Whether you paddle on the river for a day or make an overnight adventure of it, this is the easiest and most picturesque way to see the gorge.
Exploring Katherine Gorge is an experience that will linger with you, long after you have left. Formed by thousands of years of water surging through the Katherine River sandstone, the thirteen gorges of the Nitmiluk National Park are a spectacle waiting for adventurers of all abilities to explore.
There is an abundance of sights and things to do at Katherine Gorge. The main highlights of the park include bushwalking, swimming, canoeing, viewing ancient Aboriginal art and camping.
Whether you paddle on the river for a day or make an overnight adventure of it, this is the easiest and most picturesque way to see the gorge. Kayak the tranquil waters to enjoy the striking scenery, and make the most of the quiet approach to observe the wildlife. There are river crossings, hill climbs, flat open country on the escarpment and creeks to traverse.
Complementing the magical gorges, the park abounds with wildlife, birdlife and fish. Fresh water crocodiles also inhabit the area, so keep an eye out at all times. All of these can be enjoyed while exploring one of the many walking tracks – there is an astonishing 100 kilometres of walking trails winding through the park!
Katherine Gorge has something for everyone with walking, kayaking and camping options involving varying levels of difficulty, but rewarding all with a breathtaking serenity that can’t be missed. Come prepared for walking and camping, with your tropical grade insect repellent handy at all times.
The dry season is the best time to visit, to avoid trails being cut off or water levels too dangerous for kayaks. During the dry season the waters in the gorge drop and most spots are ideal for swimming and paddling on the magnificent gorge. During the wet season the water levels rise again and the river moves with majestic fury. If you have your own kayak, make the most of it, or otherwise hire one. Be prepared however, to carry it between gorges depending on the water levels, so good hiking boots or aqua shoes are a must.
Hike the Jatbula Trail
Go off the beaten track and explore the extraordinary Jatbula Trail. This is a fascinating one way hike that traverses 66 kilometres of the gorge and follows the ancient song line of the Jawoyn people. The Arnhem Land escarpment winds its way along the gorge, and is an experience like no other. The hike takes you through remarkable scenery, waterfalls, shady monsoon forests, crystal clear creeks and Aboriginal Rock art with the terrain constantly changing.
The walk takes between four to five days to complete and commences at the Nitmiluk National Park Visitor Centre. Campsites along the trail accommodate limited numbers, which means camping is more serene.
Discover the escarpment and explore the gorge on one of many Southern Walks. This is effectively one long trail that follows the rim of the gorge with side-tracks down to different parts of the Katherine River.
The Baruwei Walk (via the lookout) is the shortest track. There is a steep climb near the boat ramp that takes you to a great lookout at the start of the gorge. Handrails and steps have been installed for the ease of walkers.
If you are a nature lover, the Butterfly Gorge walk takes you through to a beautiful shaded rainforest and rock pools with butterflies aplenty.
For explorers wanting to experience the wilderness, the Eighth Gorge Walk is for you. Detour to the Jawoyn Valley and see Aboriginal art sites. At the Eighth Gorge you are rewarded by an incredible waterfall and rock pool to swim and relax. Camp the night and enjoy the ambience of the warm Territory nights.
Kayak the Katherine Gorge
Adventurers choosing to explore the Katherine Gorge by kayak can paddle down crystal clear rapids, through paperbark forests and pandanus channels.
Take a day trip and paddle down the river and reach the extraordinary second gorge, surrounded by towering cliffs. Paddle to the third gorge where you can enjoy a picnic lunch and swim before turning back to the boat ramp.
Adventurers with more time (and stamina) can continue past the Third Gorge to Smitt’s Rock. Along the way there is pristine scenery and tranquil ambience as there are no boat engines! As you continue paddling down the river the scenery gets better. Set up camp for the night and hike to the top to the rim of the gorge to admire the panorama.
Even further down the river you can reach the Eighth Gorge, a sight to behold. The campsite is at the top of the rim and is sensational.
Swim at Leliyn (Edith) Falls
Take a dip at the gorgeous Leliyn Falls, a pandanus-fringed lagoon. The area consists of a number of falls and rock pools on the Edith River and is an idyllic place to stop, relax and enjoy the western side of the Nitmiluk National Park.
Hike along the Leliyn Trail, climbing into the escarpment where you can admire the panorama from the top. Next stop is the Upper Pool, with the option of walking the Sweetwater Pool Trail. Head to Sweetwater pool and camp overnight or turn back around and camp at Leliyn Falls.
The main lower pool is close to the carpark and grassy campground and is a fantastic place to swim. Set up camp and enjoy a barbeque and cold beverage at the end of a day of hiking and swimming!
Camping is available at the Gorge or Edith Falls. Powered sites are available at the gorge. Further information can be found at the Nitmiluk National Park - Nitmiluk Centre telephone (08) 8972 1886.
Nitmiluk Gorge Caravan and Camping Ground Leliyn (Edith) Falls Camping Ground YOUCAMP: Pine Creek Railway Resort
Jatbula Trail walk-in camping areas
Travellers must register and de-register at the Nitmiluk Centre.
- Biddlecombe Cascades
- Crystal Falls
- Seventeen Mile Flat
- Edith River Crossing
- Sandy Camp Pool
- Sweetwater Pool
Southern Walks walk-in camping areas
- Dunlop Swamp
- Smitt’s Rock
- Eighth Gorge
The Nitmiluk National Park, in the Top End of the Northern Territory, encompasses 292,800 hectares and is located 244 kilometres south-east of Darwin. The main entrance of the park is 30 kilometres from Katherine and the northern perimeter of the park borders Kakadu National Park. Leliyn (Edith) Falls, also located in the Nitmiluk National Park, is 42 kilometres north of Katherine.
There are two main seasons the wet (January to March/April) and dry season (April/May to September). The park is open throughout the year although the dry season is the best time to visit. There is seasonal flooding in the wet season, which may cut access roads and restricts the type of activities that are available.
Kayak trips can only be undertaken during the dry season. The number of kayaks allowed at any one time is limited, so book ahead.
Swimming is prohibited in the wet season as estuarine crocodiles may enter the water with the rising river levels. Swim only in designated swimming locations. Avoid using soaps and detergents in the waterways to avoid pollution and harm to aquatic life.
There are emergency call devices and checkpoint book registers along the Jatbula Trail. Overnight walkers are required to register with the Parks and Wildlife Commission at the Nitmiluk Centre.
Tropical grade insect repellent, long sleeved tops and pants at dawn and dusk are essential!