Monday, November 24, 2014

Flora River - A Flying Visit

Karen had a couple of days work to do down in Katherine so I went along with her just for something to do and while she was busily working away in the office I took myself off to visit the Flora River Nature Reserve - a place I had been promising myself I would visit for ages.

It was probably the worst time of year to visit - November this year has been one of the hottest build ups ever and daytime temps were up around the 41/42 mark with some high humidity (for Katherine anyway) to make it even harder. We have had a few showers, but the wet has not yet kicked in.

The turn off to Flora River is nearly 90 klms down the Victoria Highway out of Katherine (heading to Kununurra), but at the posted 130kph speed limit this is not a long trip and the road is good.

The turnoff is well marked and the road in is only lightly corrugated.


The drive in is about another 40 klms, but the road remains good for the most part with only a couple of rocky parts to upset the steering (I really don't like unladen utes - I was driving a Navara D40) and a couple of bulldust patches that are remarkable only for the way the dust explodes into the air behind you.  Normal speed down this road is around the 100kph mark.

You need to take a right turn at one point, but again, this is well signposted and the track continues in good condition.

Along this track is the only thing to slow you down - a water crossing.

The base is firm and at this time of year the water level is low - no more that 200mm at the most.

Keep driving along and you'll end up at the camping area - today, this was deserted except for a few wallabies that thumped off into the bush as I approached.The camping area was dry and dusty, but there are lots of shade trees and the amenities block (showers, flushing toilets and a rainwater tank) were in good condition and obviously well serviced.

There are two walks marked from the camp site, each of them leading to Tufa dams on the river.  A Tufa dam is where the mineral rich spring flows over an obstacles and deposits some of its mineral load onto that object. This eventually builds the whole thing into a dam across the river that will gradually build up over time, but they always make for a pretty view.

 The first walk is signposted at 30 minutes return and takes you past some BBQ spots (fireplaces and BBQ plates set up ready for you) and into the denser riverside woodland.

The eventual sight is really beautiful - I only had my phone with me so the pictures are not that good, but I think you'll get the idea.


You just have to be careful of the water's edge as this is home to saltwater crocs!

The second walk is marked as 50 minutes return and takes you further downstream to the second Tufa dam. The flora around here is spectacular and some of the fauna less than friendly. I accidentally elbowed a wasp nest and a few of them gave me the good news about it! 


No sign of crocs, but at 42 degrees they were probably cooling off in the water. 

I returned to the 4WD and refilled my water bottle. There was a sign pointing the way to the boat ramp so off I set to walk to the boat ramp. 

The thing that the sign didn't say was how far it was and as it took me a bit over an hour to get there (and closer to 90 minutes to get back) I reckon it was at least 5 or 6 klms each way.

Let me remind you - out there it was 42 degrees and humid. I am one of the few people who actively like the climate here in the Top End, but even for me this was a bit of a trial. More than a bit stupid too as the one litre of water I was carrying just isn't enough and I could have come out of it a lot worse than I did.

Anyway, I eventually reached the boat ramp and this is what I found:


This is the view across the river. Pretty eh, and the water, while blue/green to look through because of the mineral content, was crystal clear and looked SO inviting.


However, it is the boat ramp that struck me as most unusual. The picture above shows the slides that you drop your boat down and into the water - just like a lifeboat back in the UK.


How do you get it back up? Well they provide this small winch for that. Just hook your boat up and crank away to drag it up the slides. 

After that little excursion I was pretty stuffed and sweating profusely so I hopped (well, crawled) back into the 4WD and drove back to Katherine with the A/C cranked up. 

Is Flora River worth seeing? Well yes, it is. I scratched the surface and while I didn't see any other walks to do I would certainly come back to stay for a night and to see it all again.

Just at a cooler time of year I think! 

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