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Jatbula trail walk Nitmiluk Gorge to Edith Falls (66km) (it was 66km when we walked it, now about 61km)

Over 4-5 days of leisurely walking you can experience several magnificent waterfalls , arid lands, spring fed swamp lands, pristine drinking water, tropical rainforests, a couple of outback toilets, the odd barbeque plate, emergency radio phone communications along the way.....all on your own if you are lucky.

There is springwater along the way from numerous creeks, rockholes and waterfalls even in the late Dry Season as a lot of this country is spring fed. However as always we recommend you carry at least 2 litres of water before proceeding each day and refill at every opportunity.

We actually carried 4 litres on one stretch just in case (plastic bag in a billy can). You walk mainly along the flat country of the escarpment at the top of all the falls.

In general the walk was easier than expected, the track was well marked and there were a few bbq's at Biddlecombe and Crystal falls , as well as a toilet (bonus luxury).

biddlecombe falls is the first stop if you wish at the 19 km mark

The maps supplied by the NT Conservation Commission are a collectors item for the wealth of information supplied in them. Well done on such an informative and descriptive map.

If you have always thought about doing this walk, DO SO this Dry Season!!

This link takes you to an article written by a Katherine Local "Jim Mathieson"
who has walked the trail 1997, 2000, 2004.
It is more current and descriptive than the information on this web page (revised Jan 2010)


The walk starts out heading South instead of North until you meet the Katherine River and a series of ramps across the Katherine River. Then you are heading Northerly again and feeling a bit more in control. After walking along a vehicular track you end up along the Katherine River again and follow 17 Mile Creek upstream in the coolness of the numerous paperbark trees that line its banks.

Northern rockhole

Crossing the creek , you come across the detour to Northern Rockhole, which is another pristine little waterhole in the Dry season. Towering above is the rockface that feeds the waterhole via a magnificent waterfall during the wet season months (November - April).

By now the walk is back on the Rangers 4x4 track, and we are treking up the meandering path of a gradient that was reasonably comfortable. Once upon the top of the escarpment (very gradual) it was  a casual walk through the Territory bushland, checking out the wildlife.

Upon entering the camping area (of sorts), we passed a toilet, much to the joy of the Ladies and there were several cement Bar-b-cues with metal plates that were an unexpected bonus.

Nothing too hard about the terrain
Biddlecombe Falls (top photo) were wonderful, having a dip in the top rockpools for the rest of the afternoon. I must admit I picked the shallowest rockpool to harness the heat in the granite rock, as it was very refreshing this time of year.

We only saw two persons the whole trip and they were at Biddlecombe the first night, intending to stay there another night before continuing on the track.

We moved on by 9.00 Am in the cool dry season air and soon were passing into another type of landscape with rock outcrops and semi dry rockpools. It was in this area we found our first Aboriginal Rock art. Rockart can be dated by some of their styles. Some of the art was more recent (ie several hundred years old) to the Dynamic Style which is dated at around 10,000 years old. ( It's a bit like seeing a vintage car and knowing it is old)

Look here for several forms of Aboriginal art (all within 30 feet of each other)

We were getting close to Crystal Falls and passed the Emergency Radio Phone and helicopter pad, and coming down the hill into the valley we passed another tiolet. (Much joy again from the Ladies)
Even has a few Bbq's down in the shade of the trees near the waters edge.

It is only 9Km between Biddlecombe & Crystal Falls so heaps of time to relax.

The Crystal Falls area is a mass of rockpools and rapids and small waterfalls, falling away into the abyss that is Crystal falls. A very relaxing area with heaps of river to explore heaps of birdlife and a large monitor lizard lurking in the shadows.
Crystal falls camp looking downstream over the rockpools towards the falls nice for a massage at crystal falls rockpools

Just dip the billy on the creek and boil it up for that morning coffee before heading off to 17 Mile Falls. After rock hopping our way across crystal creek we signed the Walkers logbook and were amazed at how there had only been a few walkers on the path in the last few months. 

A far cry from the 40 persons expected over the Easter week in 2000. Friends of our had to wade against waist deep fast flowing water this year after a unusually late wet season.

(This walk is becoming more popular as years go by)

crystal falls drops off the escarpment deep into a ravine

Upon seeing 17 Mile falls we were astounded. Why had I not seen them before in local brochures? They have the potential to be an icon the the Katherine Region, much the same as Jim Jim Falls in Kakadu. Seventeen Mile Falls were not flowing spectacularly at this time of year, but they were flowing well for waterfalls in the region as they are spring fed like many of the Territory waterways.

I want to see them in full flow one year (wet season) and run off a whole film.

They are flowing 100 times more than Jim Jim Falls

17 mile falls, spring fed we ate dinner & breakfast on top and slept in the foliage shown on top.

