Leliyn Falls & Nitmiluk National Park

Day 6: We headed west on the Kakadu Highway to Pine Creek, where we stopped for a cuppa near the water garden in the town centre, then continued south on the Stuart Highway, before detouring about 20km to Leliyn Falls, on the Edith River, in the western part of Nitmiluk National Park. There’s a beautiful paperbark and pandanus fringed pool at the base of the falls, a footbridge over the Edith River, gardens with information booths and a kiosk, and a large shady camping area. If we hadn’t booked into the camping ground in Nitmiluk National Park, we would have stayed – it was so peaceful. Leliyn FallsSwimmers at Leliyn FallsThe crystal clear water allowed a view of tiny fish, swimming near stone steps, and the river bed below. Tiny FishEdith RiverOn the way back to Stuart Highway, we stopped to get a closer look at the Yellow Kapok (Cochlospermum fraseri) which we’d seen throughout our trip. Yellow Kapok (Cochlospermum fraseri)In Katherine, the fourth largest settlement in the Territory, we stocked up on food supplies, before heading to Nitmiluk National Park about 30km to the northeast. Nitmiluk (pronounced Nit-me-look) means cicada (Nitmi) place. There are 13 gorges carved in the sandstone by the Katherine River.
We checked into the campground at the Nitmiluk Visitor Centre, and looked at the information displays about the geology of the park, with a model of the gorges, and the history and culture of the traditional owners, the Jawoyn people, and earlier European contact. One display contrasted the way non-indigenous people tend to view the burnt landscape as destroyed, with the Jawoyn people’s use of burning to clean up and manage the land. We enjoyed a drink on the beautiful shaded veranda of the Sugarbag Cafe – part of the visitor centre, which overlooks the Katherine River. On the way to the campground, we stopped in the garden of the visitor centre, to watch butterflies dancing in vertical spirals in garden beds (wish I’d had my camera with me), and a couple of wallabies being patted by young European tourists. In the campground, we had a swim in the pool before cooking dinner and having a relatively early night.
Day 7: We pre-booked a two-hour Dawn Cruise of the first two gorges, and met in the dark at the jetty near the Nitmiluk Visitor Centre. It was really cold, and unlike the dawn cruise on Yellow Water Billabong, where the rising sun quickly warmed the flat landscape, the steep cliff walls shaded the river, particularly in the first gorge. Sunlight Around The BendSunrise on the Gorge WallSunrise Tops GorgeGorge WallsSecond GorgeAfter the cruise, we watched a flock of little red flying foxes roosting – they huddled close together, and seemed irritable and itchy, scratching themselves and noisily squabbling with each other. Little Red Flying FoxesRoosting Bat As we packed up the camper van I noticed a bower bird in the tree overhead. Bower BirdNitmiluk Scenic Flights depart from a helipad about 3km from the Nitmiluk Visitor Centre. We arrived in plenty of time for our pre-booked 11:00am flight over eight gorges which included a landing on top ridge rocky country, where there is no road access, and we looked down onto a beach in the gorge below. View Over Gorge Beach The flight wasn’t as spectacular as it looked in the advertisement (the helicopter didn’t fly between the gorge walls) but it did give an interesting overview of the Katherine River and the gorges. We probably wouldn’t do it again, but we were glad to have the experience.

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