The Fitzroy River is located in the West Kimberley region of Western Australia.
The Fitzroy River was discovered in 1837 by George Grey
in the H.M.S. Beagle
. The river was subsequently named by Lt J L Stokes on 26/2/1838 after the second Commander of that ship, Captain Robert FitzRoy
R.N. The Fitzroy River flows for 750 km from the King Leopold
and Mueller Ranges
into King Sound
south of Derby
, and has a catchment area of 90,000 km2
The surrounding area is also known as the Fitzroy Valley and is a distinct physiographic section of the larger Canning Basin
province, which in turn is part of the larger West Australian Shield
Extensive flooding during the wet season created a need for an adequate crossing. It was because of this that the town of Fitzroy Crossing
was founded. When it floods the Fitzroy River is an awesome sight. In 1935, the Fitzroy got its first bridge - a low level concrete structure, which was built up into a wider structure in 1958. This bridge could be closed for several months at a time during the wet weather and travellers were then forced to use a flying fox
, which operated about 200 metres south of the crossing. When a new bridge was erected in 1974, the focus of the town grew away from its original site. The current town of Fitzroy Crossing
is one of the fastest growing in the Kimberley
Record floods occurred in 1983, 1986 and 2002 with approximately 13 metres of water over the old concrete crossing. The flow rate down the 15 kilometre wide flood plain at Fitzroy Crossing was estimated to be 30,000 cubic metres per second. In flood, it is probably the largest river in Australia.
Damming of the Fitzroy
The Fitzroy River was diverted in the 1950s as part of the failed Camballin Irrigation Scheme to store the water to irrigate crops of cotton, sorghum and other feed crops.
There have been other proposals over time to dam the river at Dimond Gorge.
In April 2007 W.A. opposition leader Paul Omodei announced plans to dam the river, should he become elected, in order to provide a water source for a new irrigation venture to replace the Murray-Darling Basin which has experienced significant water shortages as a result of the drought. His 20 year plan also included piping the water further south as an additional source for the Perth Integrated Water Supply Scheme.
- History of the flooding of the Fitzroy River Boab babbler, 12 March 1993, p.25