Weather & Roads
The Drysdale River Crossing
Let us try to explain the way the roads work up here.
It's a gravel road. During the wet season the road is closed for about 5 months and we are totally cut off. Depending on the size of the wet AND the pattern of rainfall the road can sustain a lot of damage. 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. The earliest I have seen the Kalumburu road opened to Drysdale is the 1st April; the latest was the 9th June. It is quite often opened around late April to early May. First the road authorities inspect for damage and check that the rivers are low enough to cross without the risk of vehicles being washed off crossings. If there are washouts there will be an 'opening grade'. This means the grader rushes through, fixing only danger areas. At that point there are often no corrugations because the wet has flattened them all, but the rivers may be quite deep. Once the road is made safe to travel, the grader should then do a ' full grade ' So then the road would be fully graded and the rivers are dropping and may be only about 300/ 500 mm deep.
Then the traffic starts getting busier and the corrugations build up. When really bad, the corrugations can disintegrate a caravan and some trailers. The road gets rougher until depending mostly upon the number of complaints received it should be graded again, BUT the roads are in fact maintained by two separate bodies. Main Roads for the Gibb River Road and Shire Wyndham East Kimberley for the Kalumburu Road, so the road works are not tied to happening at the same time. When they do a full grade the road is good (for a gravel road), by then in peak season June / July the traffic pours in. People fly along the road and the corrugations fly right in after them. Depending on funding availability and locals phoning and complaining about the damage being suffered by the cattle trucks, plus the amount of complaints we are hearing from travellers and the amount of damage we are seeing, SWEK may grade the far North Kimberley roads again.
So now we get a dirt highway again. People fly along too fast and back come the corrugations and it doesn't take long either. If Main roads or SWEK 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 more then 1000 km that we are discussing. Some patches are hilly and rocky, some patches are soft and bull dust and some patches have been fully rebuilt in the last few years and they remain great throughout. There is no way ANYONE can tell you the timing of these grades in 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.
Overall, the condition of the road especially the creek crossings has improved over the last few years. Condition does all hinge on regular grading though.
We hope you now have some 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, so this is not a question we can ever give an answer to.
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.
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.
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