Graveside is one of the most amazingly spectacular areas in Kakadu. It is also among the least accessible. You can do it on a bushwalk of a week or more as we do on our circle trips or you need to get a permit and drive 44 km down a rough 4WD track. Once you have done that, you still have a four to five kilometre walk to get into the main gorge. Then the magic begins.
Graveside, or Bilkbilkmi as it is known to the local Aboriginal people, remains an important site to this day. During the season when the track is open, it is closed to the general public for one week every month so that traditional owners of this part of Kakadu can do some of the same hunting and gathering that their ancestors had done for thousands of years.
Two creeks have cut two gorges which join into one near the bottom. Both are spring fed and flow all year long. Both contain beautiful thick patches of shady monsoon forest, and lovely pools, perfect for swimming.
On our Graveside treks, done as single sections of our Kakadu Highlights trips, we normally spend two nights at our first camp so we can spend a full day hiking up the two shady, monsoon forest filled gorges. Going up the eastern branch requires a lot of rock scrambling and a few wades. Hiking up the main branch brings you to the waterfall shown in the picture. If you swim across (without packs of course), it's a relatively straightforward climb up followed by a rock scramble up to a pool below the main falls.
Both gorges are dead ends. We do, however, know where we can climb out of the main one. The climb is steep and scrubby, but not all that difficult. The person in the photo was age 8 at the time. He was on one of our Kakadu Family bushwalking tours and didn't need any help to get up.
Once on top, we enjoy spectacular views out over the plains and then across to the waterfall which we visited from the bottom the day before. We stop for swims above both gorges, often camping upstream on the second one.
A relatively flat trek across the plateau brings us to Cascades Creek. There are no marked tracks or trails here so we never hit the creek in the exact same place. But, wherever we hit it, it is only a short walk to the top of Cascades Gorge.
The gorge is only four kilometres long but there are several waterfalls and many inviting pools, so inviting that none of our groups has ever hiked down to the bottom without at least three swim stops. There are even a number of Aboriginal art sites along the way.
For many, the best part of the trek comes as we near the bottom of the gorge. Here we find the best natural water slide in Kakadu. A few manage to resist, but age 8 or 80, most people find doing the slide at least once is irresistible. Many will do it a dozen or more times.
If people are feeling energetic, they can climb up for a full view of the whole length of the cascades. The red x in the photo shows the water slide. If you can't see the x, click on the photo to see a larger version.
And, for those who want to see the area at it's spectacular best, our Kakadu Super Circle No. 1 visits this area in January. Even then, you won't often see it in as full a flood as shown here, but you can be sure it will be spectacular.
The wet season is very different to what most people expect. Please have a look at our Gudjewgg — Wet Season page and see for yourself.
From the bottom of Cascades Creek, we have a trek of about 8 kilometres to get back to the vehicle. Hiking down the open valley is relatively easy and there are a number of good campsites along the way. We generally camp at one of these so that we can finish our bushwalk at a reasonable hour on the final day.
Back at the vehicle, we still have the 44 kilometre drive back to the main road followed by a fair drive to get to where we are going next.
Once a year, we offer a special ten day trip which combines the magic of Graveside, the magnificent views from the top of Surprise Falls and a walk through a monsoon forest-filled gorge we do not visit on any other trip. See our Kakadu Trip List for details about this and all of our other trips which visit this area.
We've been visiting this area for more than 30 years and know all of the best ways to go. But, if you have a good 4WD and are good at navigating with a map and compass (a GPS is not enough), you can visit this area on your own. Be warned, the navigation is tricky in some places. There are a lot of potential dead ends. Never climb up or down anything where you can't go back the way you came.
You can find a links to the current closing dates and permit applications on the official Kakadu Bushwalking and Camping page.
Vehicle access depends on the condition of the track. In 2014, the track did not open until early August.
Willis's Walkabouts, 12 Carrington Street, Millner NT 0810, Australia email@example.com
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