Nitmiluk National Park

Katherine Gorge, Nitmiluk National Park, Oriol Alamany / Auscape International
Barbecue Caravan Drinking water Fishing Kiosk/Restaurant Shower Swimming Toilets Watersports Aboriginal site Camping area Information Picnic area Ranger Walking


In Nitmiluk National Park, the powerful Katherine River, rising in Arnhem Land, has cut through the ancient sandstone to create a series of spectacular gorges, creating an idyllic setting for boat cruises and canoeing. Impressive stone country, towering escarpments with hidden caverns and caves, gushing waterfalls, broad valleys and many Aboriginal art sites are additional highlights of the park.

Fact file


From Darwin via Stuart Hwy to Katherine then Gorge Rd; via Stuart Hwy to Edith River (42 km north of Katherine) then to Leliyn (Edith Falls)

Best season

May to September; access roads possibly flooded in wet season


345 km south-east of Darwin; 30 km north-east of Katherine

Park information

  • PWCNT Nitmiluk (08) 8972 1886
  • PWCNT Leliyn (Edith Falls) (08) 8975 4852
  • PWCNT Katherine (08) 8951 8250


Permits required for camping, walking and boating; contact Nitmiluk Visitor Centre


300 000 ha

Visitor information

Nitmiluk Visitor Centre (08) 8972 1253

Katherine (08) 8972 2650

Featured Activities in the National Park

  • Visit the upper pool at Leliyn and take the track to Bemang Lookout and Edith River crossing

  • Walk one of the trails along the Arnhem Land escarpment and catch a beautiful sunset

  • Canoe along the scenic Katherine River

See Also

A look at the past

In the 1880s, the manager of nearby Springvale station, Alfred Giles, is thought to have been the first European to sight Katherine Gorge. The waterway proved a great attraction for locals in the early 20th century and was the location for Charles Chauvel’s 1950s Australian film classic Jedda.

Aboriginal culture

The Katherine Gorge area was the land of the Jawoyn people and paintings in the rock shelters and overhangs are evidence of their cultural heritage; the second gorge is sacred to Bolung, the Rainbow Serpent. Katherine Gorge was handed back to the Jawoyn people in 1989 and they established Nitmiluk National Park in joint management with PWCNT.

Natural features

The park lies at the junction of three geological formations – the Pine Creek Geosyncline and the McArthur and Daley basins. Katherine Gorge is a series of 13 gorges that cuts through an ancient sandstone plateau formed some 1400 million years ago. Monsoonal waters have eroded the sandstone over the last 20 million years, creating the massive gorge and countless ravines. 

Native plants

More than 450 plant species have been recorded with some, such as the wattle, Acacia helicophylla, endemic to the park. The narrow ravines shelter small pockets of monsoonal rainforest plants while the open plains and valleys have common eucalypt species such as Darwin woollybutt, fan-leafed bloodwood, river red gum and the beautiful salmon gum. Speargrass and native sorghum are widespread and spinifex clumps grow in the high rocky terrain.


The waterways of Nitmiluk are a habitat for fish and other marine creatures, the most common being barramundi and freshwater bream. Archerfish can be spotted near the river banks, along with the northern snake-necked turtle. Freshwater crocodiles are common, with the occasional ‘salty’ finding its way into Katherine Gorge during a big wet season. Gould’s sand goanna, the frilled lizard and a variety of frogs, such as the green tree frog, are common, while the cane toad is a relatively recent invader. Agile wallabies, antilopine wallaroos and dingoes roam the tropical woodland, while elusive rock-wallabies haunt the high rocky outcrops. Most Top End bird species are here, with the rare and colourful Gouldian finch nesting in salmon gums in the Yenberrie Hills, near Leliyn.


