A must-see for visitors, the Gorge is located in Nitmiluk National
Park and is one of the most spectacular areas in the country, winding
12 km with walls more than 70m high. Formed 23 million years ago as
torrents of water poured along tiny cracks in the earth, it in fact a
maze of 13 separate gorges that are are interconnected in the wet. The
gorges can be explored by canoe and flat bottomed boat. In the dry
season the gorges become separated as the level of the river falls.
During the Dry, roughly from April to October, the Katherine Gorge
waters are placid in most spots and ideal for swimming and canoeing.
There may be freshwater crocodiles in most parts of the river, as they
nest along the banks, but they are harmless to humans. Saltwater
crocodiles regularly enter the river during the wet season, when the
water levels are very high, and are subsequently removed and returned
to the lower levels at the onset of the dry season. Thus, swimming in
the wet season is prohibited. Cruises of various lengths go as far as
the fifth gorge.
Previously named Katherine Gorge National Park, its northern edge
borders Kakadu National Park. The gorges and the surrounding landscape
have great ceremonial significance to the local Jawoyn people, who are
custodians of Nitmiluk National Park. In Jawoyn, Nitmiluk means "place
of the cicada dreaming".
Wildlife: Freshwater Crocodiles are widely distributed along the
river year-round. During the wet season, rises in water levels may
allow Saltwater Crocodiles to enter the gorge, where they are caught
and relocated to lower levels when the dry season begins. Birds that
can be seen include Ospreys, Red-tailed Black Cockatoos, Great
Bowerbirds, White-gaped Honeyeaters and Red-winged Parrots. Part of the
Yinberrie Hills Important Bird Area, identified as such by BirdLife
International because of its importance for endangered Gouldian
Finches, lies in the park.