Cutta Cutta Cave and Katherine in the Northen Territory

Wednesday, Jul 29, 2009 at 00:00


Although there is so much more to visit than caves and hot springs at Katherine, we start at Cutta Cutta Cave to the south of the town.

Cutta Cutta

Twenty seven kilometres south of Katherine, Cutta Cutta is the only cave currently open to the general public in the 1,499 hectare Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park and other karsts in this Tindal limestone belt.

The Cutta Cutta caves were probably formed about twenty million years ago when the climate was much wetter. The limestone layer found throughout the Katherine district was laid down under a shallow sea in the Cambrian period (590 – 505 million years ago) and marine fossils can be found in the local rocks.

Being seasonally wet and dry, this cave is different to the wet caves we have visited in other states. Stalactites are not as fine and delicate as in the southern latitudes. There are very few stalagmites as the rocks are smooth and hard to the deposits to start a stalagmite. Fig tree roots dangle from the stalactites.Limestone caves are not common in tropical areas of Australia.

The guided one hour tour of the cave takes visitors through 250 metres of its 750 metre length. It may be closed during the wet season due to flooding.

On first entering the cave, it was cool, but became much warmer as we descending into the warm and steamy air. We were descending down into hot springs, part of the same underground system that comes to surface in Katherine.


Katherine, being the fourth largest town in the Northern Territory, offers all services and a good range of shops. It is the gateway to the Katherine Gorge in Nitmiluk National Park; one of the must-see destinations in north of the Northern Territory. For those heading to the Kimberley in Western Australia via the Victoria Highway, Katherine is the departure point.

Within the townsite, hot springs which come out of the ground at a comfortably warm 32º F these have been made easy to access with steps, boardwalks, and concrete sides to the stream.

The Katherine River is subject to flooding, with the highest recorded being in January 1998 when tropical cyclone Les dump water in the river catchment area causing the river to swell and peak at 20.4 metres, inundating the town and a surrounding area of 1,000 square kilometres. In April 2006 there was very little warning for the flood which peaked at around 19 metres. Again the entire town was flooded.

Knotts Crossing is a former river crossing which forms a small dam on the Katherine River. This is the site of the original township of Katherine when it was little more than an Overland Telegraph Line Repeater Station and a Hotel in the early 1970s. The crossing was named after the Knott family who were the first people to farm on the north side of the river.

We had come to Katherine to see much more than this, so headed out to the Nitmiluk National Park and the lovely Katherine Gorge. More coming soon.

Read more detail about this trip and see all the photos in our 2009 travelogues at Travelogues 2009


Red desert dreaming

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