Prince Regent River



King Cascade Falls in the Prince Regent River are one of the major Kimberley attractions. The falls are about 35 miles from the sea entrance at Brunswick Bay, and reaching them requires careful timing on the tides. The waters at the approach into St. George Basin can be turbulent in large exchanges, and sandbars impede navigation upriver at low tide. But the King Cascade Falls, and other Prince Regent River attractions, are worth the effort to reach them.

After leaving the Hunter River, we overnighted just outside the Prince Regent River approach to wait for a favourable tide the following morning, then ran all the way into King Cascade Falls and spent three nights on the river.

Trip highlights from June 12th through 16th follow. Click any image for a larger view, or click the position to view the location on a map. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at http://mvdirona.com/maps

6/12/2015
Bluffs

Another view to the dramatic double bluffs at the Hunter River mouth.
Caledonian Sky

The 297 ft (90.6m) cruise ship Caledonian Sky was at anchor off Naturalists Island as we passed through Prince Frederick Harbour this morning.
Odyssey

Odyssey was leaving the area around the same time we were and radioed to chat. Last night we watched the superyacht Triple Seven arrive after sunset and anchor in Porosus Creek. Traffic is much higher here than in the King George or Berkeley River areas.
Coronation Islands

The Western Australian Cruising guide indicated a deep-water channel through the unsurveyed waters between Coronation and Gray Islands. With about 5ft of water at half-tide on a 10ft (3.1m) exchange at Maret Island, we saw 50ft approaching the channel and 35ft coming out the south side with no obvious current.
Membranes

We cleaned the water maker membranes a couple of months back, and the water quality improved to the low 600 PPM. That’s perfectly workable, but getting to the high end of what’s acceptable. It slowly worsened from 600 to 800 PPM. After it hit 800, over the course of a few days it went up to 900, and then over 1,000 to 1,200 which really isn’t usable in other than an emergency. So we needed to change the membranes. Four years ago in Seattle we bought a second water maker for its parts, which included three new membranes in their cylinders. We pickled these membranes inside the cylinders, sealed them up, and stored them on board in a cool location. We later learned that the membranes aren’t supposed to last more than a year. But we’ve got them, so might as well try them. James started the job while we were underway to the Prince Regent River. Getting the old cylinders apart was incredibly difficult, but not as hard as getting them back together. But about four hours later, the new membranes are in place and we’re making water at 290 PPM.
Oceanic Discoverer

The mini cruise ship Oceanic Discoverer was leaving the Prince Regent River mouth as we arrived.
Fisheries

We’d anchored for the night just north of Whirlpool Point to await favourable tides to enter the Prince Regent River tomorrow morning. Shortly after we arrived, Western Australia Department of Fisheries stopped by for a friendly visit. They checked our freezer for illegal catch and dropped off a brochure explaining the rules. One of them had boarded a Nordhavn the previous year, likely a 47, and could describe the interior layout before even stepping inside.
Sunset

We quite liked the anchorage north of Whirlpool Point, particularly the beautiful sunset.
6/13/2015
Whirlpool Point

Whirlpool Point at sunrise. Upwellings and whirlpools were everywhere, but were easy to navigate through. We were 90 minutes before a 11.1ft (8.07m) high tide at White Island on a 6:22 15ft exchange. If it weren’t for lack of light, we could have come through much earlier.
Strong Tide Point

We passed Strong Tide Point one hour before high water. The waterway was wide and deep with little to no turbulence. We’re coming through on a relatively small 11.1ft exchange. You get a sense from the feature names around here though that the water can really flow on the larger 30ft exchanges.
River mouth

Looking upriver from the Prince Regent River mouth. Conditions across Saint George Basin and into the river have been wonderfully calm.
Up river

We had considered stopping at either Purulba Creek or Camp Creek, but were making such good time that we decided to keep going and see if we could reach King Cascade Falls today.
Approaching the falls

King Cascade Falls are the main draw for visitors to the Prince Regent River. The falls are inside a small, shallow basin, with a narrow entrance. Even on this small exchange, the tidal river current is strong, and the boat is moving quickly sideways as we diagonally enter the basin.
King Cascade Falls

