Daly River

Douglas Daly and The Daly River are in fact two separate localities some 111 km apart. The small settlements are off the Stuart Highway between Katherine and Tennant Creek. They are is little more than a tiny pub with a few air conditioned motel style units, a police station, and a free caravan park.

“The Daly” as the locals fondly refer to the River, begins where the Katherine and Flora Rivers intersect and flows across the north western portion of the Northern Territory to the Timor Sea. It encompasses the Daly River and the Douglas Daly Region. The Daly River is famous for its large barramundi and has proven to be one of the most popular waterways for recreational fishing and boating. There are two major annual fishing competitions on the Daly – the “Barra Classic” and the “Barra Nationals”. A number of properties along the river offer camping and accommodation facilities, food, fuel (not reliable), boat hire, fishing tours and river access.

Location: 224 km south of Darwin; 212 metres above sea level.

Places of Interest

The Arches and The Waterhole are located near Douglas Daly Tourist Park and are a part of the Douglas River Esplanade Conservation Area that protects part of the Douglas River and its riverine wildlife. It is an amazing place for natural formations of rocks, thermal pools, spa's and tufa's. Fishing and camping is available along the esplanade. Swimming is not recommended due to the presence of Saltwater Crocodiles.

Butterfly Gorge Nature Park

Butterfly Gorge Nature Park is 17km further on from the Douglas Hot Springs. The last few kilometres are for 4WD vehicles only. After a short walk you can swim in the rock pools and marvel at the paperbark trees that tower up to 50 metres in height. The park is known for the thousands of butterflies that seek shelter in the crevices of the sheer rock faces of this beautiful gorge. No pets, no camping. Note, the butterflies are not in masses all year round.

Oolloo Crossing has proven to be an excellent spot for Barramundi fishing in the early dry and for Black Bream all year round. It is a big river crossing which is now longer used by motor vehicles, particularly after rains. Being on the Daly River, it is a great fishing spot away from the crowds of the Daly River Area. There is camping available, but with no amenities it is therefore it is bush camping. In the dry season the road is accessible with 2WD vehicles. Swimming is not permitted due to the presence of Saltwater Crocodiles.

Fenton World War II airfield and aircraft graveyard

Fenton airfield was a World War II bomber base until it was abandoned in 1945. It was mainly utilised by Liberator bombers mounting long range raids against Japanese forces in the Netherlands East Indies North Western Area of Operations and the South West Pacific Area. The site is an outstanding example of a World War II heavy bomber airfield construction and layout, and is one of three surviving examples of heavy bomber airfields in the Katherine-Darwin region.

During its operational use Fenton Airfield was a major airfield, being headquarters for many Royal Australian Air Force Squadrons, and United States Army and Air Force units. Reconnaissance flights were flown over Timor Island, New Guinea and Celebres Islands, and attacks and armed reconnaissance missions were carried out against Japanese airfields, ground installations and shipping. On 29 February 1944 the USAAF 380th Bombardment Group flew a 16-hour mission from Fenton to Borneo, flying over 2,500 nautical miles (4,600 km; 2,900 mi).

Some aircraft pieces survive in the aircraft graveyard but the larger pieces were melted down at the end of World War II for their aluminium. A B24 Liberator tail was near complete in the 1980s but over the years it has been cut down by people with no sense of history trying out their cutting tools on aluminium. Fenton Airfield is located at Tipperary Station, Hayes Creek, Northern Territory. The airfield is open to the public; the main runway, taxiways and hardstands are accessible. Remnants of the control tower remain and items of aircraft wreckage can be found in the area. In aerial photographs, the remains of some roads that probably led to dispersed parts of the base away from the operations area such as the bomb dump and the administrative containment area are faintly visible, but no structures exist.

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Merrepen Arts Centre

Merrepen Arts Centre is located not far from the Daly River Crossing. It is a modern attractive centre which displays and sells Aboriginal art and crafts made by the local Nauiyu community. There are many examples of new mediums being used for traditional cultural expression. You can also see the artists creating their own works of art within the Centre. A permit is not required to visit the community. Merrepen Arts have a festival every year in May / June.

Douglas Hot Spring

Douglas Hot Spring is located 47km from the Stuart Highway via Oolloo Road. The last 7km is unsealed but generally accessible by 2WD vehicle. The springs are as hot as 60 Degrees and swimming is recommended in the cooler pools downstream. These springs attract a variety of wildlife. Camping is available. No Pets. Open in the Dry Season depending on rain April to November.

Copper mine relics

Commercial copper mining commenced in the Daly River area in 1883 and continued sporadically over the following 26 years. Machinery relics of the Northern Territory's first commercial mining enterprise and the graves of four mine employees are visible on a Discovery Trail to the site. Other trails lead to Surprise Creek Falls and a Giant Ant Hill.

Uniya Jesuit Mission Ruins

100 year old ruins can be seen near the entrance to the Daly River Mango Farm. These ruins give an insight into the influence of the Jesuit missionaries in the Daly River region between 1886 and 1899.

In the 1880s attempts were made to introduce agriculture, pastoralism and mining to the region. The aboriginal people of the Daly were strong defenders of their country, and suffered a vicious massacre in reprisal for an attack on five copper miners who were thought to have abused the local women.

Following the massacre, the Jesuits tried to introduce the people to Christianity and a farming life style. After a few years the Mission was moved downstream to Hermit Hill next to a large Billabong now called Mission Hole on Elizabeth Downs Cattle station. After a couple of years at Hermit Hill the Mission was moved to Wooliana. They built a church, school, sheds, farm etc. but in 1899 a big flood washed everything away and the Jesuits were then withdrawn by their Superior. The mission was known as Uniya because of its proximity to the Aboriginal site Wuniya. The name is said to be a local Aboriginal word meaning either "bend in the river" or "meeting place".

Brief history

Copper was discovered in 1882 and the area was invaded by miners. In 1884 the miners were involved in a major altercation with the local Aborigines after three of their number were killed. A year later, a Roman Catholic mission was established to help ease tensions. Attempts to settle the area and establish peanut, tobacco and sorghum farms were made in 1911, the 1920s and 1967 but they all failed.

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