Nitmiluk [Katherine Gorge] National Park located 30 km northeast of Katherine which in itself is located 310 km south of Darwin along the Stuart Highway.
The park covers an area of 292,800 hectare and is jointly managed by the Parks and Wildlife Service of the Northern Territory and the traditional owners of the land the Jawoyn Aboriginal people.
On the western side of the National Park, Leliyn [Edith Falls] is accessed by a turning off the Stuart Highway, located 42 km north of Katherine, along a sealed road some 19 km from the point of entry.
The area is some billion years old when most of it was covered with shallow seas which were fed by numerous streams depositing sedimentary materials into them. During the Neogene Period, some 23 million years ago, Nitmiluk was formed by the sandstone and conglomerates deposits which were compressed into thousands of metres in thickness. Following a series of tectonic movements the area was subjected to periods of faulting, stretching, thinning, and lifting creating the foundations of the gorge. The Katherine River of the time was to zigzag a course through the fault lines and cracks eroding it in conjunction with adverse weather conditions during dry and wet seasons alike. This resulted in the deep gorges and spectacular landscape seen today.
As I previously mentioned in my Travel Log 10 – Kakadu: my wife and I travelled to Darwin in August 2011 to celebrate my 60th birthday. After spending the Big Day at there, the following day we treated ourselves to another long day out to Katherine Gorge and Edith Falls. We arranged the day trip through APT. We were picked us up from our hotel – Holiday Inn Esplanade – and were dropped back on the return. We should have stuck with AAT Kings had we known the driver was to give us all a headache by her constant chatter.
On route to Katherine we had a stop at Pine Creek to stretch our legs and look over the tiny settlement which boasted a railway museum and not much else. Katherine itself looked like a pretty little town and we were disappointed that APT felt it better to stop at Pine Creek than at Katherine which had so much more to offer.
The highlight of the day however was the Katherine Gorge Cruise which, because we were in the dry season, consisted of two cruises: one in the lower gorge, and then by disembarking and climbing up a pathway to the upper gorge to embark on the second leg of the cruise. Along the way one can see numerous examples of Aboriginal rock art. The return journey comprises of a reversal of the trip. In all, the “Gorge” comprises of a network of 13 separate gorges carved into the ancient sandstone by rapids and falls. The cruise lasts two hours and begins with a buffet lunch on board the boat, amongst freshwater crocodiles and an abundant bird life.
Following the cruise we are taken to the Nitmiluk Visitor Centre which displays large-scale models illustrating the fauna, flora and geological formations of the park. The centre also boasts a large selection of souvenirs and handmade artifacts of the Jawoyn people. I bought a nice shirt: had to buy something!!
On leaving the Visitor Centre the tour continues by taking us to Edith Falls. Here there is a large freshwater pond which is safe to swim in. My wife and I preferred to stay on Terra Firma as much as we were told the crocodiles here are not man eaters we weren’t brave enough like some in our party.
We returned to Darwin at approximately 9pm. A long day, but well worth it.
RLB – Tomewriter