Humpty Doo

A small settlement, it was the site of one of Australia's great failed post-war agricultural experiments.

Location: 47 kms from Darwin on the Arnhem Highway.

Places of Interest

Humpty Doo Uniting Church (an unusual open air church without walls); The Big Boxing Croc; Fogg and Harrison Dams (part of a failed irrigation project); Reptile World; Coastal Plain Research Station; Jumping Crocodile Adelaide River boat tours.


Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve

Fogg Dam, one of the irrigation dams built in the 1950s, is situated on the Adelaide River floodplains 25 km east of the town, and is one of few publically accessible natural wetland environments in the Top End all year round. The reserve is a wildlife refuge, and is significant both as a remnant of the failed Territory Rice Ltd venture, and its cultural significance to the local Aboriginal people.


Window on the Wetlands

Window On The Wetlands is an interpretive centre that provides an insight into the Adelaide River floodplain to the east of Darwin. The centre's observation deck offers panoramic views across the Wetlands, which were the locality of a failed attempt to grow rice in the NT in the 1950s. Window on the Wetlands Visitor Centre is perched on Beatrice Hill, one of the highest points on the Adelaide River floodplain. The Adelaide River is one of eight rivers in the Top End which have large floodplains in their catchments. Together, their floodplains create a great expanse of coastal wetlands, one of the rarest and most threatened land systems in the world. They are collectively known as the northern coastal wetlands. The Visitor Centre provides an introduction to the northern coastal wetlands. There are interactive displays about the ecological processes that occur in the wetlands, the seasonal changes and the abundant wildlife. Touchscreen computers help you explore the European and Aboriginal history of the region as well as find out what you can see and do in the area.


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Jumping Crocodile Tours

Jumping Crocodile Tours, on the Adelaide River near Humpty Doo, give a rare opprtunity to see crocodiles in their natural habitat but in complete safety. On each tour, a single crocodile is fed by a tour guide who coaxes the giant creature out of the water.

Brief history

The goldrushes to the Northern Territory in the 1880s brought an influx of Chinese miners and the area around Humpty Doo. They grew rice successfully, as had German botanist Dr. Maurice Holtze in Darwin whose experiments growing rubber, sugar and rice indicated that tropical crops could be grown successfully in the NT.

Nothing further became of it until 1954 when, after considerable experimentation by CSIRO, a scheme to irrigate the sub coastal plain of the Adelaide River and produce a commercial rice crop was instigated. 303,000 hectares of land on the floodplain were irrigated but wild buffalo and rats destroyed the paddy fields, birds consumed the seeds as fast as they were sown and the soil proved to be too saline and the drainage inadequate. By 1959 the paddy fields had been abandoned.

Origin of name

The name was first recorded in 1910 for a cattle station called 'Umpity Doo' held by Oscar Herbert. A number of explanations for the origin of the name have been suggested. One source claims it is taken from the Army slang term "umpty" used by military personnel in the area during the war years for the dash when reading morse. Author W Hatfield in his book, 'I Find Australia' (1943), claims that the name is derived from the colloquialism "everything done wrong or upside down". Elsie Masson's book, 'Untamed Territory', (1914) refers to the picturesque Umdidu, which was translated by a journalist in 1953 into 'Umdudu'. This was supposed to be an English language corruption of an aboriginal term which meant "a popular resting place".

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