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Catherine Gorge Canoe Trip


I have been to Catherine Gorge many times. (I’ve lived here for over 15 years ……) I love the whole National Park, it’s rugged, spectacular views, challenging trails, small waterfalls and rock pools not often seen (see Catherine Hike) Canyon National Park).

But nothing has changed my opinion of that overnight canoe trip. There is no better way to see Catherine Canyon.

The popular Catherine Canyon cruises only allow access to the first two, maybe three canyons. There are thirteen in all! The more distant sections are more scenic than the first few.
You have all day (or several days), not just a few hours, and no one to tell you what to do and when.
Catherine Gorge is becoming very popular. During the main tourist season, the first few sections of the gorge can get very crowded. Go beyond that and you will have almost everything.
Nitmiluk National Park is located in the far north of Australia, which means the weather can get very hot outside of the main season! Any hike in Katherine Gorge National Park, even a short one, can become very demanding. Not everyone likes this …… But if you’re in a canoe, you just slide to the side and swim to cool off. Bliss.
It won’t cost you an arm and a leg! If you want to see an equally remote, pristine, unspoiled wilderness area anywhere else around here, you have to pay for the trip, or have good 4-wheel drive and heaps of gear, and experience, and, and, and. …
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Canoeing in Catherine Gorge
So what can I tell you about my canoe trip in Catherine Gorge?

The canoe ramp is very crowded in the morning.
When I arrived at the canoe ramp, I was initially shocked at the sheer number of people.

75 canoes heading in the same direction at the same time seemed like a bit much, which was not what I was expecting. Add Catherine Gorge Cruise and everyone on board ……

Anyway, we lined up and got our canoes, paddles and two splash proof containers to hold our stuff. We climbed in without incident and after a few loops we even managed to take off in the general direction of upstream …….

Canoeing in the first part of Catherine Gorge
One of the first things we learned was that paddling is hard work.

Fortunately, there are many beautiful places to stop and rest along Catherine Canyon, small beaches, rocks to climb and jump on, and more. If you take a break every 15 minutes, you won’t look too silly…

After a few hours, we started to get used to the action, we learned to work together instead of against each other, and it seemed easier to keep the damn thing moving forward.

I explained on the page about the climate and weather in Catherine Gorge how the various parts of the gorge are separated by rock bars (or how hard it is to get through the rapids just after the rainy season…)

Well, we just learned how to paddle, and now we have to figure out how to get our canoes through these boulders. The dry part can stretch a lot later in the dry season.

A moored canoe
Canoes are great on the water, but they are bulky things on land …… Don’t try to carry it, just haul it!

In the second canyon, you will encounter for the first time the towering cliffs you have seen in so many photos of Catherine Canyon.

More paddling and hauling, interrupted by a brief launch to get wet again, we finally reached the end of the third canyon, a vast expanse of dry rock …… and many moored canoes.

The third canyon is as far as most people can reach on a day trip by canoe. You’ll have lunch and a swim here, but then you’ll have to turn around to get back in time …… You’ll need to be back at the Catherine Canyon canoe ramp by 4:45 pm.

But not us. We were all ready to spend the night under the stars. Some swearing and cursing plus more hauling and voila, we were back on the other side of the water.

What a change! This is where it gets really good. The water is still, like a mirror, and once you round the next bend, you don’t hear anyone else anymore. There are no cruise engines either.

The turtles will not be frightened by our presence.
Instead, you’ll hear and see water gargoyles (a type of lizard) sunning themselves on a rocky ledge, long-necked sea turtles (they’re a strange creature ……), and maybe even a small freshwater crocodile if you’re lucky. Birds fly overhead, chasing insects you hear buzzing, the rising and falling tides of cicadas are the backdrop to it all, rainbow-colored dragonflies hover over the water, and butterflies ……

The fifth canyon.
And the scenery just keeps getting better and better. The second canyon is nice, but the fifth one is spectacular.

Narrower, higher, and it takes your breath away. We didn’t see another soul ……

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