Jatbula Trail

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Introduction

The Jatbula Trail (formerly called the Edith Falls Wilderness Trail) is a 58km track that starts from the Visitor Centre at the foot of Katherine Gorge and runs north then west to the car park at Edith Falls (Leliyn). Features of the walk are the rocky scenery, the many waterfalls and the aboriginal (Jawoyn) rock art.

The walk is not a circuit and requires a considerable car shuffle or hope for a lift out (not advised). This is a well marked and easily followed track and walkers are only allowed to follow the one direction. Katherine Gorge is also known by its aboriginal name of Nitmiluk. The campsites are fixed (they are the waterholes) and must be booked in advance, most take 6 or 7 days to complete the walk.

While the title implies the track is a wilderness it is not. Much of the trail is a management vehicle track and campsites are very formal with an emergency radio. The track is highly regulated in that you are not allowed to leave the track and must camp at the designated sites.

This is the tropics and it is hot. The only walking period allowed are the cooler months - May to September and the track is closed from October to April/May. With the hot weather you need only very basic equipment, plenty of containers for water and an early start to beat the mid-day heat.

Location

The Nitmiluk Katherine National Park is located close to the town of Katherine, which is about 250km south-east of Darwin. While inland, this is still well within the tropics and is almost always hot.

Access

Katherine is located on the Stuart Highway which connects Darwin to Alice Springs. This is the major road in the territory and there are plenty of buses along the highway. Katherine also has an airport that is regularly visited by the major internal airlines, Qantas and Ansett. To get from the town to the visitor centre is easy, as there are plenty of tour buses running every day to the gorge. To get to the other end of the walk, Edith Falls, is more difficult and is about 60 km from the town. Some tour buses do visit there (pickups can be arranged) as do many private vehicles.

Information and Track Notes

There are no guide books at present to the track. The ranger at the Nitmiluk Visitor Centre has a very good brochure showing the tracks location including notes about water. While the brochure is not contoured it is readily followed. The best contour map is the NATMAP 1:50,000 'Edith River', 'Seventeen Mile' and 'Katherine' sheets. Alternatively the NATMAP 1:100,000 NATMAP 'Katherine' is also suitable. None of these maps show the tracks location.

Suggested Itinerary

This walk is not a circuit and must be walked in the direction shown.

1 Visitor Centre to Biddlecombe Cascades, 8km
2 To Crystal Falls, 11km
3 To Seventeen Mile Falls, 10km
4
To Edith River Crossing, 10km
5
To Sandy Camp, 5km (combine with above or below day)
6
To Sweetwater Pool, 11km
7
To Edith Falls, 4km

Permits

Camping permits are needed and are obtained from the ranger at the visitor centre at the gorge. Permits are only issued on the day (no advance bookings) and you must see the ranger early enough to make the first campsite otherwise the permit will not be issued that day. The fee is $3.30 per night plus a refundable $50 deposit. Solo walking is not allowed - the minimum group size is two. The ranger will provide good advice on current conditions.

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Photographs and text are copyright 1999-2015 John Chapman.
Last updated : December 5th 2015