Once called Edith Falls, but known to the Jawoyne people as Leliyn, this is one walk I’d encourage everyone to do.
Situated about 1 hour from Katherine, it is part of Nitmiluk National Park. You can get a campsite if you’re very, very lucky, by asking at the kiosk, first thing.
There is a relatively short and easy walk from the start of the carpark, by which you can return or a longer return, 2.6km, affording views of the falls and the gorge, giving a ‘bigger’ view of the whole.
The top falls provide a refreshing swimming opportunity that is usually less crowded, as many don’t take the walk. You can sit under that short (4m?) fall, or swim nearby, and there are several access points, not all being slimy!
The different return trip, while providing views, can be slippery in parts, with dusty rocks or rubble.
Once you’re at the base, you cross the bridge that looks out onto the major gorge, with the 12m falls in the distance.
A few people had noodles to assist them in the swim there, but it’s less than a km, with little current.
Be aware of water pythons, as my husband had one swim against his legs as he was approaching the ladder to get out. I don’t think they have us on the menu, and it was pretty small, but it can be a trifle unexpected.
Enjoy a relaxing stretch in the sun or shade while you have lunch, buy something from the kiosk, or walk back to the carpark, reading the information boards as you go.
We are travelling from the Winter of the South to the warmth of the Northern Territory and have landed in Darwin, the capital, only to experience a 3-day lockdown. I thought it was a great opportunity to recount some of the walks we have done and iconic stops we made, between the border and here. When we are free to move on, there are more walks awaiting, but they can be added at another rest stop.
#1 Baruwei Loop, Nitmiluk National Park
This walk is the shortest in the park, and you could just go to the lookout and back for an even shorter one. The direction we took, at the advice of the ranger, was back out through the entrance to the Visitor Centre, where all walks can begin, and along the flat, dry sandstone path, following the clearly marked yellow tags.
After about 1km the vegetation changes and the track commences an uphill gradient. It is moderately steep, with long flats and tyres(?) on the edges, to create what I find are pleasant steps. The path was well-shaded at about 10 in the morning and palms and grasses, called ‘transition woodland’ create a beautiful frame.
At the top of the 2km climb it flattens out and there is a turnoff to the other southern walks. My pre-reading led me to believe these were for the ‘well-prepared’ walkers, intending to spend the day(s) trekking. However, when we got back, I overheard a couple being directed this way to the Butterfly Gorge Walk where, at the destination, you can swim. It’s 4.5 km return, and we’d have started out earlier in the day to do that, but it would definitely be on our ‘next time’ list.
Onward we went and the vegetation changed again, with Kapok trees everywhere, in flower and fruit and plateau sandstone creating some interesting rock formations and gullies. Information boards appear at each change of environment, explaining the landforms, creatures, plants and importance to the Aboriginal custodians. Many of the plants have medicinal properties, such as spinifex.
Actually, I’d seen kapok flowers and fruit before and had forgotten their name, so when I got back I asked the ranger and she told me, along with the fact that the Jawoyn people used it to tell the seasons. When the flowers appear, the fresh water crocs start mating, the green fruit, which can be eaten, signifies that the crocs will be burying their eggs and when the fruit is brown and dry and starts opening to release white fibre, the young crocs are hatching and getting in the water. Brilliant, right?
The path is level or with a downward trend for about 1km and we passed water tanks where we caught a glimpse of the river, before heading down to the lookout. Nothing really captures the majesty and beauty of the Gorge. Having done the cruise before, I’d highly recommend that people do that to get the full extent of the variation and size of it, as well as a swim at the end in this timeless location. We could see a boat, below, and looked down the long valley.
To return to the Visitor Centre from here, there are many narrow, steep stairs. If you took this way as your approach, even if you returned, it would take some time due to the climb. An easy downhill way, though and we passed by about 300m of bat-laden trees, marveling at their attempts to fan themselves cool, while not choosing shady spots in the trees.
The Visitor Centre is gorgeous and a bird ( I think it was a blue-faced honey eater) fluttered around in the rafters while we sat on the deck, in the breeze, eating our fruit. You can book tours or do your own and there is plenty of information and some souvenirs, too.
The path is wide and relatively flat most of the way, until you get to the lookout. The walk took us the predicted 2 hours and we were not hurrying or brisk.
Absolutely carry water, wear a hat and apply sunscreen. Have an experience.