Women standing in the middle of a rock formation and near a small body of water. All in the middle of nowhere, at Joffre gorge.
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Joffre Gorge, Karijini: A Waterfall, an Island and a Pool in the Middle of Nowhere

Scarring the plains of the Pilbara in Karijini National Park, remote Western Australia, is Joffre Gorge.

A visit to this gorge will reveal some unexpected delights:

  • A waterfall
  • An amphitheatre
  • A huge pool
  • An island

At one end of Joffre Gorge, a waterfall tumbles down a big drop, which is a natural amphitheatre carved from iron rich rock. The waterfall fills a natural pool and to the other side of the gorge is a larger pool which – believe it or not – leads to a secret island! You cannot spot the island with your eyes, you actually need to either swim (which we don’t recommend cause it is quite far!), float or kayak to.

Once you reach the island, you can go for an explore and hang out there for awhile because not many people know about or go here! Before making your way back to the centre of Joffre Gorge.

Gazing out over the baked earth of the surface of the gorge, the last thing you would expect to find here is this oasis in the desert!

Man sitting on a small rock while overlooking Joffre gorge at the golden hour. Everything can be found at Joffre gorge, including a pool. This is the popular Joffre Gorge in Karijini.
Joffre gorge. Image by @salt.and.charcoal

Joffre Falls Gorge and Lookout

Approximately a 2 hour return hike (add about two kilometres if walking from Karijini Eco-Retreat), Joffre Gorge located in the heart of Karijini National Park will easily reward your efforts.

At the lookout from the top of Joffre Falls, you’ll get a first glimpse into the world below. Continue to the ultimate destination, a pool at the base of the waterfall and a secret island not many even know about!

Women standing on rock formation overlooking water and rocks, as well as one of Joffre gorges pools in the middle of nowhere. This is in Joffre Gorge, Karijini.
At one edge of Joffre Gorge. Image by @salt.and.charcoal

About The Trail

The path which leads to the gorge is a deceptively easy hike, up until the rim of the gorge. From here warning signs deter people with any health issues from continuing. The actual walk down to Joffre Gorge is pretty much vertical in parts and you will find you need to scramble over steep rock faces to get in.

The challenging climb in, is not for everyone and many turn around, but it is a hint of the adventures to come…

The rock walls become steeper, and the ledges a little narrower the deeper you descend. Spider walking, clinging to the ledges, dusty, slippery rocks add to the anticipation of the gorge which is waiting below!

Upon reaching the bottom of the gorge, you will find stepping stones leading to a pool fed by a spectacular waterfall above.

Behind you, is some of the most incredible water reflections you will find in Karijini National Park. Like looking through a keyhole into another world, the reflections of the intricate patterns and colours contained within the rock walls are actually hypnotic.

Rock formation reflecting off of the completely still water beneath it. Joffre gorge has everything, including a pool, all in the middle of nowhere. This is the pool at the bottom of Joffre Gorge in Karijini, Western Australia.
The pool which leads to the island at Joffre Gorge. Image by @salt.and.charcoal

Spiderwebs decorate these incredible rocks like nature’s lacework. Don’t let the spiders daunt you, if anything, they add a little excitement to the hike.

It’s hard to even imagine what this place might be like if the waterfall was in full flow – during the wet season it is closed to visitors as the sheer volume of water is considered a danger!

The drier time of year offers the opportunity to float in, or even kayak (with an inflatable), down through the large pool where a surprising discovery awaits – an island of crushed rock to explore. This is a great place to soak up the surrounds and appreciate all that this incredible space has to offer.

If you can imagine the slanted rays of the setting sun striking the interior walls of the gorge as you gaze upward from the natural amphitheatre, the blaze of colour it illuminates is simply unforgettable!

We made it to the island and laughed the whole way as we both shared one floatie, and our little legs kicked us the 250 off metres to reach the island! Once we arrived we rested and took in the natural surroundings. It was a great experience.

Women lying on inflatable ring while floating in the middle of a pool surrounded by a rock formation. Joffre gorge has an extensive range of things to offer, all in the middle of no where! This is the swimming hole at the Joffre Gorge in Karijini.
Swimming hole in Joffre Gorge, Karijini. Image by @salt.and.charcoal

Top Tips

  • Make sure you explore the island at the base of Joffre Falls – it really is a unique experience. But you need to bring something to make it there, at the very least a floatie! Fresh water makes you sink so it can be tiring swimming the whole way.
  • We recommend good hiking sandals for the way in, as the rocks can be quite slippery, and you need to be prepared to get wet!
  • Check local conditions to get best view of waterfall in action. We went at the end of the dry season, so the falls had dried up – if you go a little earlier, you may get to see them flowing – it is definitely worth checking ahead of time if you want to see this spectacle.
  • Don’t let the spiderwebs put you off – It’s okay, you will see what we mean! The spiders keep to themselves.
  • You will notice the absence of bins within Karijini National Park – don’t forget to bring a spare bag to carry out your rubbish.
  • Flash flooding can be a real risk, so in the event of heavy rain, it is wise to leave the gorge immediately.
  • Don’t forget to bring at least 2 litres of water per person per day, along with sun protection, food and insect repellent.
  • Some sort of floatie or inflatable kayak/boat thing is a great idea for Joffre Gorge. Don’t forget to bring down your pump so you can inflate them easily.

Reflections to remember and a hidden island worth exploring. An amphitheatre painted with warm reds, highlighted by the rays of the sun… Joffre Gorge is a surprising paradise no matter when you go. At the right time of year, when the waterfall is flowing strong, you’ll be treated to one of Karijini’s truly special sights.

Are there crocs in Karijini?

Of course not! It’s way too far south and inland for them… and a bit too chilly at times as well! Hypothermia in the deep cold waters of the gorges is more of a threat in this part of the world, so take care and never dive or jump in to the water, as there are more than likely submerged rocks.

Where should I stay when visiting Karijini?

Being a short walk from the Karijini Eco-Retreat campsite makes this the perfect jumping point from which to explore Joffre Gorge. It is only about two kilometres from the Eco-Retreat to the rim. Don’t forget to pre-book your campsites, so you don’t miss out during the busier months of April through to October.

How to get there

Karijini National Park in north-western WA is a fifteen hour drive north from Perth, or a quicker option is the two hour from Perth to Paraburdoo or Newman.

Do you need a 4WD for Karijini?

Not necessarily, 4WD is recommended, but many areas can be accessed by 2WD. It’s always wise to check road conditions before driving in to Karijini, as heavy rain or rockfalls can make it difficult even for a 4WD!

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