Nathan River rd,
(Roper Bar to Borroloola)
The road between Borroloola
and Katherine via Roper Bar doesn't appear on alot of maps. If
it does it is usually indicated as a very rough 4x4 road.
Well I am here to let you know that things have changed over the
years. (I'm rewriting my once glowing reports of this stretch of
road July 2005 & 22 Sept 05) -
OK this is old & now
outdated in 2008.
OK its Feb 2008
and the latest report from the guys at the Limmen River Fishing
Camp (half way along road) is that the road is surprisingly good
for this time of year, "the wet" but we still have a few months
of rain to come yet)
This road is part of the
Way alternate route "Broome to Cairns"
I have road maps ready for download on the LHS.
The "No fuel for 360km" sign near Roper Bar Heading to
Borroloola or Cape Crawford
We have just been been over it
mid-July 2005 & late
& the road quality is
the worst it has been for years. The grader & work
crews have done some nice looking work North of the Limmen River
(15 kms worth) (but huge bull dust holes have appeared at
various newly finished roadworks, & huge stretches of
corrugations & sharp stones in between. So it's Sloppy work!
or a piss poor NT Govt road funding deal) This road is
chewing up tyres,(4 vehicles did tyres out of the 7 at the
Butterfly Springs camp on the same day we did) with bad rocky
corrugations, ie 1km stretches. Caravans are sitting on 10-15km
hr for long periods. (Actually they are being left at Cape
Crawford) So lift your game NT Tourism / Parks! You are
promoting this stretch & people on the ground are not happy!
Don't get me wrong, you will get there even towing a van (plenty
have), but it is a SLOW going road ie 40-60 km hr if you treasure
your tyres. Maybe I just like getting there quick because I've been
over it before??
I have just traveled over it again in late
& grader work has improved the top 100 km from Roper Bar to Port
Roper Turn off. plus the 20 km south where grader was at time.
Unfortunately the rest of the road is still crap & I did another
tyre. Passed 8 vehicles & had only 5 oncoming for the 360 km.
Budget Report for 2006-2007 is that another $150,000 is to be spent
on the road improving/grading shoulders etc (But no doubt that will
be too late for most of the tourists that trek this way. How far
will $150K go???
I first traveled this track in 1995 en-route to Borroloola and it
was a fairly rough station road, lonely and slow going road that chewed up tyres.
I do recall a hot November afternoon changing a tyre near the Nathan
River Station Airstrip (which looked as bad as the road). Over the
years you would often travel this road without seeing another
vehicle, however the last few years has seen it utilised by more and
If we leave the Stuart Highway south of Mataranka , you travel on
130 km of single lane bitumen before you hit the gravel (When I say
single lane , I mean it is just big enough for 1 vehicle ) (Built
for triple trailer road trains to cart cattle off the stations)
(Actually they are in the process of bitumising the last 35 km
to Roper Bar in 2004/2005)(or so I thought until my trip in July
2005....bloody political announcements)
another vehicle is coming towards you you decide how you are going
to tackle the situation, ie both vehicles stradle the road, or stay
on while the other goes off.
One thing everyone agrees on is get off the road
if a road train or caravan is coming, as less rocks in the air
is good for your windscreen.
Single lane Roper Highway 130 km bitumen
There is a wondrous little spot down on the Roper River
known to the local Aboriginals as Snake Dreaming. It is a
picturesque little waterlilly filled billabong. There is a sacred
site in the area which is off limits to all.
A few easy spots to pull up for a camp as there
is a gravel scrape and an old staging post as you get amongst
the rock formations that are close to the road. Within a few
Kilometres of the Aboriginal Community of Budawarka.
The track down to the Roper River & "Snake
Dreaming" (Water Gauge station) is opposite the main gravel
The Roper Bar crossing used to be the site of an old Police
station , the road across the river is just a slab of concrete that
can get a bit slippery.
I last went fishing there in April 2004 while it still had a good flow &
claimed a few nice Barra. It was refreshing to see some Interstate
lads catch a huge Barra, get their photos & drop it back in the
river. Either way, when you walk (shuffle) across while it is
flowing strongly just over knee deep and it is 4 AM in the morning,
you are croc bait. (Never again!)
