Tours are booked through the Kununurra Visitor Centre
Diversion Dam gate (Kununurra) raised for maintenance with stop logs installed behind to retain water. The Water Corporation refurbish (maintain) at least 2 gates each year. Without the large stop logs inserted, water would discharge at a rate of 15,000 litres per second for every 100mm the gate is raised. (each gate is nearly 15 metres wide and 13 metres in height and weighs over 96 tonnes)
Diversion Dam Railway
Sections of the roadway on the Diversion Dam are removable to allow giant “stop logs” to be lowered behind the gates. Once these stop logs are in place the Water Corporation is able to raise the large radial arm gates (each gate is nearly 15 metres wide and 13 metres high and weighs over 96 tonnes) to allow the continual refurbishment of the gates. During maintenance, bearings and seals are replaced, sandblasting and painting carried out and general overall maintenance is carried
Diversion Dam Lifting Gantry
Lifting gantry with “stop logs” foreground that are lowered into the Dam structure to retain the water behind the radial arm gates. This allows the continuous program of gate maintenance to be carried out by then raising the gates out of the water
Diversion Dam Discharge
Even during the “dry” season large volumes of water are discharged (wasted) out to sea. Of 11,000 gigalitres in Lake Argyle about 225 gigalitres (yes 225) of water are used. The remainder is wasted or released to “maintain” the wetlands. These “wetlands” did not exist prior to Dam construction in 1959-1962. They have developed as a result of damming The Ord River, which was a series of isolated pools in the off season prior to 1963. Now under international Ramsar Wetland agreements there is a requirement to maintain the wetlands by releasing water that could be better used.
No visit to the East Kimberley is complete without a trip to, or a flight over Lake Argyle. Formed by the building of the Main Ord Dam in 1969-72, Lake Argyle contains water equivalent to up to 35 times the volume of Sydney Harbour. The dam wall is a mere 353 metres in length but the water of Lake Argyle can stretch back can stretch back over 90 kilometres behind the clay and rock wall. After a “wet” in 2000 in which our rainfall was nearly double the annual 800 mm, Lake Argyle at one stage overflowing the spillway by spillway by 9.8 metres, overflowed continuously from Christmas 2000 to Christmas 2001
Kununurra Township and Sights
Gazetted as a town in 1961, Kununurra is a very young and modern town. Here, part of the residential part of the older section of town is seen, looking towards the business section of town. We can see the Catholic Church (spire) and the Tuckerbox Stores complex as we look down Konkerberry Drive.
The East Kimberley Regional Airport at Kununurra, owned by the Shire of Wyndham East Kimberley was a few years ago one of the busiest airports in Western Australia. The East Kimberley Regional Airport (Kununurra Airport) terminal and aircraft apron was totally rebuilt in 2013 and can now handle 3 jet services at one time and is part of a busy regional airport home to many light fixed wing charter aircraft and helicopter. Regular jet services connect Kununurra to Perth, Darwin and Broome and commencing May 2020 a jet service Melbourne to Kununurra direct (Alliance Airlines, code share Virgin and booked through Virgin) is commencing. At the height of the visitor season up to 3 jet services a day served the area.
Today, a range of carriers and aircraft service the Kununurra-Wyndham area through the East Kimberley Regional Airport at Kununurra
The “Sleeping Buddha” one of the many iconic landforms in Kununurra nestles on the edge of Lake Kununurra and is visible from almost anywhere in and around the ORIA. The head of the Buddha (right hand end) is also known as Elephant Rock as viewed from Lake Kununurra where a trunk and tusks of an elephant is readily recognisable.
Ivanhoe Crossing 1952/3
Ivanhoe Crossing, one of the favourite visit spots on our 2K-ORIA tour was constructed in its present form in 1952 at a cost of just 25,000 pounds (about $50,000 in today's terms. Each of the 125 culverts under the crossing is formed from 6 individual 44 gallon (205 litre) drums welded together. Four workers under the direction of Bill Wright while living in tents on the river embankment completed the very much labour intensive task in 2 dry seasons and on budget.
