Judbarra (Gregory) National Park
Judbarra National Park is the second largest park in the Northern Territory. It is divided into eastern and western sections separated by several hundred kilometres. Most of the larger western section is remote and rarely visited and access to large areas is limited to rough 4WD tracks which generally follow old stock routes. It is a dry and hard land! The sign at the old Bullita Homestead says it all.
“It’s tough out here. It’s hard, hot and dry and when it rains it floods.
In places the ground is so hard that even the cattle need shoes to walk over it. Everything gets so hot and dry that you get thirsty just looking at the land.
At a glance it seems lifeless, but wildlife is hidden through the vast woodlands, crowded along the creeklines and even sheltering in the endless spinifex.”
It sounds like just the place for us to explore on our way east between Katherine and Kununurra.
The 4WD tracks we decide to explore in the western section can all be accessed from the Bullita Access Road which leaves the Victoria Highway a short distance east of Timber Creek and we leave the Troopie in Timber Creek to be picked up later. The Access Road is easy going and soon we are turning on to the 8 km track into Limestone Gorge. The first section is very easy but then we get a taste of what we can expect over the next few days. The dirt and gravel track gives way to a track made entirely of river rocks which has to be negotiated very slowly in first gear, low range. The very rough section only continues for a kilometre so we are soon gazing into the crystal clear waters of a billabong near the end of the track wishing we could swim but not willing to risk the presence of crocs. The campsite is not far past the billabong and we settle for a spot in the shade instead.
Back on the Access Road next morning we continue to the old Bullita Homestead. National Parks have a great display inside the old home and we spend quite a while reading the information about the land and its history and wandering around the old buildings and stockyards. Copies of letters from early settlers give a taste of how tough life was out here and we both leave with a great deal of respect for Charlie Schultz who ran Bullita Station and the adjoining Humbert Station with the assistance of the local aborigines.
The easy roads finish here and we head off to follow the Bullita Stock Route. It’s only 93 km long but will take around 8 hours so as it is already midday we’ll camp along the way. The crossing of the East Baines River near the homestead is easy as the water level is very low and we follow a sweeping track across flat rocks easily avoiding the uneven sections. If the water was above the rocks it would be very tricky picking the right line to follow as this is certainly a river that would be tricky to wade across, not to mention the distinct possibility of crocs hereabouts. The track takes us through rugged country with boabs lining the rocky ridges and dry grass and sparse trees struggling to survive amongst the rocks. It’s hard to imagine cattle being able to survive here.
The track is one way as there is a river crossing and a jump up which can only be tackled in one direction and even going the easier way we need to pick our way very carefully. We set up for the night in a camping area just past the second crossing of the East Baines River and as we’re watching the sunset another couple arrive. We haven’t seen anyone else since we left the homestead and they are just as surprised as we are to see somebody else out here. We sit and chat around the evening campfire but once they head off in the morning we continue on our solitary way.
The Stock Route eventually delivers us back to the Access Road and we are soon heading off on our next 4WD track. The Humbert Track is only 62 km but should take around 6 hours to drive. It takes us south through the Fig Tree Creek valley then east along the Humbert River valley to the boundary of the national park and Humbert Station. It also has its share of rocky sections and tricky descents to creek beds and we both thoroughly enjoy the journey and the country. We make camp half way along the track and this time we are not surprised by any other campers although we do pass one group heading the other direction.
Next day after we have passed through Humbert Station we reach the Buchanan Highway and head north toward the Victoria Highway. 40-50 km south of the Victoria Highway the road passes through Jasper Gorge on the eastern boundary of the national park. Our camp site at the southern end of the gorge offers a shady spot overlooking Jasper Creek and the 10km drive through the gorge next morning offers loads of fabulous views and stunning country. It makes a lovely finish to our side trip into this section of Judbarra National Park.
It’s not far back into Timber Creek and with the Troopie under tow we head east toward the other section of Judbarra National Park. Victoria River Roadhouse has a large open camping area and with a few days to fill in before we can drop the Troopie at the auto-electrician in Katherine it’s a good place to set up camp and explore around here.
You can read about the Troopie’s tale of woe and our time around the Victoria River Roadhouse in the post “The Best Laid Plans”.