Katherine Gorge

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.

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Exploring the gorges

During the dry season, boat tours are conducted up two of the numerous gorges through which the Katherine River flows. There are a number of Katherine Gorge Cruises available from an easy two hour cruise with or without a short walk to a four hour tour/cruise that includes some walking. For those who are fit and enjoy a bit of rock climbing a strenuous full day adventure of cruising and walking is available. Katherine Gorge Cruises also have options of a Dawn Break Breakfast cruise and Nabilil Dreaming Sunset Cultural Cruise.

Visitors can also kayak the gorge (half, full day and overnight trips) or walk along the cliff tops via the Park's 100 km of marked walking trails. These trails also lead to various waterfalls and lookouts. Scenic flights in helicopters or fixed wing aircraft give a unique perspective to the area's extensive gorge system.

You can discover Katherine Gorge at your own pace in a rental canoe or fly over by a helicopter. Spend a night in Katherine at one of the many hotels, motels or resorts or at Donkey Camp Bed and Breakfast to let you maximise your time.

More information Ph (08) 8972 1886. Website >>

Location: 30 km east of Katherine, 244 km southeast of Darwin.

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