Fitzroy Crossing

A tiny settlement on the Great Northern Highway between Derby and Wyndham where the road crosses the Fitzroy River some 400 km by river from its mouth. The town survives due to the numerous big permanent waterholes in the area, some of which contain freshwater sharks, sawfish and crocodiles. The Johnson crocodile is the most well known example.

Like so many of the towns in the Kimberley, Fitzroy Crossing sprawls. Without an identifiable town centre, and with some kilometres separating the new highway from the old river crossing, the town is more like a series of loosely connected small settlements that a single community.

Crossing Inn

Undoubtedly the town's most famous building is the old Crossing Inn (turn off the Highway near the roadhouse and continue down Forrest Street before turning right at Sandford Street - a dirt road) which, in spite of the fact that it is well distanced from the banks of the river, has still been the subject of numerous floods. In the wet the river has been known to rise over 10 metres and to spread out from its banks for a distance of up to 15 km. The Crossing Inn was originally built by Joseph Blythe in the 1890s as a store and pub for passing stockmen, prospectors and bullock team drivers.

Geikie Gorge National Park

(16 km north-east) The park is one of the most accessible in the Kimberley as it is close Fitzroy Crossing and is serviced by a bitumen road. A 3 km walk trail exists along the eastern base of the gorge walls although the terrain is rough and uneven it does offer an excellent view. The western side of the gorge is closed to visitors as it is a nature preserve. Tour boats also operate in the gorge and a boat ramp is available for the public to use.


Tunnel Creek National Park

(125 km north west): Tunnel Creek takes its name from the 750 metre long tunnel carved by flowing water out of the limestone of the Napier Range, and is part of the 375 to 350 million-year-old Devonian Reef system. Western Australia's oldest cave system, to pass through it to the other side of Napier Range, you have to wade through long waterholes up your waist and at times up to your chest. In sections, it is pitch black so you need to carry a torch in one hand and your camera in your other.


Windjana Gorge National Park

(146 km north west): the walls of Windjana Gorge rise abruptly from the wide alluvial floodplain of the Lennard River, reaching about 100 metres high in some places. The 3.5-kilometre long gorge cuts through the limestone of the Napier Range; part of an ancient barrier reef, which can also be seen at Geikie Gorge and Tunnel Creek National Parks. This gorge offers excellent long walks; it is also great location to observe freshwater crocodiles.


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Where is it?

275 km east of Derby, 2686 km north of Perth


Brief history

Fitzroy Crossing and the lands and valleys around it were the home for a number of Aboriginal language groups. When Fitzroy Crossing was established the main group was the Bunuba People, their land stretching from the present day Brooking Springs and Leopold Downs Station to the Oscar, Napier and King Leopold Ranges. The Bunuba are the River and Hill people.

The Fitzroy River was first explored and named after Captain Robert Fitzroy (a former commander of the HMS Beagle) by Captain Stokes in 1838. However its upper reaches weren't explored until Alexander Forrest travelled through the area in 1879, following the Fitzroy River to its junction with the Margaret River at Geikie George. The party then travelled east as far as Darwin. Following this exploration, around 1882, the first sheep stations were established around the mouth of the Fitzroy and the next couple of years saw the stations move out west with Noonkanbah and Quanbun opening up in 1886.

The local Aborigines resisted incursions from European pastoralists and the area around Fitzroy Crossing was the subject of some particularly bloody battles including one which resulted in the Aborigines retreating into Geikie Gorge followed by posses of police.

The Fitzroy Crossing region is full of interesting stories but there is perhaps none more ironic and telling that the battle over Noonkanbah Station southwest of the town. In 1979-80 local Aborigines gained control of the station but were almost immediately faced with a claim for mining rights on the property. They opposed a request by Amex to search for oil and the government, instead of respecting the rights of the new owners, brought police into the area to ensure a safe passage for drilling equipment. The issue was widely publicised as an example of the government's refusal to respect Aboriginal lands. The result: Amex wasted a lot of money and the government were made to look very silly. The rigs found that there was no oil in the area.

Thew town's name is taken from the Fitzroy River beside which it stands. The river was named after Sir Charles Augustus Fitzroy, the tenth Governor of NSW (1846-53) during whose term of office the river was explored.

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