Joel Johnsson explores wild and wonderful places while documenting them through his incredible photographs. We dive a little deeper behind the pictures as Joel writes about his recent trip to the imposing rock-faces of the Kennedy Ranges in Western Australia. 

The night crickets’ chorus falls silent as the first streaks of sunlight touch the cliffs, bathing the range in a rich morning glow. Far below, a wide flat plain stretches all the way to the horizon, a vast pool of inky blackness in the dawn light. From atop the crumbling walls of the escarpment, the line of cliffs extend into the distance on either side as far as the eye can see.  As the light washes across the valley floor, a scattering of saltpans, full from recent rains, start to shimmer like drops of dew. The campground, 100 metres below, starts to stir as visitors pull on their boots, fill water bottles and fire up the jetboil.

A standing man and a seated woman looking out over a river from a rocky outcrop.

Joel and his partner enjoying the waterways. Photo by Joel Johnsson @aesthetics.of.adventure

The Kennedy Range, Mundatharrda to the local Ingarrda people, is a huge island of rock, over 80 kilometres long and 25 kilometres wide, which is bounded on the eastern and western sides by sheer clifflines. Wind and water have etched deep gullies and canyons into the exposed faces, while its flat top is creased by an ancient dunefield which spread like red arteries across the plateau. Located approximately 150 km east of Carnarvon, the Kennedy Range is isolated and remote even by Western Australian standards, where it’s not uncommon to drive five hours between towns, and in that time, not pass a single tree.

Man sits with Teva Arrowood Boot overlooking a gorge.

The Teva Arrowood Boot is built rugged to tackle harsh, technical terrains. Photo by Joel Johnsson @aesthetics.of.adventure

After hours of flat roads and wide horizons, arriving at the long cliffline is like approaching of the sandstone ramparts of an ancient fortress. Temple Gorge campground, tucked under the base of these cliffs on the eastern side of the National Park, is a perfect place to base yourself when exploring the many walking trails in the area. The Drapers Gorge, Honeycomb and Temple Gorge trails provide access deep into the canyons, winding up through rocky creek beds and dry waterfalls, over bands of golden sandstone and rich ochre ironstone. Freshwater springs deep in these gorges hold water almost year round, providing cool, shaded oases where walkers can wait out the heat of the day. The more-challenging Escarpment Trail climbs steeply to the top of the cliffs that overlook the campground and provides spectacular views up and down the range. All marked trails are relatively short, but they are linked together via a track which leads along the foot of the range, making full days of exploration possible without having to drive from the campsite.

Man and a woman hiking along the ridgeline of a rocky mountain in the dry desertscape.

Carefully navigating the terrain of the desertscape. Photo by Joel Johnsson @aesthetics.of.adventure

For those with a capable, high-clearance four wheel drive, the even-more-remote western side of the range can be accessed via a rough track which crosses the Gascoyne River west of Gascoyne Junction. Unlike the sheer rock walls of the eastern escarpment, the crumbling flanks of the western and northern areas of the range have eroded into a trackless maze of mesas, buttes and knife-edge ridgelines. Passing only the occasional abandoned pastoral homestead and the remnants of mining leases, it would be easy to travel for days without seeing others in this area. In fact, it’s amazing how few people know about or visit the Kennedy Range – even in Temple Gorge campground, with around 20 sites, it’s uncommon to have to jostle for space even in the cooler time of year.

Image of woman walking along uneven rocky surface with Teva Grandview.

The Teva Grandview boasts a durable and cushioned footbed to keep your feet happy after kilometers on hard surfaces. Photo by Joel Johnsson @aesthetics.of.adventure

Standing in the twilight at the end of a long day of walking, watching the light fade down the long sweep of the range, you can almost imagine the march of millennia that created this landscape. 300 million years ago, this same spot would have been blanketed by an ice sheet several kilometres thick. 265 million years ago, you would have been standing at the shore of a shallow inland sea. 25 million years ago, as Australia drifted north and collided with Asia, the ground beneath your feet would have warped and folded, creating great faultlines. In the gathering darkness, you can almost hear the slow grinding of the earth, the heaving thrust of the escarpment, the crack of the great sandstone blocks calving off the cliffline as if from the head of a glacier.

With soaring cliffs, rugged canyons, red sand dunes and quiet rock springs, the Kennedy Range is a wild and ancient landscape that’s waiting to share its secrets with those ready to stop and listen.

An incredible palette of Australian outback as the sun creeps towards the horizon in the Kennedy Ranges. Photo by Joel Johnsson @aesthetics.of.adventure

Visiting the Kennedy Ranges:

Access to the National Parks campground at the base of the eastern escarpment is via an unsealed road from Gascoyne Junction, 60km to the south of the park, which is the nearest source of fuel and basic supplies. The road is usually suitable for two-wheel-drive vehicles but can be substantially damaged and/or closed after rainfall. Other than toilets in the trailhead carparks and a communal firepit in Temple Gorge campground, which is manned seasonally by volunteer camp hosts, there are no other visitor facilities. Visitors should be fully self-sufficient and carry plenty of water and fuel when visiting.


We hope Joel’s story inspires your own adventures, whether near or far. Explore our range of Teva boots here or share your local adventures with us on Instagram

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About The Author

Joel Johnnson

A passionate photographer and lover of wild places, Joel never misses a chance to live life and try something new. Lucky for all of us, Joel shares his journeys and epic photography through his Instagram account @aesthetics.of.adventure, allowing us to dream and providing inspiration for our next trips.

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