This spot is really back tracking and you would be better off to fit this inbetween Kings Canyon and Alice. Tjoritja, the West McDonnell Ranges, are beautiful and there are many places you can visit along this stretch. I found some posts about Redbank Gorge and being able to float down the gorge on your blow up pool toy, and we all thought it sounded interesting and fun. Glen Helen Lodge is the only resort in the West McDonnell Ranges so we booked to stay there overnight, it is about an hour and a half from Alice. Redbank Gorge was about 20 minutes further on.
We went straight to Redbank Gorge. Definitely needed the fly nets! The walk is along a dry riverbed that starts off quite sandy and you end up climbing over rocks to reach the gorge. I had checked with the NT parks and wildlife if it was ok to go in the water, as it can get quite green and smelly if there has not been adequate rainfall. It can also be really cold depending on the time of year, which is why the pool toys are a great idea to keep you out of the water a bit.
When we were walking there I wasn’t confident that there would be any water at the end of it. Everything was so dry. I thought we had gone to the effort of buying the stuff and lugging it in, of backtracking on our trip to experience this and maybe there is no water at the end of it. Right at the end of the dry river bed Sam found a little puddle of gross looking water and we were all a little scared that was it. We continued to climb over rocks to the end of the gorge and it opened out into a swimming hole with high cliff walls narrowing into the gorge. Steff and I were not sure that we were game enough to get in. Luckily there was another older couple there who had been in for a swim and assured us it was safe and good. Steff and I were still not convinced, but Sam blew up his big red lobster pool toy and launched himself confidently out into the swimming hole to go exploring. He was unimpressed that Steff and I refused to join him.
Sam got to the narrow part of the gorge and clambered up onto the rocks and dragged his lobster to the second gorge to check it out. Steff and I started to feel bad that Sam was having to go exploring on his own, so we took a teaspoon of cement and blew up our mermaid tails and clambored onto them to venture into the unknown. Really glad we found our courage as we all ended up really enjoying the experience. The water was cool but not freezing and the gorge was beautiful. It was challenging to climb onto the slippery wet rocks between the gorges but worth the effort to see further into it. The second gorge was much harder to get out of as it was steep and slippery, so Steff and I waited between the gorges to make sure we could help Sam out if necessary. He got out ok, but just be conscious of it if you go. Depending on how much rainfall there has been depends on how far up the gorge you can go. The third pool was solidly green so we couldn’t go any futher in. It was a beautiful place to hang out and we all loved the experience. It was worth the back track.
We hiked back to the car when we were done and drove back down the road to Glen Helen Lodge. At first we were disappointed when we saw the accommodation. It is hard going from a 4 star resort to the bare basics at first. But they have a great communal room and outdoor restaurant there. We ate outside taking in the spectacular view and watching small bats divebomb the insects around the floodlights. We went for a walk away from the resort to take in the amazing stars without the light pollution.
After dinner we played some games of pool and had a few drinks. It was Steff and I teamed up against Sam. We didn’t manage to beat him but we got close each game and had a really fun night.
So it ended up being a great place to stay and I would encourage you pick a spot in the West McDonnell Ranges to explore if you are near Alice. Some other places recommended to us that we didn’t make it to were – Ellery Creek Big Hole, Ormiston Gorge and Glen Helen Gorge, which all have water holes you can swim in. We also bought a $5 foot pump to blow up the pool toys and that was a great idea too.