Millstream Chichester National Park is an oasis in the desert, nestled within the chocolate brown rocks of the Chichester Range, dotted with spinifex and snappy gums. Permanent pools are fed by springs that draw water from the underground aquifer within porous dolomite rock. The Millstream area has been a sacred land since well before the arrival of Europeans to the area, and the Yinjibarndi people still gather here as the traditional custodians of their country, which stretches from the Hamersley Range foothills and Fortescue Valley in the south to the Chichester Range escarpment in the north. The Jirndawurrunha Park Council – composed of twelve members from the Yindibarndi and Ngaluma – meet regularly with the Parks and Wildlife Services to discuss and set management objectives for the park. Deep Reach – a deep pool on the Fortescue River – is one of the most sacred places in Yindjibarndi country and is home to the Warlu serpent, revered and respected by Yinjibarndi and neighbouring Aboriginal clans.
Explorer Francis Gregory named Millstream after ‘a fine tributary running strong enough to supply a large mill’. Pastoralists occupied this country from 1865 until 1967 when the area became a national park to protect the Millstream aquifer within the Fortescue River catchment. In 1986 Rangers were first stationed here with the conversion of the remaining cattle property and tavern within the Homestead (built in 1920) to National Park.
Within the Homestead Visitor Centre and along interpretive walk trails you can find out more about the Yinjibarndi people’s resourcefulness and the pastoralists’ lifestyle, as well as the ecology and diversity of Millstream’s wetlands, woodlands and arid rocky plains and ranges.
Millstream Chichester National Park is highly diverse within the Pilbara region due to the presence of permanent water and associated wetlands. Over 120 species of bird, 30 species of mammal, 150 species of reptile and 500 species of plants can be found in the park. This includes spectacular riparian birds such as the Rainbow bee-eater, sacred kingfisher and blue-winged kookaburra as well as desert adapted species such as spinifex pigeons and the impressive bustard. Twelve species of raptor live in the park and can be seen flying high over the arid plains and on the margins of waterways. Interesting mammals include euros (hills kangaroos) and the endangered northern quoll as well as ghost bats and a suite of marsupial “mice” are found in the park. Pilbara dragons are often seen darting up trees and several species of goanna are regularly seen, as well as stimson’s pythons and the impressive olive python, which frequents rocky cliff faces along the Fortescue River.
In mid-winter (June-August), spectacular wildflower displays include Sturt Desert Pea, more than twenty species of Mulla Mulla (Ptilotus), fragrant Sennas/Cassia and dozens of species of Wattles in bloom. Northern Bluebells, Desert Yam and several species of Hibiscus add to the display, culminating in a tantalising demonstration of the colour and form of desert adapted plant species.
Millstream Homestead is within Millstream-Chichester National Park. This Homestead Visitor Centre is open daily. It is not staffed but rangers and campground hosts frequently visit and maintain this facility. In the case of an emergency only, Rangers can be contacted at the office, via the campground hosts (April-October).
Park entry fees can be paid at park entry points and in the camping areas. Fees may also be collected by Park staff.
Camping areas at Millstream are Miliyanha and Stargazers Campgrounds and online bookings are essential for stays from 1 July 2020. Solid fuel fires are not permitted in the park under any circumstances. Both campgrounds have barbeque facilities but use of personal gas cooking appliances is also welcome.
Campground Hosts are stationed in both campgrounds for the majority of the tourist season, between mid-April and early October. They can provide a wealth of information about the park and what you can do here.
There is no camping available in the Python Pool precinct.
Note: as of November 2013 Crossing Pool campground was closed permanently due to ongoing safety issues from falling tree branches, as well as regular flood damage and general degradation of the site. We are considering sites for development of alternative campgrounds.
Fresh water is available at the Homestead and Miliyanha campground. The water is untreated. Boiling or chemical treatment is recommended. Remember to carry plenty of water with you at all times.
Nearest fuel, supplies and accommodation can be found at Karratha (140km), Pannawonica (90km), Munjina Roadhouse (230km) and Tom Price (210km).