There is an excellent network of walking trails in the park, including short walks from the visitor centre to Lily Ponds, Southern Rockhole, Smitt’s Rock and Butterfly Gorge. A short climb up a natural staircase, 300 metres from the centre, to the top of the escarpment yields a beautiful view of the Katherine River. Pat’s Lookout provides another excellent view of Katherine Gorge and can be reached via Windolf Walk (3 km), which leaves from the centre. Jatbula Trail (65 km, 5 days) leads from the northern side of the Katherine River to Northern Rockhole, Biddlecombe Cascades, Crystal Falls, the Amphitheatre, 17 Mile Falls and Leliyn. It is one of the best walks in northern Australia and there are campsites, fireplaces and emergency beacons along the way. Leliyn Trail (2.6 km return) climbs to the top of the escarpment then down to the Edith River, via two beautiful pools. Sweetwater Walk (8.6 km return) follows the Edith River to Sweetwater Pool, a good spot for camping and swimming. Walkers must obtain a permit from the visitor centre, even for a short walk.


Canoe hire – per hour or for several days – is available. There are campsites along the river and you can reach the upper gorges but canoes and equipment need to be carried over rock bars that separate the gorges. Late in the dry season the river is languid and the water level low so portage becomes strenuous. Canoeing is banned during the wet season. Private canoes and dinghies can be launched from a boat ramp near Nitmiluk Centre.

Scenic touring

Nitmiluk Tours operates several cruises up the gorge, ranging from two-hour trips to half- and full-day safaris. In the wet season, a powerful jet boat travels through the rapids to the third gorge. Helicopter rides leave from a helipad within the park and provide an excellent overview.


There are delightful swimming holes at Southern Rockhole, Northern Rockhole, 17 Mile Falls, Biddlecombe Cascades, Crystal Falls and Leliyn. Check with the rangers before swimming in Katherine Gorge because saltwater crocodiles can be present after the wet season.


Biddlecombe Cascades camping area (walk-in camping)

The seasonal cascades are a perfect place to relax and cool off. This is a flat camping site 11 km along the Jatbula Trail.... Find out more

Crystal Falls camping area (walk-in camping)

About 20 km along the Jatbula Trail you will find Crystal Falls. There is great swimming in Crystal Creek but be careful of the river crossing.... Find out more

Dunlop Swamp camping area (bush camping)

With no toilets, and drinking water only available some of the year, this is a site for the experienced. There is swimming below Dunlop Swamp. It’s 9 km along the Smitt Rocks Walk.... Find out more

Edith River Crossing camping area (walk-in camping)

This campsite is 45 km along the Jatbula Trail and is the start of the walk along the river. Top up your drinking water here.... Find out more

Eighth Gorge camping area (bush camping)

A campsite popular among overnight canoeists, this site is 16 km east of the visitor centre via Eighth Gorge Walk. It has no toilets.... Find out more

Leliyn (Edith Falls) camping area

This large campground is signposted off the Stuart Hwy, 40 km north-west of Katherine. Generators and fires are not permitted and all sites are unpowered. It is a pleasant camping ground with grassy sites and ample... Find out more

Nitmiluk Centre Campground

Centrally positioned near Nitmiluk Visitor Centre, walking tracks, canoe hire and the cruise boat, this privately run campsite has pretty much everything you need, including a pool, and is the main camping area in... Find out more

Sandy Camp Pool camping area (walk-in camping)

This pleasant spot is 51 km along the Jatbula Trail. It’s on the Edith River beside a great swimming hole.... Find out more

Seventeen Mile Falls camping area (walk-in camping)

You’ll find this campsite not 17 miles, but 35 km along the Jatbula Trail. It is an opportunity for swimming and rockhopping.... Find out more

Sixth Gorge camping area (boat-based camping)

There are no walking tracks at Sixth Gorge but overnight access is available to canoeists. There are toilets but no other facilities.... Find out more

Smitt Rocks camping area (walk-in camping)

Suitable for canoeists or hikers, this site is 11 km east of the visitor centre, and accessible by the Katherine River or the Smitt Rocks Walk. Swimming, toilets and drinking water are available.... Find out more

Sweetwater Pool camping area (walk-in camping)

Sweetwater Pool is reached via a walking trail, 4 km east of the Leliyn camping ground, or near the end of the Jatbula Trail. Last opportunity for a swim.... Find out more