Nit­miluk NP

Info: When to go: June-September Grade: Mod­er­ate-chal­leng­ing (dis­tance de­pen­dent)

Australian Geographic Outdoor - - 6 of the Best -

AFANTASTIC MUL­TI­DAY (be­tween three and five) Top End ca­noe­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, pad­dling through eight of the nine gorges that com­prise Kather­ine Gorge, in Nit­miluk Na­tional Park, should be on ev­ery pad­dler’s Aussie bucket list. This wa­ter-borne jour­ney has many high­lights through­out, in­clud­ing the ob­vi­ous es­cape from ‘civil­i­sa­tion’ (in the form of tourist boats and crowds), the steep, red cliffs of the gorge walls, plus the chance to spot some of the area’s fa­mous na­tive wildlife, in­clud­ing tur­tles, wa­ter mon­i­tors and freshwater croc­o­diles.

The pad­dling it­self is not too stren­u­ous – it will be the portages be­tween gorges that re­quire the most ef­fort – and if you do get too hot, tired or other­wise, you can sim­ply pull in at one of the many sandy beaches along the gorge(s) and take a dip in the re­fresh­ing wa­ter. The NT Parks rec­om­mends the fifth gorge as the limit if you’re just up for a day-pad­dle, but we’d highly rec­om­mend pack­ing your camp­ing gear and push­ing fur­ther into the more re­mote parts of the sys­tem – all the way to gorge nine if you can, but at least to the sixth gorge (Gorges 6 and 7 have nu­mer­ous rock bars to portage).

You will need to be self-suf­fi­cient if you opt for an overnight or longer jour­ney (and source the ap­pro­pri­ate ca­noe camp­ing per­mits). The re­wards for the ex­tra ef­fort (pack­ing ad­di­tional gear and hav­ing to ne­go­ti­ate the some­times chal­leng­ing portages over rock bars and rapids) are, most of­ten, hav­ing these more re­mote sec­tions en­tirely to your­self. High­lights along the way in­clude But­ter­fly Gorge in Gorge 2, with its short walk, and the hang­ing gar­dens the re­sult of wa­ter seep­ing from the es­carp­ment down the cliff face, re­sult­ing in plants grow­ing out of the bare rock walls not much fur­ther on. Gorge 3 in­cludes pretty Lily Ponds, a short walk to a swim­ming hole be­low a wa­ter­fall (still usu­ally run­ning in June) and a sub­lime beach­side camp­site – one of many through­out the gorge sys­tem. The fourth gorge camp­site even has a loo (as does the camp­site at Gorge 6), but is also at the end of some tough portag­ing. Still, if you’ve al­lowed your­self around three to four days, there’s no rush to get to the end, plus you can al­ways turn back and take even longer on the re­turn jour­ney, stop­ping off at ev­ery beach you see along the way for a cool­ing swim.

Things to remember? Take plenty of wa­ter, food and loads of sun pro­tec­tion; dur­ing the day you will be mostly pad­dling un­der clear blue skies as it will be the Dry Sea­son. If you’re a keen an­gler, pack a fish­ing rod (lures only in the gorges; bag limit is five fish) but please prac­tice catc­hand-re­lease un­less you plan to cook your catch that night at camp.

Hir­ing a ca­noe (or bring­ing your own) means you get to re­ally ex­pe­ri­ence the magic of Nit­miluk.

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