Nitmiluk National Park got its name from the Dreamtime story about Nabilil, a creation being. Nabilil was travelling across the land and camped at the entrance of Katherine Gorge and all he could hear was the song of the cicadas, “nit nit nitnit”. Nabilil thus named the area Nitmiluk.
Camping at Nitmiluk National Park is a bit steep – $19 per person per night – but it does have its perks. The toilets and showers are clean and relatively bug-free, there is a poolside bar that serves good-looking food and a fabulous range of alcoholic beverages, and friendly wallaroos can be seen grazing in the park.
After a couple of sneaky beers at the bar, we hit the hay fairly early so that we could get started on the hikes at dawn. We started with the first half of the Baruwei Loop, which starts off with a steep climb to a lookout over Katherine River. We were there at sunrise but it would have been even better at sunset. We then continued along the path to find the beginning of the southern walks.
The first southern walk we completed was Butterfly Gorge, a challenging 12km return hike into a gorge filled with monsoonal rainforest. There was a small, flowing creek and the population of butterflies grew as we got deeper into the gorge. Katherine River is there to greet you at the end of the path, but we didn’t dare to get into the water to refresh ourselves out of fear of crocodiles. We climbed the cliffs and found a nice perch to eat breakfast before heading back.
We found the crossroad for Windolf Walk and took the turn, knowing there was a reward of a swim at the end. It was a pleasant walk along a dried creek bed to a great lookout over the gorge. We continue on to descend into the gorge and at the bottom is the Southern Pool that still had a trickle of water from above. We got in for a swim with the fishes and met a few fellow travellers. The steep climb out of the gorge called for another dip in a pool at the top of the gorge before heading back to the Troopy.
One of the best things about the Katherine Gorge walks are the water tanks that are dotted along the way. The water is drinkable so you can refill your drink bottle and wash the sweat from your face. We decided to only do the first three walks on offer at Nitmiluk, but if you’re a keen hiker, there are several longer tracks available, even overnight hikes. There’s even one that goes all the way up to Edith Falls!
We really enjoyed our time at Nitmiluk. The hikes were great exercise and it always feels good to finish a long walk with a swim in a natural swimming hole. You can also grab a canoe and paddle your way through the gorge, hop on a guided cruise or get to da chopper and hit the skies.