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Kakadu & Top End

Baroalba — Hill 420 Circle

March 4-17, 2018

Baroalba rainbow


Looking across to the Arnhem Escarpment from the edge of the Brockman massif Baroalba campsite, relaxing by the pool

Baroalba Creek is the main drainage for Mount Brockman, a large, irregularly shaped massif sitting on the plains a few kilometres away from the edge of the Arnhem escarpment. Its maximum dimensions are about 11 kilometres east to west and 15 kilometres north to south. Its maximum height is about 300 metres above sea level, about 240 metres above the surrounding plain.

While the edges of the massif are extremely rugged and steep, much of the centre consists of a large basin drained by Baroalba Creek. The rugged nature of the approaches prevented buffalo from reaching the basin, making this one of the few undisturbed areas in Kakadu.

Discarded stone tools Baroalba, swimming below a wet season waterfall

The area is full of rock shelters that were used by Aboriginal people over the millennia. It contains what may well be the greatest concentration of Aboriginal rock art in Australia, dating from the most ancient to the most recent. In deference to the wishes of the Aboriginal traditional owners, we do not show photos of the paintings on this website. We can, however, show you some of the discarded stone tools that litter the area. This was obviously a very important quarry for thousands of years.

The best time to visit this area is during or immediately after the wet season when every creek is flowing and the waterholes are all full.

Baroalba Creek and the Brockman Massif

Even in the Wet, we can sometimes cross the creek with dry feet. On the Gubara track. Some of the off-track hiking is just as easy.

Our trek begins with an easy three kilometre hike along an old four wheel drive track to Gubara (Baroalba Springs) where we can enjoy a refreshing swim. From here, we leave all tracks behind. Depending on water levels and the wishes of the group, we may do a somewhat strenuous scramble up the boulder strewn creek or we may cross the creek and take a shortcut up another valley.

Our first campsite is usually only about three kilometres from Gubara Pools. If we arrive early, there are plenty of places for the energetic to climb up for an afternoon view.

Not far above our first camp, we have to cross the creek. This usually means a wade. Not far above the crossing, we come to this lovely chute waterfall. It's too nice to pass by, so we almost always stop for a swim.

The first part of the next day is moderately difficult. We cross and recross the creek, our exact route determined by the water levels at the time. The lovely chute waterfall shown in the photo is always worth a stop. When water levels are very low, we can go up next to the falls. If they are a bit higher, there is an easy, but slightly longer, way around.

Enjoying a waterfall spa above the camp. Our usual second camp is on a flat sandy area below a small waterfall.

Once above the chute, the ground levels out and the walking becomes somewhat easier. We stop to visit art sites, photograph the flowers, climb up for views and relax by pools for swims as we work our way up to our second camp.

Occasionally, an ambitious group will decide to camp on a high point which offers magnificent 360° views. The climbs are fairly steep and we will need to carry water, but we can leave excess gear in rock shelters below so our packs will be as light as possible.

Easy walking through the dry grass above our camp. This is the wet season. Sometimes the ground can be quite boggy.

Now comes the easiest part of the trip. We camp here for two or even three nights, exploring the basin above with day packs. Here we find an incredible concentration of art sites as well as quarries containing the remains of discarded stone tools that didn't make the grade.

Much of the area is very flat. Sometimes it is very wet, sometimes it is relatively dry — relatively. This is still the wet season so water is everywhere.

Hiking along the flat rock above the camp. Climbing down from one of our high views. Climbing down from one of our high views.

Sometimes we walk on flat rock ledges and sometimes we do some fairly steep climbs. The views are magnificent.

We can make the day walk or walks as easy or as energetic as the members of the group wish. While we won't let anyone wander off on their own, if a few people want to do something more strenuous than the rest and climb higher for a better view, they can do so.

Off Brockman and Across to Hill 420

Hiking up toward the pass in the rain. You will almost certainly get rain at some point on the trip. Camping in the valley between the Brockman massif and the Arnhem Escarpment.

Finally, it is time for us to leave the Brockman massif. We continue upstream along the creek, then veer off to a relatively easy pass for the descent to the plains below. The scenic view photo in the introduction shows the view from the edge before our descent.

