Charnley River – Artesian Range

Charnley River – Artesian Range


Charnley River-Artesian Range has a vital role to play in protecting and restoring the endangered wildlife of northern Australia. The Artesian Range is located adjacent to the Kimberley coast, in the heart of one of Australia’s most rugged and inaccessible regions.  Covering 173,000 hectares, the Artesian Range and surrounding areas are home to more than 30 animal species that are found nowhere else in Australia, either because they have disappeared from the rest of their range (eg, the Golden-backed Tree-rat) or because they are endemic to the north Kimberley (eg, the Monjon and the Black Grasswren). 

Visiting the Artesian Range is like stepping back in time – it is embedded in perhaps the only region on mainland Australia where there have been no faunal extinctions since European settlement.  Topography and high rainfall are two of the factors which have helped protect the Artesian Range. Bounded by the Charnley and Isdell Rivers, the area is a “lost world” of spectacular sandstone ranges dissected by deep, rainforest-filled gorges.  To date, this topography appears to have limited the impacts of feral herbivores and feral cats and wildfire. 

In addition to the range of species which are now restricted to the Kimberley coastal region, the Artesian Range is also a stronghold for threatened and declining species such as the Northern Quoll.  With most areas accessible only by helicopter, the Artesian Range is managed by AWC staff based at Charnley River Station and at Mornington.  

Key vitals

300,059 hectares
Northern Kimberley
Threatened wildlife:


The Artesian Range contains a unique assemblage of fauna and protects a remarkable number of threatened species, making it one of Australia’s last great wildlife havens.  

The Artesian Range is home to many animals found nowhere else in Australia: it is a hotspot for mammals found only in the Kimberley such as the Wyulda (Scaly-tailed Possum), the Monjon (the smallest rock-wallaby species) and the Kimberley Rock-rat. It contains endemic birds such as the cryptic Black Grasswren and the Kimberley Honeyeater, as well as endemic reptiles such as the Rough-scaled Python, Kimberley Crevice Skink and several species of gecko.16 threatened species and 29 species that are either endemic or have isolated Kimberley populations have so far been confirmed as present on the Artesian Range Sanctuary.

The Artesian Range and surrounds are a vital last refuge for species that are now extinct in large parts of their former range:  the Artesian Range is a stronghold for species such as the Golden-backed Tree-rat and the Golden Bandicoot which have disappeared from their former range, including national parks such as Kakadu.  For these and other species, this strip of the Kimberley coast could be the difference between extinction and survival.   The factors that influence the ongoing survival of these species in the Artesian Range is the focus of long-term research.

The sheer abundance of animals in the Artesian Range is exceptional: even endangered species like Northern Quoll survive in high densities.  

Click below to view the list of wildlife species at Artesian Range:
Mammals List  | Birds List  |  Reptiles List  | Amphibians List  |  Threatened List

Field programs

The science and land management program at the Artesian Range includes:

  • Active fire management delivered by AWC field staff as part of EcoFire – the largest non-government fire management program in Australia.

  • Feral herbivore control targeting feral cattle, donkeys, horses and pigs.

  • An extensive survey program designed to (a) measure ecological health; and (b) complete a biological inventory of this unexplored region, with a particular focus on restricted and endemic species.

  • Ground-breaking scientific research to assess the impacts of cats, fire and feral herbivores on the persistence of the endemic Wyulda and declining Golden-backed Tree-rat, and to investigate the impact of fire on Black Grasswrens.

General description

Northern Quoll
Northern Quoll

Charnley River - Artesian Range Wildlife Sanctuary comprises two sections:

  • 300,000 hectares which is the Charnley River Pastoral Station (operated by AWC) and includes the remote and rugged Artesian Range; and
  • 37,000 hectares of land owned by the Department of Parks and Wildlife and managed in partnership with AWC. This arrangement represents an important new public-private partnership approach to conservation.

The integrated management of both parcels of land by AWC protects the full length of the Artesian Range.  Bounded by the mighty Charnley River to the north and the Isdell River to the west, the 173,000 ha Artesian Range features a maze of deep rainforest-filled gorges and a network of complex sandstone ranges, as well as towering escarpments and broad valleys filled with rich tropical woodlands. The northern part of the property comprises the extremely rugged sandstone of the Artesian Ranges, while in the eastern and southern section of the sanctuary the landscape is dominated by savannah woodlands of mixed geology, including large areas of basalt-derived soils.  On the north-western boundary, where the Charnley River drains into Walcott Inlet, a swathe of mangroves and mudflats adds further diversity to the sanctuary.   

Ecosystems and plants

Situated in the biodiverse North Kimberley Bioregion, the Artesian Range Sanctuary is floristically rich and estimated to host more than 1,000 plant species. It features a rich variety of habitats including rainforest pockets, savannah woodlands, semi-deciduous vine-thickets, mangroves, salt flats and inland wetlands.  

AWC is preparing a detailed habitat map of the property.  Initial fieldwork has uncovered a large number of threatened and endemic plants and a number of undescribed species. 

Staff at Artesian Range

Visitor program

Charnley River-Artesian Range Wilderness Camp provides a comfortable base from which to explore this remarkable 300,000 hectare sanctuary. It is a naturalist’s paradise, providing refuge for over 200 species of birds and a diverse range of other wildlife. All proceeds from the Wilderness Camp are dedicated to the conservation of wildlife in the Kimberley.

The Wilderness Camp will be closed for the rest of 2018, and will reopen early dry season 2019. 

There is something for everyone at Charnley River. Popular activities include swimming and exploring stunning gorges like Grevillea Gorge, Dillie Gorge or Donkey Hole. Nature lovers can indulge in various self-guided tours, from birdwatching to exploring habitats unique to the Kimberley. Come relax and learn about AWC’s work in the Kimberley and across Australia in our newly constructed Interpretation Centre.

Pitch your own tent in the shady campground and take advantage of our supplied amenities. For the adventurous traveller, this is a unique opportunity to experience one of Australia’s leading wilderness camps while also helping to save Australia’s endangered wildlife.

Sorry NO PETS OR FIRES allowed. 

Vehicle access fee: $25
Camping Child (3 - 12 years): $10 per night
Camping Adult: $20 per night

Getting there
Charnley is 2 hours drive, 43km north of the Gibb River Road.
320km from Derby (5 hours)
540km from Broome (7 hours)

Charnley River has an all-weather Airstrip. Please call for details.

Bookings are not required at Charnley River Wilderness Camp. For more information please contact or (08) 9191 4646.