The King Cascade Falls tumble down across a rock face in multiple arms.
At the falls

There wasn’t much water motion inside the basin, so we could bring the boat up close and keep it in position for a picture of use both in front of the falls.
PV Walcott

The Department of Fisheries patrol boat PV Walcott followed us upriver and stood outside the basin while we went inside to check out the falls. The tender they’d visited us on yesterday had passed us heading upriver earlier today. It was inspecting a Barramundi fishing operation working at the river head, and the the PV Walcott was here to pick them up.
The most awful place

We carry a lot of spares on board. The ones that we expect to rarely, if ever, use are stored in what Jennifer calls “the most awful place”: underneath a subfloor under the guest stateroom berth. To access it, you have to fold the bed over, then completely empty the storage area that Jennifer is sitting inside, and then lift the sub-floor out to access the bins below. Today our oil-change pump failed, and that’s where the spare was.
Low tide

We anchored just downriver from the King Cascade Falls. Sandbars are on either side and we cannot move in either direction except near higher tides. This is the sandbar extending across the river towards the basin where the falls are.
Croc

This big crocodile was sunning in the mud near our anchorage.
Sunset

Sunset looking downriver from the flybridge.
6/14/2015
True North

The 164ft (50m) ship True North arrived this morning. Just as they did at the King George River, the captain put the bow right into the falls. The video https://youtu.be/t1DyCnJwHLw (0:20) shows the big boat inching in towards the rocks underneath the falls.
Odyssey

The charter boat Odyssey, that we’d last seen at the Hunter River, also arrived this morning. Both boats later moved downriver to Camp Creek for the night.
Heading upriver

One of the True North tenders was heading upriver to the falls at what they called “The Amphitheatre”. They invited us to follow along since it could be a little difficult to locate.
Flying fox

Thousands of Flying Foxes (fruit bats) were in the trees at the mouth of the creek leading to the Amphitheatre. The video https://youtu.be/6pDo8qKlGZY (1:01) shows the entrance to Amphitheatre and then some closeups of the bats in the trees. Their loud squawking was audible a long way off.
Amphitheatre

It turns out the Amphitheatre was another name for Cathedral Falls that we’d already planned to visit. We didn’t have quite enough water to get over the rock bar at the entrance, but got a good view from outside the basin. We left to explore upriver, planning to return back when there was more water so we could enter.
Debris

A fair bit of wood debris is in the Prince Regent River, particularly upstream of the King Cascade Falls. We’ve not seen much of anything in the water since leaving the Pacific Northwest and this is the closest we’ve come to the log jams we see there. The boat anchored along the river is the Barramundi fishing operation that the Department of Fisheries was inspecting yesterday.
Rapids

This small rapids flowing upriver would be impassable at low tide. Working against them to return downstream would be difficult too. But we’re near a 28ft (8.58m) high tide at White Island, which puts us a couple of hours before high tide here. So we’ll have more water soon and shouldn’t have any problem getting back through them. That’s the plan anyway.
End of the road

We got a half mile beyond the first rapids before finding the end of the navigable waterway. With a clear sky and dead calm winds, the reflections off the river were beautiful.
Croc or rock?

Croc.
Under the falls

We returned back down river to the Amphitheatre about 90 minutes after high tide at White Island and were able to cross the rock bar into the basin. The falls are huge–Jennifer is just visible at the base on the left.
Salmon

One of the True North tenders was also at the falls and offered us a couple of delicious salmon from their catch. We didn’t have anywhere to store them, so built a well behind the dinghy seat to keep them until we got back to Dirona. After cleaning and storing them, we headed back out to the falls.
Above the falls

With the last of the high tide, we walked the trail from the west side of the basin to the top of King Cascade Falls. We went a little far west and north on the way up, but found the trail closer to the water on the way back. This is the view looking out to Odyssey moored in the river just outside the basin.
Smimming hole

Below James in the photo is a popular swimming pool just upriver from the King Cascade Falls. A group from Odyssey was returning from a swim as we arrived. We instead climbed up higher to take in the view from above the pool.
Lunch

The tide was falling and we were a little nervous about stranding the dinghy, so we returned back down the track for lunch in the shade opposite the falls.
Eagle