The beauty of bushwalking is you can set up your camp where ever you wish, you don't camp within 50 metres of others if you can help it. And especially up here there is plenty of wilderness and clear areas along the creeks. We were lucky, we left the crowd of two behind at Biddlecombe.

Top camp at seventeen mile falls above the 17 mile falls

We set up camp about 30 metres from the magnificent falls. Had our dinner on the large rock slab on top of the falls and looked out over the horizon watching the stars appear. As the night wore on we could see the Southern Cross & glare of the lights of Katherine township over 50 km away.

Having a look at the map it indicated it may be a little dry until we reached the Edith River, so we drank our fill of crystal clear spring water filled our bottles and topped up the billy with a plastic bag full of water.

Our efforts were unfounded as we came across several sources of water along the way if we were desperate. However it may of been a good year and the next trip could be bone dry.

We come across the area known as the 'Amphitheatre'. A rockhole in between a tropical rainforest valley protected by escarpment. There is a set of steps down into the Amphitheatre so you can view the walls which are adorned with Ancient Aboriginal Rockart. I managed to get across the soggy waterway and view the images on the other side which were impressive. Aboriginal Rock art in the amphiteatre

We made it to the Edith River in time to boil the billy and have lunch. We were on the final stages of our journey.

Pushing on to Sandy Camp , the whole terrain has changed once again to that of grasslands and grevillia trees. Sandy Camp is a nice and shady area and sandy.

Flat clear country after a fire

bushland and sandy ground

tHis bit of terrain was about as hard as it got for 10 minutes

From here it is 15 Km to go and the following morning ( the 5th) we set off. The closer we got to Sweetwater pools the rockier it became. Nothing to strenuous, but just another change in scenery.

Sweetwater pool is another pretty spot and we had our last lunch here, it's the time where you tend to eat up all the stuff you keep incase something happens.

We trotted into Edith Falls where there is a Kiosk. Had a nice cold drink with our $50 bond money we got back from the walk. Another incentive to make sure you don't go missing.

walking along Edith River

If you are going to do a big walk in the Outback Katherine region , we thoroughly recommend this one. There are emergency phones at the Campsites. We made it to the next nights camp by midday or early afternoon, so there was plenty of time for relaxation and exploring. (contradiction of words there)

THe intrepid walkers, Garry Maria Greg & Anicia
The tourist who took our photo couldn't work out where we had sprung from (and why we smelled bad)

Edith Falls

We did walk at least 5 or 10 kms every night for several weeks before the trek. Next time the preparation will include actually walking around with a weighted backpack and I'd throw in a few steps or hills to get those other muscles working instead of finding out the next morning at Biddlecombe.

For the trip Garry's backpack weighed 16 kg and Maria's 10kg. This involved a  trial  walk to the 8th Gorge a week prior to test our packaging and useless food we carry. Well worth the trial, we had several useless items to discard for the bigger trip.

If we are fit enough next time we will lunch at Biddlecombe falls (11km) and go a further 9 km to the next camp at Crystal falls and stay there for 2 nights as there was a bit more to see and explore than at Biddlecombe falls.

We want to do this again one day, preferably with our children. And now we are in the digital age with cameras.

The most frequently emailed question is "Where do I leave my car!"

The vehicle is usually left at Nitmiluk (unless you have someone to pick up & drop off) in the long term parking bays . Upon arrival at Edith Falls (after a warm shower & a good feed from the kiosk), you need to make your way back to Katherine & then out to your vehicle at the Gorge. With many people doing this trip every day, I have yet to heard of anyone that had problems getting back to town. Many of the tour buses are helpful & Edith Falls is a popular day trip from Katherine.

We just came back from Edith Falls 24April09 & I had a chat to the people running the kiosk.

Nothing has changed in the last few years. All people walking the trail have the same issues of getting back to their vehicles at the Gorge. They indicated that no-one ever had a big problem with it. Either by waiting and asking people (day trippers) Spare seats on the tour buses which come and go (we saw 2 in the few hours we had after the Lelyin Loop walk). There were plenty of people there today & we left at 1.00PM.
If worse came to worse ie (you got in late in the day), its a great place to camp, hot showers, laundry & even (breakfast bacon & eggs for $7.50), just means your contingency includes an extra night camping (on grass).

Some times when there may be a group on the trail on the same time you are, they may have it already worked out (ie car at the Falls) ? Who knows I'm sure it will work out.

This link takes you to an article written by a Katherine Local "Jim Mathieson"
who has walked the trail 1997, 2000, 2004.
It is more current and descriptive than the information on this web page (updated in Jan 2010).
If you download this article, it means you will be hooked on Jatbula......