Once down, we hike across the valley separating the Brockman massif from the Arnhem Escarpment. At this time of year, we have our choice of numerous campsites. By the end of the dry season, all the water will have disappeared.

Walking below the cliffs on the lower part of Hill 420 Creek. Campsite at the bottom of Hill 420 Creek

From the central valley, we continue east into another valley where we camp at the bottom of the creek which comes off Hill 420. There are several small waterfalls here, making it one of the most scenic campsites we have.

Hill 420 got it's name from the first good topo map which showed a 420 metre contour on the top. Later maps show it as only 411 metres, but the name stuck.

When we continue upstream, either on a day walk or overnight, we pass the magnificent cliffs on the photo shown here.

Hiking up one of the easy parts of the creek below Hill 420. Rock scramble coming back down Hill 420 Creek.

As we trek up the creek, sometimes the going is very easy, sometimes it's distinctly more difficult. In many places we can drop our packs and climb up for a view.

Small waterfall on Hill 420 Creek. Wet season pool, Arnhem Escarpment stone country

Water is everywhere. The waterfall shown here is on Hill 420 Creek. The small pool is somewhere high in the stone country that surrounds us. Both will disappear before the end of the dry season.

Sitting on the edge, Hill 420 Stone arch on the Arnhem Escarpment near Hill 420 Climbing up for a view, somewhere on Hill 420

On most trips we will have at least one high camp from which we will be able to do some exploring without our full packs. The rock formations and views are fabulous.

Can you spot the people in three photos here? If you can't can't see at least one person in all three photos, click to see a larger version. Seeing the people should give you a better idea of scale.

Arnhem Escarpment sunset Looking along the Arnhem Escarpment from somewhere on Hill 420

Camping high gives us incredible views and the best sunsets.

Sunset at our final campsite. Back on the flat as we head back toward the vehicle.

Once back down in the valley, we hike along below the escarpment for a bit before crossing over to the edge of the Brockman massif. Our final camp is in a flat area where a small creek flows into the plains, one more spot that will be dry later in the year.

We finish with a hike up and over a small pass and back down to join the track where we began.

Flora and Fauna

This is the best time of year for wildflowers. While you are unlikely to see many large animals, if you keep your eyes open, you will see lots of small ones.

Bush turmeric (Curcurma australasica). One book says that the Aboriginal people ate it, 'when there was nothing else.' This colourful moth is often seen during the day. Ground orchid (Dipodium stenochilum). This lovely orchid flowers during the build up and wet seasons. It lives in symbiosis with a fungus in its roots and is unsuited to cultivation. Geckoes are nocturnal and seldom seen. When this one jumped onto someone, we couldn't resist the photo. Grevillea. This lovely grevillea doesn't match any of the photos in our plant references. Perhaps it is a natural hybrid.

Terrain and difficulty.

As the photos show, this trip includes some of easiest as well as some of the most rugged terrain in our entire program. The reasons it is only rated as level 3 are the leisurely pace and the fact that the most difficult climbs can be done without a full pack.

It is likely to rain during the trip. If you take part, you will get wet when it rains.

It will be hot. The average daily maximum temperature in March is 33°C (91°F). To avoid the worst of the heat, we plan to take long breaks near pools during the middle of the day whenever possible.

You are, however, not likely to get cold. The temperature is unlikely to go below about 21°C (70°F).

Once you start, you are in to the finish. There is no vehicular access anywhere along the route.

Most sections of the walk are fairly flat and relatively easy. Some, however, involve considerable rock hopping and are moderately difficult. There are a few steep climbs but these are short and over relatively quickly for most groups.

To take part you need good fitness, a sense of adventure and an interest in Aboriginal art and the natural landscape.

Your rewards include visits to an incredible number of Aboriginal art sites, spectacular views, great swimming and beautiful campsites shared with no one but your own small group, a Kakadu wilderness experience no other operator can offer you.

This is a wet season trip. More information about bushwalking in the wet season

Printable trip notes for the Baroalba - Hill 420 Circle

Read a story about our 2002 trip by a German girl along with some more photos

For more information about this trip or to find out how to book email us for Baroalba: Hill 420 Circle Information

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Willis's Walkabouts, 12 Carrington Street, Millner NT 0810, Australia walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au

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