One of the beautiful eagles that frequent the Kimberley, perched in the trees near our anchorage.
6/15/2015
Dolphin

A dolphin swam past this morning. We’re surprised the crocodiles don’t get them.
Discovery One

Two high-speed tenders from the charter boat Discovery One zoomed past to visit the King Cascade falls.
Boat wash

The boat has been coated in salt since crossing the Gulf of Carpentaria three weeks ago, so we finally broke down and gave it a wash. We’d rather not use watermaker water for this purpose, and normally we’d have had at least one squall to rinse the salt away. But we’ve hardly had a cloud in the sky, let alone a drop of rain, since leaving Cape York. I guess that’s why they call it the dry season.
Detour

When the tide was high enough to navigate, we moved downriver to anchor for the night at Camp Creek. On our way upriver, we’d seen about 14ft of water in this section, just east of the two islands, where two creeks enter the river on opposite sides. This was about 2 hours after a 26.5ft (8.07m) high tide at White Island on a 17ft exchange to low. Our cruising guide was missing the map for this section of the river, so we were working by feel and had favoured the southern shore. The coming up behind us had instead made an abrupt course change to closely follow the north shore and recommended this route to us when we chatted later that day. We followed this route on our way out and saw a minimum of 21ft about three hours after a 29.8ft (9.08m) high tide at White Island on a 6:30 24 ft (7.3m) exchange to low. Much better.
Kimberley Explorer

The charter boat Kimberley Explorer was exiting Camp Creek as we arrived. It had dropped of a group of campers up-creek and only the skipper was overnighting with the boat.
Helicopter

The video https://youtu.be/-YKOEPEeqiY (0:24) shows the helicopter pilot landing on True North while the ship was underway and making pretty good speed. That must take some skill.
Weather station

Our weather station recently started reading erratically, so James climbed the stack to replace it.
6/16/2015
At anchor

At anchor off Camp Creek with Discovery One on the left and Kimberley Explorer on the right.
Rockbar

At the tidal rockbar along Camp Creek.
Landing

We landed the tender a little south of the rockbar and tied to a tree above the high water line. Two tenders from Kimberley Explorer already were anchored off, just visible farther down the creek in the distance.
Camp

The group from Kimberley Explorer were camped just beyond the rockbar. Nice camp site.
Beach

We walked along the west shore for a bit, but didn’t see much of interest, so came back and crossed the creek to the beach we could see on the other side.
Swimming

A group from Discovery One having a freshwater dip. Someone from Kimberley Explorer camp had told us they’d seen a crocodile upstream, and the lagoon was awfully close to connecting with saltwater at high tide to be safe from crocodiles, but nobody seemed very concerned. We did notice that none of the guides were swimming though. 🙂
Rock wall

Climbing along the rock wall to reach the falls farther upstream.
Cascade

We stopped for a quick break at a small cascade.
First falls

A half-hour walk from the swimmers brought us to these impressive falls.
Second falls

A second set of falls are a quick climb above the first.
Beside the falls

From the second falls, we climbed down to the other side of the first falls.
Lunch

Lunch in the shade with a view to the first falls. It’s really hot here.
Balancing rocks

The rock formations here are wild. These look carefully placed one atop the other.
High tide

We’d tied the tender off a long way below the high water line, and three hours later our line was barely above the water. No croc though. The tidal ranges here sure are huge. Today’s exchange is 30ft.
Mt. Trafalgar

Dramatic 1,270ft (387m) Mt. Trafalger seen from Saint George Basin as we exited the Prince Regent River.
Current

We passed through Strong Tide Point 2.5 hours before a 4.49ft (3.37m) low tide at White Island, on a 6:29 26.5ft (8.09m) exchange. The ebb current was running at several knots, but the flow was mostly laminar. The current increased as we progressed north and we were doing 13.6kts at 1977RPM, when normally we’d be doing about 8.3kts.
Upwellings

We did see plenty of upwellings and whirlpools beyond Strong Tide Point and well outside the entry, but they weren’t difficult or dangerous.

Show locations on map Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations on a map, with the complete log of our cruise.

On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at http://mvdirona.com/maps.


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