The Gregory National Park
4WD track network comprises the Broadarrow, Wickham, Humbert, Bullita Stock Route, Gibbie, and Tukawam tracks. This trek takes you from south to north through some very remote country over its entirety or parts of the first four of these. However, the Park and this trek can also be accessed from the Buchanan Hwy in the east via Victoria River Downs
Access to the tracks is generally between June and November in the dry with the tracks progressively opening north to south with the Broadarrow usually the last in late July or August. More detailed information may be found in the NT Parks and Wildlife Commission’s Fact Sheet
and also their Info Sheet
NT Parks and Wildlife describe these tracks as being generally easy with some moderate to difficult sections. There can be some scratchy sections on the Broadarrow Track, and anywhere there are creeks with steepish entries and exits; and rocky sections abound. Care needs to be taken at all times. The Broadarrow is also notorious for punctures. The track is impossible to miss with virtually no alternative options or offtakes and is indicated extensively by boab themed markers and distance stakes. NT Parks and Wildlife advise against camper trailers, but good quality, high clearance, well articulated off-road trailers may be more suitable. Seek more information from NT Parks and Wildlife.
Most tracks are on fairly flat country although the country rises south of the Humbert River. There is one steep jump up (with a couple of false crests) on the Wickham Track and one difficult 'shaley' descent on the Bullita Stock Route. Three crossings, Humbert River and two East Baines, are tricky, not because of depth (only about 30cm in August 2009) but picking the correct line through the submerged ledges isn’t that easy - even allowing for the marker stakes. Having your navigator 'spot
' these sections will make life much easier.
Take care at the first East Baines crossing at Bullita where the sign says keep to the left of the markers, but if you venture too far left you might find a hole. The Bullita SR is particularly rocky and slow for the first 12 kms. All the tracks undergo wide meanders and zigzags as the route attempts to avoid the worst of the myriad creeks, breakaways, and rivers.
Camping is free at various cleared designated NT Parks and Wildlife sites (with the usual dinky fireplaces) on the tracks and wild camping (and loose firewood) is available everywhere. Water is obtainable at many places
along the track but quality would vary. Camping charges apply at the more 'facilitated' campgrounds such as Bullita campground on the East Baines River
. There are a number of swimming waterholes but plenty of croc areas as well, so take caution and heed the relevant signage.
Don’t miss the short one kilometre walk just to the north of the Fig Tree Yard turn off - it is not strenuous and provides great views, particularly in the late afternoon. There is another short walk in the area near the Humbert crossing to Police Creek Waterhole. It is also worth spending a bit of time at Bullita Outstation
as NT Parks and Wildlife have presented some interesting interpretive material.
From Bullita (should you not choose the challenging Stock Route option), there is a well maintained 2WD road to the Victoria
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EnvironmentGregory National Park
is located across the wet/dry tropics to semi arid transitional zone with monsoonal rains at one extreme to very dry seasons at the other. Average rain in the north is about 900mm/annum graduating down to 600mm/annum in the south, and leading to perceptible changes in vegetation mosaics. For instance, with pandanus decreasing in profusion on the water moving south and similarly for boabs on the flats. Many of the boabs are massive.
The Park straddles two broad physiographic units; the Victoria
River and Sturt Plateaux, the latter being located in the Park’s southwest. Landsystems comprise; tablelands, inland plains, gently sloping plateaux, rounded hills, watercourses, and ridges, hogbacks and mesas (breakaways).
Topography along the trek is moderately rugged with tracks circumventing the worst of extensive dissected river and creek systems, although there are extensive black soil plains with eucalypt woodland/savannah complexes in the south along the Broadarrow Track. At the time of travelling the Limestone Gorge road in the northern end was closed but is reportedly very scenic with extensive karst and other limestone formations. Other than this area, rocks in the southern sections of the Park are predominantly silt and sandstones or laterites.
Gregory NP has the typical mix of topend woodland trees with common species being the: boab (adansonia gregorii) , kapok tree (cochlospermum fraseri), bauhinia (lysiphylum cuninghamii), silver box (euc pruinosa), Darwin box (euc. tectifica), Darwin woolybutt (euc miniata), inland bloodwood (euc terminalis), and river redgum (euc camaldulensis) along the watercourses.
HistoryGregory National Park
is part of the Victoria
River District (VRD) and holds deep historical significance on many fronts. The whole of the area had been fully settled by Aboriginals as long as 40,000 years ago. Archaeological sites are common throughout the region and have been well documented. Archaeologists have conjectured that the VRD may have been one of the first Aboriginal colonisation points, being geographically close to the islands and land bridges to the north, and being relatively hospitable in wildlife and river and estuarine systems. Six language groups are represented in the region.
The first significant non-Aboriginal contacts arrived with European exploration. In 1819 Phillip King entered Joseph Bonaparte Gulf and the mouth of the Victoria
River. He was not followed until twenty years later in 1839 by Captain John Wickham and Commander John Stokes who entered and named the Victoria
Stokes’ favourable reports led eventually to the beginnings of land based exploration commencing with Augustus Gregory’s major Northern Exploration Expedition of 1855-56. Proceeding from a landing on the Victoria
River, Gregory initiated two trips simultaneously into the southern interior, exploring along the river systems of the region and opening up major new botanical finds under the Expedition’s botanist Ferdinand von Mueller. The iconic boab, Adansonia Gregorii is named after this important explorer.
Gregory was followed by Alexander Forrest in 1879 who was responsible for recommendations, which led to rapid pastoral expansion into the VRD, which at the time was one of the few remaining large areas holding unclaimed pastoral grasslands in Australia
, dominated by black soil plains, Mitchell and Flinders grasses, much wildlife and abundant water resources. Historic stations such as Wave Hill and Victoria
River Downs were established early under famous (today) pastoral identities and families such as the Buchanans, the Duracks, and the (infamous) Vesteys.
Despite its seeming promise, the pastoral expansion in the early years was only moderately successful, suffering from long distances for the cattle to be droved to either northern ports or to Queensland
stations. Cattle in the VRD would grow but they couldn’t be easily fattened through the extensive dry seasons, and they would mostly lose the condition they did have on the drives, to the extent that they would require significant re-finishing. And this was on the big runs.
There were many smaller interstitial 'stations' which appeared to operate mainly on a marginal 'parasitic' basis claiming cleanskin cattle under their own brands. Bullita in the Park was one of these. Everywhere there were the remote area privations of Aboriginal antagonism and spearings, loneliness, male dominated society, and non-availability of medical assistance, with significant incidences of death in labour for the few women who did make it to the early VRD.
Gradually the Aboriginals were co-opted into the pastoral workforces and economic interdependency until the 1960s, during which pastoral operations and Aboriginal experience changed forever. Opening of trafficable roads and advent of modern transport meant less reliance on Aboriginal labour. This combined with the modern land rights movement which began on Wave Hill Station (which shares its western boundary with GNP) when Vincent Lingiari and his people walked off the Vestey owned station and 'sat down' in the creeks.
After an epic struggle, Lingiari was successful in 1975 when Gough Whitlam personally handed him and his people formal ownership over their traditional lands, pouring the sands through Lingiari’s fingers - a significant Australian moment. A federal government NT lower house seat is named after him.