Nitmiluk (the aboriginal name for Katherine Gorge) is a beautiful National Park comprising 13 gorges carved out by the Katherine River over 23 million years ago. Only the first six gorges are accessible and the best way to explore the Katherine is by canoe.
We arrived at the dock at 8:00 and reserved a canoe for the entire day which would allow us enough time to explore the first three gorges. I had wanted to rent a canoe for two days and camp overnight exploring gorges 3-6 the second day. Unfortunately overnight trips were not allowed due to heavy rain the week prior. We keep hearing that the rainy season has come early, but so far the weather has been dry during the day. We thought the weather was perfect being warm but breezy and partly cloudy with baby blue skies.
We struggled to paddle against the current and wind through the first gorge making for a more strenuous morning workout than we had expected. We came to a fork in the river, to the left was a rapid and to the right was a sign indicating we continue to the right. All of the gorges are separated from each other by rapids, a fact we did not know until we stumbled upon the rapid separating the second and third gorge. At first we thought we had somehow made a wrong turn as there is no way anyone could paddle through this rapid! Unsure the best way to get past we waded through the rapids pushing the canoe over rocks. This idea seemed much easier than the actual execution of our plan. The rapids were quick and strong but we had no choice but to fight our way through or get carried back down the river. Around the bend we noticed a canoe resting on the bank and a couple was waving at us attempting to direct us to shore. Fifteen minutes later we pushed through the rapids exhausted by our efforts. The guy on the beach yelled out to us, “Nice work, do you girls want a sausage?” I would never turn down a free snag and was feeling quite hungry after battling the rapids. Dan and Jen greeted us at the shore helping to secure the canoe. Jen said that they had tried to cross over the same way we had but after almost flipping their canoe in this effort they found an alternate route down shore and carried the canoe overhead. They were your typical friendly Aussies insisting that we help them eat their food. After a snag and a burger we climbed back in the canoe to paddle to the end of gorge while Dan and Jen decided to go fishing.
Stacy and I agreed that gorge #2 was by far the most beautiful.
We stopped at a beach and went for a hike stumbling upon a beautiful waterfall and water hole that we got to enjoy by ourselves. After a refreshing swim Stacy and I both fell asleep on top of the big warm rocks surrounding the water.
The way back was easier since we were going with the current. We didn’t have to return the boat until 4:30 so we were quite leisurely in our efforts to get back. We took turns paddling while the other rested. I leaned back in my seat admiring the rugged beauty of the jagged cliffs. Ancient aboriginal spirits are said to protect the land and as I closed my eyes the sound of the water hitting the walls of the cave sounded like tribal drumming. The river was so peaceful that I fell asleep.
Exhausted from a strenuous day we took ourselves to the nearby hot springs soaking our sore muscles for hours. A beautiful ending to a beautiful day!
For more information about Katherine Gorge or to book a canoe trip, contact Nitmiluk Visitor Centre:
Telephone: (08) 8972 1253
Katherine Gorge Website
To see more photos of Katherine Gorge Click Here