of the Napier
For the next three years, Jandamarra and his band played a cat and mouse game
with the police. Their main hide-out was at Tunnel Creek, that runs deep into
the Napier Range. Today, many Aboriginal consider this place sacred.
It was when the police finally brought in another expert tracker Micki, an
Aboriginal man from Pilbara, that brought Jandamarra down. Micki tracked
Jandamarra to Tunnel Creek, following him through the labyrinthine caves.
Although Jandamarra's campaign came to an end with his death in 1897, he is
still remembered by his people as a defender of Aboriginal rights2.
For the Bunuba Aboriginal people, Jandamarra is a hero, a freedom fighter, a
warrior and an integral part of their history and legend.
For more information, check out some of the sources detailed below.