Nitmiluk National Park: Jatbula Trail
The Jatbula Trail is a 62km one way walk departing from Nitmiluk Gorge and finishing at Leliyn, also known as Edith Falls.
The hike follows the western edge of the Arnhem Land escarpment over sandstone plateau and through woodlands, open forest, monsoon forest and riverine landscapes.
You will walk in the footsteps of generations of Jawoyn people who traditionally travelled through parts of this trail.
The trail is named after Jawoyn Traditional Owner, Peter Jatbula, who was instrumental in securing land rights for the Jawoyn people.
Jatbula Trail overview
The trail can be completed in five days and four nights, or six days and five nights.
Each overnight camp site is set near a spring or cascade.
|Day one||Nitmiluk Gorge to Biddlecombe Cascades - 8.3km|
|Day two||Biddlecombe to Crystal Falls – 11km|
|Day three||Crystal Falls to 17 Mile Falls – 10km|
|Day four||17 Mile Falls to Sandy Camp - 16.8km|
|Day five||Sandy Camp to Sweetwater Pool - 11.1km|
|Day six||Sweetwater Pool to Leliyn - 4.5km|
The Jatbula Trail is graded as medium to hard. You need to be reasonably fit with some bushwalking experience as it involves carrying heavy loads over rough ground. Read more about the walking track grading system.
The walk can be completed in five or six days. Camping is only allowed for one night at each site along the trail.
Leliyn is not a campsite on the trail and separate fees will apply if you wish to camp there.
Book your walk
The trail has a limit of 15 walkers leaving each day so you will need to book.
Bookings open on 1 November for the following year.
A camping fee needs to be paid with your booking. The fees are:
- $3.30 per adult/night
- $1.65 per child/night.
You can book online. The booking system is unavailable from 1 to 30 October each year due to preparations for the next hiking season.
Maps and guides
Your walk will be all the more enjoyable if you plan well using the following resources:
- Jatbula Trail information sheet - a good overview of the trail and what it involves
- Jatbula Trail maps booklet - detailed maps and information for each section of the walk
- Jatbula Trail: before you go booklet - helps you prepare for your walk
- Jatbula weather chart - check this before you go.
You should also take a topographic map and compass and at least one person in your group should have the skills to use these.
When to walk
The best time of year to walk the Jatbula Trail is from 1 June to 30 September.
During the cooler months, from June to August, the temperatures range from 30 degrees Celsius during the day dropping to 10 degrees Celsius at night.
Conditions on the trail start to heat up in mid-August with temperatures rising to over 40 degrees Celsius from October to late November.
From December to April the trail is difficult due to high temperatures and humidity, monsoonal rain and the risk of flooding. Increased vegetation growth in the wet season can also hide trail markers, adding to the difficulty.
It is possible to walk the Jatbula Trail between 1 October and 31 May but you must be experienced, well prepared and you will need special permission from parks.
You must apply in writing for special permission to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Book your transport
You can book transfers to the start of the trail, and when you want to be picked up and dropped off.
Getting to the trail
The walk is one way only and starts at Nitmiluk Gorge.
You can be picked up from the town of Katherine which is 27km from Nitmiluk Gorge.
You will then need to take a ferry from Nitmiluk Gorge to the start of the trail near 17 Mile Creek.
The ferry costs $8.50 per person.
Ferries depart daily at 7am, 9am and 11am.
To book call the Nitmiluk visitor centre on 1300 146 743.
Getting from the trail
The trail finishes at Leliyn and you can be transferred to either Katherine or to the Nitmiluk visitor centre.
- Leliyn to Katherine is 63km or approximately 45 minutes drive
- Leliyn to Nitmiluk Gorge is 90km or approximately 1 hour drive.
How to book your transport
The following companies provide ground transfers:
Gecko Canoeing and Trekking
Phone: (08) 8972 2224
Phone: (08) 8971 9999
Remember to tell someone outside of your group of your travel plans in case of an emergency.
Cars and public parking
Public parking is available at both ends of the trail, but be sure to tell the parks desk or Leliyn kiosk your name, car details and return date.
There are a number of bus and airlines services that provide regular return travel between Darwin and Katherine.
Your health and safety
You will be given a detailed safety briefing from national park staff before starting the walk.
You should tell a reliable person of your plans before you go walking, including all of the following:
- your intended campsites
- departure and arrival dates
- health issues
- any other information that may help if you need to be rescued.
You should take a satellite phone or a personal locator beacon. You will not have mobile phone reception on the walk.
Drinking water and first aid
There are natural water sources all along the Jatbula Trail and each of the campsites is located near permanent fresh water.
You should still take care and purify your drinking water using UV treatment or a filtration device.
You should take at least three litres of water with you when leaving your camp each day and continue to drink regularly during the walk.
If you are walking outside of the recommended walking season you should drink even more water.
Your first aid kit should include rehydration sachets.
The Jatbula Trail's many waterholes, creeks and cascades are safe to swim in but you should:
- be aware of fast flowing rapids, slippery rocks and submerged objects
- never jump or dive into waterholes and creeks
- not get too close to cliff edges or climb waterfalls.
Even a minor injury can be very serious when walking the trail. Medical help is usually only available by helicopter which would be at your own expense.
Environment and heritage
Please respect the environment and cultural heritage by doing the following:
- take all rubbish and food scraps with you and put in bins at Leliyn
- wipe off insect repellent and sunscreen before swimming - wet wipes are ideal for this
- stay on marked tracks
- do not touch rock art and respect sacred sites
Last updated: 28 November 2017