Kununurra is the major centre for the Argyle Diamond Mine (the most prolific producer of diamonds in the world) and the Ord River Scheme (Lake Argyle) that
is Australia's second largest reservoir.
The mine is about 250km from Kununurra and produces about 35% of the world's diamonds, (mostly industrial). The Argyle mine started operation in 1985.
In 1988 a second mining operation started at Bow River just 30 kilometres from the main site.
Kununurra is 36km from the Northern Territory border. It is a modern town with good shopping facilities and a host of scenic attractions in the immediate
area. If you are going to spend time in any of the other small towns around the Kimberley then take the chance to stock up while you are in Kununurra.
Prices in the smaller towns like Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing are ludicrous.
Some mileage figures for distances from Kununurra are: Perth 3336km, Broome 1057km, Darwin 1057km, Sydney 4300km.
Set almost in the middle of the town is Hidden Valley which is more-or-less a miniature Bungle Bungle. There are three different
tracks in the park ranging from the easy Lily Pond to the more difficult Didbagirring Track which traverses the slopes of the valley.
A special mention needs to be made of both Kona (Lakeside) and Kimberleyland caravan parks. Both are situated on Lake Kununurra and both are beautifully
maintained. Kimberleyland just has the edge in my opinion as it has a large attractive pool.
The Shire of Wyndham East Kimberley covers 121,000 square kilometres and is one of 4 local government districts in the Kimberley.
The best time to visit the area is between May and August as the weather at this time of year is dry and cool. The area is known as a hot-spot for
The town's population figures are a bit misleading as there is a transient population that can double the number of people in the area during the cooler months.
The first pastoral lease in the area was taken out in 1887. It was intended to be used for planting sugar cane but the venture never managed to get started.
Part of the Ord River used to become a 10 kilometre long lake during periods of high rainfall as the water was able to build up behind a natural rock formation
known as Bandicoot Bar. The diversion dam that was subsequently built is anchored to this bar of rock.
The town is the residential and administrative centre for the Ord River Scheme. The initial survey work began in 1959 and the first stage was completed by
1963. Three years later there were thirty one farms in the area. It wasn't until 1972 that the second stage of the project was completed with the opening of
the Argyle Dam.
The townsite was gazetted in 1961 but much of the construction of the town occurred later in 1967. The town was built on land resumed from Ivanhoe Station.
The Australian Inland Mission established a hospital in 1963 and a pre-fabricated building was shipped to the new town from
Sydney. Over 7 tonnes of medical equipment were brought in from the defunct hospital at Radium Hill. On the first day of operation 22 patients were treated. In
the first 5 months of operation the two nurses treated 2215 patients with only 754 of these actually paying their bills. A new hospital was built in 1967 and taken
over by Government health services the following year.
The name is an Aboriginal word 'Goonoonoorrang', meaning 'river'. It was said to mean 'meeting of big waters' but this is now thought to be incorrect. The original
proposed spelling of the name was Cununurra but this was changed due to its similarity to a name in use in Queensland..
Many crops have been tried in the area, and many have failed. Rice has been successful and now others crops are doing well in the area including
melons, peanuts and soy beans. Due to the irrigation scheme, crops can be sown and harvested without any rain at all falling in the area.
Agricultural food production in the area is expected to almost double by 2020.
TALL TALES AND TRUE
When Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh visited Kununurra on a tour of inspection the locals thoughtfully shot two large salt water crocodiles
and laid them out so that the Royal couple could see some of the local wildlife 'sunning' themselves on the river bank.
Kelly's Knob, Lake Kununurra, Ord Valley, Lake Argyle, Hidden Valley, Ivanhoe Crossing, Packsaddle Falls, Valentine Rock Pool, Middle Springs,
Black Rock Falls, Dead Horse Spring.
REVIEW : Triple J Ord River Tours
This is an excellent cruise from Lake Kununurra along the Ord River to the base of the Ord River Dam at Lake Argyle. Pickup is around 10:30am and the tour
finishes after sunset (around 5:30pm.)
The boats average about 50kph and have a top speed of 80kph. They are fully covered although it isn't possible to be in full shade all the time so hats and
sunscreen are a good idea. The tour covers about 110 kilometres and includes a light lunch (basically cold meats, salad, cheese and crackers and cool drinks.) and afternoon tea (coffee, tea, scones and cake.)
It is very hard to find fault with the tour but it is quite expensive. There is plenty to see along the way including gorges, birds, fish, turtles, fresh water crocs,
wallabies, some bush tucker and of course the Ord itself.
Our tour guide (Jeff) was a founding member of the business and has taken tours along the river for many years. His knowledge of the area and wildlife is
encyclopedic and he is very keen to share his knowledge with anyone who is interested.
We had been told by a number of people that this was the boat trip to do in Kununurra and having done the trip we have to recommend it to anyone coming
up this way.