The Katherine River is a mighty 328km stretch of fresh water that runs south-west from Nitmiluk National Park, Northern Territory, through Katherine – where some 10,000 residents tap its water – to merge with the Flora River, at the eastern tip of Flora River Nature Park.

    Photo Credit: Brendan Thorne

    During the dry season (May to October), the Katherine River is spring fed by the Tindall limestone aquifer in the ­Katherine region and the Oolloo Dolostone aquifer of the Daly River basin. During the wet season (November to April), monsoon rains fill the river and supply the aquifers.

    Photo Credit: Brendan Thorne

    This whole area is the Jawoyn’s beat; they are the custodians of the Katherine region. Their traditional lands, which sprawl across about 50,000sq.km, include ­Nitmiluk NP, southern parts of Kakadu NP and western Arnhem Land.

    Photo Credit: Brendan Thorne

    The Katherine River is intersected by rock bars and the elevation drops by up to 2m between each bar, causing a very manageable, yet exciting, whitewater experience.

    Photo Credit: Brendan Thorne

    The twisted trunks of submerged eucalypts along the bank play an important role in supporting the river’s large and varied aquatic ecosystem; 38 species of fish are found in the Katherine. The fish include barramundi, sooty grunters, and freshwater long toms, which have long arrow-shaped bodies and jaws like miniature billfish.

    Photo Credit: Brendan Thorne

    Jesse Trushenski, a fisheries and aquaculture professor from the US state of Illinois, relaxes by the river during a lunch break.

    Photo Credit: Brendan Thorne

    Kayak guide Matt Leigh prepares to set-up camp for the night.

    Photo Credit: Brendan Thorne

    Early each morning, the landscape is transformed as an eerie mist cloaks the river. Over the mist, sunlight streams through the silver-leaved and weeping paperbarks.

    Photo Credit: Brendan Thorne

    One narrow, fast-moving stretch of the Katherine, dubbed “pandanus alley”, is covered by a canopy of leaves stitched together by the webs of Saint Andrew’s Cross spiders.

    Photo Credit: Brendan Thorne

    A night sky jammed with stars is the backdrop for the riverside campsite.

    Photo Credit: Brendan Thorne

Gallery: Paddling the Katherine River

By AG STAFF | December 19, 2013

Kayaking down the Katherine is a splendid way to take in the sights of Australia’s Top End.