Fortescue Falls seemed to Julie and I to be a tropical oasis in the middle of the remote and unforgiving desert-like Pilbara Region. What made this oasis so picturesque in our minds was the colorful red cliffs surrounding the colorful and clear water with some green vegetation all under cloudless blue skies. It was actually a rare year-round waterfall in the Dales Gorge area of Karijini National Park, and it was that year-round flow of the waterfall’s creek that invited a handful of people to go for a dip and cool off from the heat and humidity of the area. Note that we showed up during the start of the Dry Season so I can’t imagine how much muggier it would get had we showed up during the Wet Season!
In addition to the miracle of a reliable waterfall in this part of the Australian Outback, there were other springs and pools nearby (e.g. the Circular Pool, Fern Pool, etc.) that provided other options in terms of going for a refreshing dip or seeing other parts of the Dales Gorge. As for the miraculous Fortescue Falls itself, it was said to tumble some 20m in cumulative height over a series of red rock benches or steps that gave the falls a character and attractiveness that was quite unique amongst all the other waterfalls in Australia that we had seen so far. In fact, despite its remote location (being about 4.5 hours south of Port Hedland and over 8 hours east of Coral Bay), we were amazed to still see dozens of people going out-of-the-way to make it all the way here.
From the car park for Fortescue Falls and the Circular Pool (see directions below), we took an easy-to-follow 800m trail on red sand, which eventually led us to an overlook area. It was from the overlook that we were able to get a good contextual view of the falls and its inviting pool. Then, the track continued down into the Dales Gorge where we were descending along a ledge towards the top of the falls. At that point, we then did some additional class 2 or 3 scrambling on the red rock benches to get all the way down to the plunge pool and the base of the falls, where we were able to get the view you see in the photograph at the top of this page.
We lingered here for a little over an hour, but a large chunk of that time was spent taking photos and just basking in the glorious scene. It seemed like our mid-morning arrival was a good time of day to experience the falls though it certainly seemed like it would be good all afternoon as well. Perhaps the biggest benefit of our morning arrival was that it was relatively quiet, but that didn’t last for long as the popularity of the falls definitely was apparent as the morning wore on.
Fortescue Falls sits in Karijini National Park, which is some 340km (over 4 hours drive) south of Port Hedland and some 100km (over 90 minutes drive) east of Tom Price (which is a rougher mining town and one that we happened to stay at) or Paraburdoo (which might be better suited for tourists as we saw a tour bus there). Karijini Drive connected the Great Northern Highway (skirting the eastern boundary of the park) with Tom Price or Paraburdoo.
The sealed Banjima Drive is about 30km west on Karijini Drive from the Great Northern Highway or around 80km east of the Paraburdoo-Tom Price Road. Once on Banjima Drive, the car park for the falls is reached by a well-signed spur on the right to the Dales Gorge, which is an additional 10km drive east.
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