In this area is the Roper Bar Store which has fuel (Not exactly
cheap at $1.50 unleaded July2005). By the time
most people get to see the bar, there is only a slight flow going
over & it is easy to cross
Roper Bar Crossing July 2005 before the wheel
It is also here that you turn off the Roper Highway and enter the
Nathan River Road. It is here that the road sometimes changes
character and looks like no-one has traveled it in a while.
The road follows the Roper River for another 90 km , with several
clear camp spots and a boat ramp along the way before heading due
South at the Port Roper intersection (that road had a closed sign
Since it has now been called the Savannah way (or this part of it
is) there are noted Information points of interest along the way.
Limmen River Fishing Camp is about half way along
the Nathan River Road. It is about 24 km off the main road and has all
the facilities that you would need to have a good bush camp. It is
still an untapped resource in the Northern Territory, being isolated
from the main North/South Stuart Highway traffic. The Limmen River
fishing Camp is one of those locations where you can really experience
Territory bush living.
The photo here is of the gates which may still
need to be opened as you enter pass through & leave Nathan River
Station. Best to travel with passengers :-) so they can do the
leg work. Actually nowadays the gates are permanently open.
Two of the Lost City rock formations are here.
You can do a chopper flight in from Heartbreak Hotel (Cape
Crawford) or see the Southern Lost City about 4 km off the road.
The Tourists (4 carloads we spoke to) camping at Butterfly
Springs were pissed off at not being able to gain access to the
Western Lost City (Key needed?) The Ranger was missing (I
suppose it was the Katherine show weekend)(& I can always wander down another
time, but they cannot)
Nathan River Station gates on main hwy now permanently open.
Lost City South Walk
After visiting Lawn Hill Gorge in 2005 & going
back home to Katherine via the "back way" (Limmen National Park)
I feel that this year (2005) this stretch of road lets the NT
down. No doubt it will be graded in October/Nov when funding
comes through.......but too late, word is out already & the
average Tourist is not happy.
(This road is what we get a lot
of emails about)
Dry season Cox river Crossing
At the River crossings there are a few spots to pitch a tent or
park the trailer. But beware of the water. I have had a cautious
wash on the crossing above a few times with both eyes on the lookout
for crocs, after seeing a big one here a few years back.
It might be the Towns river that has a special marked campsite &
fireplaces off the main road. (I was too worried about the
non-existent spare tyre at this point)
The most popular
campsite along this stretch is the newly opened "Butterfly
Springs". An absolutely fantastic spot I want to visit in the
late Wet/early dry when a bit more water might be flowing. The
Butterflys are wonderous. Unfortunately it has a waft of Pit
toilets that nearly every camping spot does at this time of year
as facilities are stretched during the Dry Season. (I'm just
telling it as it is, and the toilets are new & better than
seeing tell tale toilet paper in the scrub)
One thing for certain , if you
want to break away from the Stuart Highway and see something a
little more entertaining than plain old bitumen, head down the
Nathan River Road (Roper to Borroloola rd). You can re-enter the
bitumen at Heartbreak (Cape Crawford) and continue on to the Barkley
Highway. Or continue your trip via Borroloola and head for Mount Isa
via Doomagee QLD.
It only takes 7 hours to travel Borroloola-Katherine
via the Nathan River Road in a Govt car (including photo stops) in
2000.(Ahhh the good old days...) But in 2005 it took in our own 4x4 it took 7 hrs just on
the dirt part (including flat tyres) & with no spares left you
watch for every rock & there are heaps.
I have no first
on its condition for 2006 as it has recently opened after
stranding many a fisherman up near St Vidgeons during the late
March / April floods. I believe the Park Rangers have said
it is in poor condition. I heard a tourist caught a 140 cm
Barra in May06 at Roper Bar area. (It is going with them for
mounting back to Victoria. Me... I would of taken many photos &
released it. We don't have a law yet on maximum fish size, but I
understand it is on its way. But Good luck to you anyway.
Butterfly Springs July2005
Another stretch of the Nathan River Road
July 27th 2006 Road update
I have it on good authority that the Nathan River road is in fairly
good condition with the grader having gone from top to bottom. The
worse stretch is a 30km segment near the Port Roper Turnoff (this
means slowing down to 50-60 km for about half an hour)
2008 - FEB
- Its the time when no-one travels this road unless you live
along it. But the reports are it is in good condition considering it
is the Wet Season. I will have to rewrite the page to keep it
current. But we still have many months of the wet to come yet.