Ivanhoe Crossing 1953
Ivanhoe Crossing in 1952. The large sandbar in the distance (we are looking east towards where Kununurra is today) about 4 metres deep, 500 metres in length and about 400 metres wide was deposited here in one “wet” season and disappeared the next. The Crossing today appears very different with a large and expansive growth of vegetation changing the appearance dramatically.
Agriculture, Flora and Fauna
A 3 year old Sandalwood (note Sesbania tree is removed) (An ITC tree)
Some of this information and picture are now historical as methods, ideas and operations have changed.
Sandalwood is one of the newer crops being grown in the ORIA. Here we see a tiny (about 150mm high) sandalwood
(Santalum ) seedling just planted in the field with its “pot host” Alternanthera at foot. (Sandalwood has a series of three hosts throughout its 15 year growth life before the tree is harvested for the highly priced heartwood containing sandalwood oil). Photograph taken with the kind permission of Zoe Higgins at Integrated Tree Cropping, Kununurra, email@example.com)
Extensive nurseries prepare the seedlings of all the plants used in the Sandalwood industry. Here part of up to 150,000 sandalwood seedlings at TFS on Packsaddle.
A tiny Sesbania Formosa, (about 150mm), secondary host of the Sandalwood, which is planted alternatively with sandalwood in the same row. Sandalwood, Alternanthera and Sesbania are all planted at a rate of 500 per hectare. (kind permission of ITC Kununurra)
Sesbania Formosa Growth
As the Sesbania grows, it is regularly lopped just above the height of the growing Sandalwood. After 3-4 years the Sesbania (2nd host) dies or is removed as the Cathormium (3rd host) in an adjacent row takes over the host role. Here a 16 month old Sesbania is lopped above the Sandalwood (ITC tree)
A Cathormium Tree (Cathormium umbellatum), the tertiary host of the sandalwood is planted in alternative rows at the rate of 500 per hectare. Here we see a 12 month old tree at Tropical Forestry Services, Kununurra.
Sesbania Formosa Flower ~ The White Dragon
The flower of The White Dragon tree or Sesbania formosa. The tree is used as the secondary host in the growing of Sandalwood. The flower is highly scented and an attractive flower of this native tree.
The flower of the pest plant Calotropis. The leaves and branches contain a highly caustic sap that contains some pharmaceutical alkaloids. Attempts were made some years ago to cultivate the Calotropis to recover the alkaloids but all trials failed. The flower is however, quite attractive and close up is orchid like.
Kimberley Heath (sometimes Heather) (Calytrix exstipulata) one of our attractive natural flowering bushes.
A large Boab tree (Adansonia gregorii) growing near the Diversion Dam in Kununurra. Boabs are usually devoid of leaves during the “dry” with the appearance of leaves signalling the approach of the “wet”. After the highly scented white flowers have been pollinated the fruit or BOAB NUTS develop. The nut (fruit) as well as containing the seeds also contains a “nutty” pith that is used to flavour chocolates.
Even the locals are friendly. This wallaby approached us while we were having a coffee on the verandah one afternoon and came back to show us her baby. She returned again later with another in the pouch (just a tiny wriggle)
Everything is big in The Kimberley. Seen recently on one of our coach tours to Broome, this rather large dump truck body just fitted over the Willare Bridge near Derby. Clearance above the bridge rail was a very close 60 mm (the width of the load between the rails was also very close)
We pride ourselves on making certain that you, our visitor, leaves the area wanting to return for another look
Tour Guide ~ Keith Wright
Meet Your Tour Guide ~ Keith Wright
Keith has lived and worked in the area since 1969.
He knows the tour areas intimately and has vast experience in the Wyndham, Kununurra and the NT areas.
Our organisation is small enough to be able to create a tour to fit your requirements, but large enough to provide the service you expect to give you a great tour.
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