A visit to Katherine Gorge in the Nitmiluk National Park

Thursday, Jul 30, 2009 at 00:00


The beauty of the towering cliffs along the Katherine River is an internationally well known attraction.

We headed around thirty kilometres north east from the town along the Katherine River valley past Mango orchards to the Nitmiluk National Park at Katherine Gorge. Nitmiluk means Place of the Cicada. Nitmiluk National Park encompasses 292,800 hectares, and adjoins Kakadu National Park to the north. Nitmiluk was acquired by the Jawoyn people in 1989 under land rights and is leased to Parks NT.

A large visitor centre taking bookings for accommodation, helicopter and boats rides and canoe hire was packed with bus loads of tourists. The big commercial caravan park was very different from the campgrounds we were used to finding in National Parks.

As the late afternoon air cooled a little, we took the steep climb to the lookout over the Gorge as the boats returned down the River. We took the Baruwei woodlands walk along the escarpment as it widens away from the river. The trail then looped back to the campground as we completed our walk in fading daylight.

This walk also forms the first part the 39 kilometre southern walks trail, which has spur walks to reach different features along the Gorge heading upstream. Some of the walks are quite challenging. Taking these adds a considerable distance to the overall walk. Overnight camping is permitted only at designated places, and walkers must register before leaving and ensure they deregister on return. Registering for day walks is optional. We had chosen a much easier way.

For the more adventurous, the 58 kilometre Jatbula Trail, which links Katherine Gorge and Leliyn (Edith Falls) and can be completed over four or five days.

Next morning we took the boat tour through the first two gorges. There are a total of thirteen gorges, each separated by rock barriers during the dry season. Gorges become progressively smaller heading upstream. Boat tours can be taken through three gorges, and each entrance involves a short walk to moored smaller boats for the next section.

The evening boat tour with dinner served on board is a very popular cruise of the first two gorges, during which they light up the gorge walls. The breakfast cruise was also highly recommended. We had neighbouring caravanners who took these tours and both parties were very enthusiastic about the range and quality of meals served.

Canoes can be hired, or if using own canoes, registration and a small fee is required. Power boats can only be used in the gorge outside of the months of June, July and August, and again registration is necessary. Fishing may be undertaken by lure only – no bait.

The first gorge is 3.2 kilometres long and eight metres deep, to thirteen metres deep during a normal wet season.

The second gorge is 2.4 kilometres long. During the floods of 1998, water was only fifteen metres from the tops of the cliffs in this gorge, and almost as high again in 2006.

Jedda’s Leap rises a sheer 63 metres above the water and was used for the final seen in the movie Jedda when the lovers leap to their deaths. However this scene was not the one shown in the movie as a plane crash resulted in the loss of the films taken, and in haste, the scene was reconstructed in the Blue Mountains.

Sandstone was laid down 1,650 million years ago then 250 million years ago it was uplifted and a rift formed which now forms the river system through the gorge.

Every sandy beach showed evidence of Freshwater Crocodile tracks. These are the nesting sites, with around 13 eggs being laid per nest between July and September.

Read more detail about this trip and see all the photos in our 2009 travelogues at http://www.australiasomuchtosee.com/australiasomuchtosee_002.htm


Red desert dreaming

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