Flowing through the East Kimberley in Western Australia is a river that is relatively short but, in places, very spectacular. Called the Pentecost River it is necessitates the longest and most impressive river crossing for those who are undertaking one of Australia’s great adventure drives – the Gibb River Road.
The Pentecost is a wild and, at times, raging river. Its width and depth vary with the seasons, and it is at its fiercest during the wet season when roads are so flooded few people actually get the opportunity to see the Pentecost at its peak.
The river has a length of just 118 kilometres, and it has a total drop of just 248 metres from where it rises in the Durack Ranges to its discharge into Cambridge Gulf. The river flows north, past the impressive Cockburn Ranges, where it widens to become long and flat, making it easy to spot the peering eyes of saltwater crocodiles which just break the surface as they glide through the waters looking for prey.
The river gets its name from surveyor John Pentecost, which is a shame as it flows through the land of the traditional peoples, and probably should bear the indigenous name that it has born for many millennia. As about six different indigenous languages are spoken in the region, the name Pentecost is probably the one name that has instant recognition for locals and visitors alike.
The river has seven tributaries, the two biggest of which are the Chamberlain River and the Durack River. Both of these rivers are longer than the Pentecost, and have much steeper drops. The Chamberlain meets the Pentecost at El Questro Station, just after it exits the impressive Chamberlain Gorge.
From its headwaters until the Chamberlain convergence, the Pentecost is relatively narrow, but then it begins to widen.
The Pentecost is at its most impressive as it flows through Home Valley Station, where the striking mesa of the Cockburn Range provides a stunning backdrop to the majestic flow of the river. Here is where the widest and most dramatic Gibb River Road crossing is located; at a place that was immortalised in the film `Australia’.
Fishing is a popular pastime on the river, with large barramundi being the fish most sought after by anglers.
Both El Questro and Home Valley station offer good accommodation on the banks of the Pentecost. Most people are content to camp, but El Questro is known for the luxurious, and highly priced, accommodation in its homestead.
The one thing you don’t get on the Pentecost is crowds, thanks to the ruggedness of the land, the harshness of its climate, its remoteness and the sheer fact that to be able to enjoy this most picturesque of rivers, visitors do need to make a lot of effort to get there.