Keep River

Where: North-East of Kununurra on the Weaber Plain Road, WA/NT border
Permits: None. These are station tracks so observe all signs, be aware of cattle and leave gates how you found them
Costs: $0
Difficulty: Moderate (gravel, sandy tracks – be aware of cattle and station traffic)
Days required to do it justice: 1-2 days

This is a story about a 90cm Barramundi and a remote and beautiful river on the WA/NT border. Unfortunately sometimes photographers have bad days and on this particular trip the weather was also having a bad day so the photographic evidence is a little below its usual standard.

The Keep River is situated north-east of the Kimberley town of Kununurra and north of the Keep River National Park in the upper reaches of the estuary. Heading out of town towards the state border on the Weaber Plain Road, past the Hoochery rum distillery and the rapidly expanding Ord Irrigation scheme, the views of the Cave Spring Ranges are magnificent and as the government pumps more and more money into the Irrigation development the once rough gravel road is slowly being converted to bitumen.

Welcome to the Northern Territory...someone's been on a shooting spree

Welcome to the Northern Territory…someone’s been on a shooting spree

The skies were getting greyer and greyer, the light was flat and I decided to wait to take photos of the ranges on our return journey when surely the clouds would have cleared a little. Everyone we met in Kununurra had complained at the lack of rain that had fallen here during the ‘Wet’ season. Now two months into the ‘Dry’ we were confident these grey clouds wouldn’t affect us too much.Little did we know we had three days of British drizzly weather ahead of us.

As the manicured farmland came to an abrupt end the road crossed unceremoniously over a cattle grid into the Northern Territory. To welcome us into a new state someone had filled the border crossing sign with bullet holes. A mustering helicopter hovered overhead as we weaved our way up the recently graded gravel tracks to the banks of the Keep River roughly 80km from Kununurra. The track hugs the river and numerous idyllic and shady campsites with boat access were available.

So why do people come to the Keep River? To fish of course. After  a ten minute camper-trailer set up Paul was straight down onto the river in search of the, so far, elusive Barramundi. Over the next four or five hours we saw no Barramundi but a host of classic Australian wildlife: Jabiru, blue winged Kookaburra, Brolgas, Bustards, two saltwater crocodiles, kangaroos, an Osprey and numerous finches. We also saw and disposed of a Cane Toad which are now unfortunately finding their way into WA in droves.

And for a long time the Barra didn’t bite.

In the peace and quiet of the dark evening there was a sudden commotion during which I thought Paul was actually being eaten by a crocodile. He emerged from the banks yelling that he’d caught a Barra. In the minutes that ensued we ran around grabbing gloves, pliers and the measuring tape while scanning the water for crocodile eyes which we knew were watching us closely. The Barra was 90cm, too big to keep but a great catch for any fisherman. And then I made my biggest failure as a photographer… the commotion I forgot to take a photo and when I remembered to take one I forgot my camera was not on the right settings for taking fish photos in the pitch black. The final image sort of looks like a fish if you look really really closely!

This is a 90cm Barra, honest

This is a 90cm Barra, honest 


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