Roads in the Park are suitable for two-wheel drive vehicles only in dry weather and may be impassable after heavy rain and/or cyclonic events. Wet roads are extremely slippery. For your safety do not drive following rain
A permit to travel on rail access roads is required from Rio Tinto. This can be done online or at the Karratha Visitor Centre.
Current road conditions can be obtained by calling the park office directly (+61 (0)8 9814 5144) or looking online at the Shire of Ashburton’s most recent road report.
Snappy Gum Drive is a 20km scenic loop road linking the Homestead with Pannawonica Road. It can be accessed by 4WD vehicles year round and by 2WD (low clearance) vehicles when indicated on signs found at either entrance point. It is not suitable for motorhomes or caravans. Lookouts along the drive provide sweeping vistas across undulating hills dotted with Snappy Gums and Spinifex, as well as the Fortescue River Valley. Several important indigenous areas can be seen from the road. Allow 45 minutes one way or one hour return.
Day use areas with gas barbecues and tables are located at The Homestead, Deep Reach (5km), and at Python Pool in the Chichester Range (50km).
Yinjibarndi people are most concerned for your safety if swimming at Deep Reach as this is the home of Barrimurdi, the Warlu, or serpent. They ask that you treat the site with respect and keep noise to a minimum. At Deep Reach the water is deep, the banks steep and there may be submerged trees and rocks. Do not dive into the water. Use the entry steps for access to and from the water.
Swimming is not permitted at Jirndawurrunha Pool or surrounding streams because of this site’s deep cultural significance to the Yinjibarndi.
Canoes, kayaks and sailboards are welcome at Deep Reach. Use the wide access steps for entry of watercraft. Motorised watercraft of any kind are not permitted so as not to anger the Warlu serpent, disrupt other vessels, damage the banks and threaten riverine wildlife. Fishing is allowed, however be mindful of other users. To launch watercraft, there is a 300m walk from the car park to the river access points.
There are a number of walk trails within the Park. Protect yourself from the sun, wear appropriate clothing and sturdy shoes and take a litre of water for each person for each hour of walking regardless of the season. Be especially mindful in summer as temperatures are often above 40C. Longer walks are not recommended between October, March and April.
Walk Trails include:
The Homestead Trail
Class 2. 750m return. Allow 30 minutes.
Cliff Lookout Link Trail
Class 4. 8km return. Allow three hours.
This trail links the Homestead with Cliff Lookout. It traverses the Millstream Delta wetlands before winding along the cliff top adjacent to the Fortescue River.
Class 4. 18km return. Allow five hours (walking) or two hours (biking).
For walkers follow the Cliff Lookout Link Trail. From Cliff Lookout an additional trail meanders 5km through an open Snappy Gum/Bloodwood woodland to Deep Reach. This trail is only suitable in the cooler months
For bikers, begin adjacent to Miliyanha Campground at the bike track trailhead. From Cliff Lookout, the trail becomes dual use, so caution is needed.
Deep Reach Trail
Class 2. 300m return. Allow 10 minutes.
At Deep Reach it is a 300m return walk to the water access points and viewing deck. Trailside signs interpret features.
McKenzie Spring Trail
Class 3. 4.5km return. Allow two hours.
Begins at Mount Herbert car park in the Chichester Range and terminates at McKenzie Spring – an historic and picturesque natural watering hole, used in the past by camel and bullock teams.
Mount Herbert Summit Trail
Class 3. 600m return. Allow 25 minutes.
This steep walk is rewarded with panoramic views over the Chichester Range and Fortescue River plain.
Class 4. 8km one-way. Allow three hours. Remember it is 16km and six hours for the return walk. Walking this trail in summer is not advised.
This trail connects Mount Herbert with Python Pool across the rugged basalt and sandstone landscape of the Chichester Range.
Python Pool Trail
Class 3. 200m return. Allow 20 minutes.
Take this short walk over uneven surface to the permanent pool nestled beneath high cliffs and a seasonal waterfall.
Class 4. 4km return. Allow 90 minutes.
Turn off the Python Pool Trail and up the steep hill once used by camel and bullock teams.
For more information visit TrailsWA.