Gibb River Road

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Kimberley region map
Road train on the Gibb River Road
Stretch of the Gibb River Road

The Gibb River Road is a road in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.


The road is a former cattle route that stretches in an east-west direction almost 660 kilometres (410 mi) through the Kimberley between the towns of Derby and the Kununurra and Wyndham junction of the Great Northern Highway.[1] Like its namesake, which does not actually cross the road but runs nearby at 16°06.108′S 126°31.075′E / 16.101800°S 126.517917°E / -16.101800; 126.517917,[2] it is named after geologist and explorer Andrew Gibb Maitland. The Gibb River Road is one of the two major roads which dissect the Kimberley region—the other being the extreme northern section of Great Northern Highway which runs further to the south.

The road is often closed due to flooding during the wet season, which is typically November through March, although delayed openings have been known to happen, frustrating the tourism industry[3] as well as locals who rely on the road. Since the mid-2000s, the road has been upgraded to a formed gravel two-lane road including a few short bitumenised sections, but 4WD vehicles are still recommended due to the water crossings and numerous heavily corrugated sections.


The Gibb River Road has scenic views of geological formations and natural scenery, Aboriginal and pastoral history, as well as rare and unique fauna and flora.[4] Attractions along the road include Windjana Gorge National Park, Tunnel Creek National Park, Adcock Gorge, Manning Gorge, Galvans Gorge, Lennard Gorge, Bell Gorge, and Wunaamin Miliwundi Ranges. Accommodation is offered by several cattle stations in the area including Mount Hart Wilderness Lodge, Mount Barnett Station, Mount Elizabeth Station, Drysdale River Station, the El Questro Station, Ellenbrae and Charnley River Station.


From 1948, an Air Beef Scheme operated between Glenroy Station and Wyndham. An abattoir, freezing works, and airstrip were built on the station and the meat airfreighted twice a day to the coast before being shipped to the southern cities. To develop the beef industry further, a Commonwealth Government grant to build a road was given in 1949 and the following year construction of a road to Derby commenced, one of a number of roads built as part of the so-called "Beef Roads Scheme". This southern section, which is sometimes referred to as the Derby-Gibb River Road, was completed in 1956 at a cost of £713,677 and was used for trucking live cattle.[5]

The northern section of the road was under the control of the Shire of Wyndham-East Kimberley until 1996 when Main Roads Western Australia took over control and upgraded the full length of the highway.[6]

Native title[edit]

A joint native title claim, known as the Dambimangari claim and covering a large area of the Kimberley, was lodged in 1998 by the Wanjina-Wunggurr (Native Title) Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC[7] on behalf of three peoples, the Worrorra of Dambimangari, the Wunambal Gaambera of Uunguu, and the Ngarinyin of Wilinggin.[Note 1] The Wilinggin portion of the claim, covering an area of more than 60,150 km2 (23,220 sq mi) along the Gibb River Road, was the first of the three to be determined for the Ngarinyin people, by litigation on 27 August 2004.[8][9][10]

See also[edit]

icon Australian Roads portal


  1. ^ These three peoples make up a cultural bloc known as Wanjina Wunggur. Worrorra is the name of the people, Dambimangari their land; the land of the Wunambal Gaambera people is known as Uunguu; and that of the Ngarinyin is Wilinggin.


  1. ^ Hema, Maps (2007). Australia Road and 4WD Atlas (Map). Eight Mile Plains Queensland: Hema Maps. pp. 88–89. ISBN 978-1-86500-456-3.
  2. ^ Bonzle map showing Gibb River
  3. ^ "Road opening delay frustrates locals - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)". Retrieved 27 April 2008.
  4. ^ "Stock route cuts a picturesque trail :". The West Australian. Retrieved 27 April 2008.[dead link]
  5. ^ "History of Western Australia's Highways And Main Roads WA - the organisation that built them". OZROADS: Australian Roads Website. Retrieved 16 February 2009.[self-published source]
  6. ^ "The Gibb River Road". Archived from the original on 31 December 2008. Retrieved 16 February 2009.
  7. ^ "Wanjina-Wunggurr (Native Title) Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC". Retrieved 10 November 2020.
  8. ^ "Copy of Native Title Map". Kimberley Land Council. 8 August 2013. Retrieved 7 November 2020.
  9. ^ "WCD2004/001 - Wanjina - Wunggurr Wilinggin Native Title Determination No 1". National Native Title Tribunal. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  10. ^ "Wanjina/Wunggurr-Wilinggin (WC1999/011)". National Native Title Tribunal. Retrieved 9 November 2020.

Further reading[edit]

  • Gordon, Malcolm (1991) Gibb River Road - history of the road, road conditions, features along the road, roadhouses page 425 of Gordon, Malcolm. Outback Australia at cost : a traveller's guide to the Northern Territory and Kimberley Crows Nest, N.S.W : Little Hills Press. ISBN 1-86315-023-4 (pbk.)
  • Hayden, Vanessa. (1998) KTA AGM addresses Gibb River Road concerns. (summary) Local tourism operators call for better management of the Road due to perception usage has reached 'saturation point' and is losing its wilderness appeal due to overuse. Kimberley Echo, 5 November 1998, p. 9
  • Knapinski, Ben.(2001) Kimberley, Western Australia's Gibb River road Bunbury, W.A. : Envisage Publishing. ISBN 0-646-41509-3 (pbk.)

External links[edit]