Weather & Roads
Regretfully, we are unable to forecast when the roads will open, or in fact offer advice with any real-time road condition information. With the whole team working here 7 days a week, we rarely have the opportunity or the need to drive our region's roads. If you need the current official information about Northern Kimberley road conditions we suggest contact with the relevant regional authorities; see our [ Links ] page please.
What we can do though is offer a general outline on the effect that wet seasons often have on travel in this region. One of the most frequently asked questions is...... "what will the road be like when I want to drive in ?"
| Dry Season
The Drysdale River Crossing
Can you bear with me while I tell a story and explain the way the roads work up here ?
It's a gravel road. The wet happens, the road can be closed for up to 5 months and it can be washed out big time, depending on the size of the wet AND the pattern of rainfall : i.e. we could get quite a large total, but in small storms OR we could get a small or normal wet but the skies opened and it dropped 200 / 300 mm in a few hours. This type of fast, heavy rainfall creates serious road damage.
So we get to April / May and depending again on the wet the road opens, but only after the roads authorities have inspected it and the rivers are low enough to cross without the risk of vehicles being washed off crossings. If the damage is bad, they won't open until they do 'an opening grade'. This means the grader rushes through, fixing only the wash outs. At that point there are no corrugations because the wet has flattened them all but the rivers may be 600/900 mm deep. The earliest I have seen the road being opened to us is the 1st April; the latest was the 9th June.
Once the road is officially opened, the grader starts and does a ' full grade ' At that point probably in May ( some years April) the road is fully graded and the rivers are only about 300/ 500 mm deep. At this early stage, the road surface is usually excellent ; one year my eldest son and wife had no problem coming in with his (2WD) falcon with our three grandsons, a trailer and a dog!
Then the traffic starts getting busier, the rivers drop and the corrugations build up. When really bad, the corrugations can disintegrate a caravan and some trailers.
The road gets rougher and rougher until depending on, money available, number of complaints received and availability of grader. They grade it again, BUT the the road repair is in fact done by two separate bodies. Main Roads for the Gibb River Road and Shire Wyndham East Kimberley for the Kalumburu Road so the grades are not tied to happening at the same time.
The second grade timing depends totally on above plus if the road opened first time on just say 1st April or 24th May, this first open time then flows on to all other timings. They then do the second grade and the road is perfect( for a gravel road) by then we are in busy season June / July and the traffic pours in. People fly along it and the corrugations fly right in after them.
Next depending on same things again plus myself and other locals phoning and complaining about the damage being suffered by the cattle trucks, the amount of complaints we are hearing and the amount of damage we are seeing, they grade it again.
OK so now we get a dirt highway again. People fly along and back come the corrugations and it doesn't take long either.
If they do a third full grade depends mainly on money, they may just do the real bad patches because of course on top of all else the road isn't the same all along the over 1000 km we are discussing. Some patches are hilly and rocky, some patches are soft and bull dust and some patches they have fully rebuilt in the last couple of years and they remain great throughout.
There is no way ANYONE can tell you the timing of these grades in much advance, so you may have a perfect trip all the way to Kalumburu but a month later ( or earlier) and it can be pretty rough.
I have to say that overall the condition of the road especially the width and the creek crossings have improved a lot over the last few years.
The Mitchell Plateau track is a different funding set up again and is most years only graded once per year, sometimes twice, until a few years back it wasn't even done every single year.
Hope you found it worth reading, and now have an understanding why it is impossible for any of us to advance forecast the road conditions.
The same applies to the other often asked question,
'How much water will be coming over the falls when we come in ......... ?'
Sorry but this again depends on the size, length and spread of the wet season, remembering also that each year different areas only 100km apart can get different falls of rain. This is not a question we can give an answer to as much as we would love to be able to help you. When planning what you need to bring, please remember that we are 1,200 ft altitude and can get the odd very cold night especially in June / July. Perhaps not cold to what you are used to but we feel it requires an extra blanket or a nice jacket when it gets below zero. We have had - 4 °c. overnight.
Our wet season is often really wet !
For our advice on Vehicle Breakdowns and Accidents in our area, see that
section on our Roads & Travel Tips page [ here ].
For official advice on roads and weather for this region,
see the listings on our Links page [ here ] page.