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Kakadu & Top End

Kakadu Highlights

Koolpin (Jarrangbarnmi) and Freezing Gorges

Koolpin Gorge, Lower Falls, January. Once we are above the falls, we no longer have to worry about estuarine crocodiles.

Koolpin Creek is one of the largest tributaries of the South Alligator River, draining a large part of Kakadu's sandstone plateau. Just before the creek drops into the plains below, it enters Koolpin Gorge where it passes over a series of waterfalls. The views are a photographer's delight. Aboriginal art sites tell us that this has been a special place for thousands of years.

The Aboriginal traditional owners of the Koolpin area are the Jawoyn people. They know Koolpin as Jarrangbarnmi which comes from the Jawoyn words jarrang meaning flood, or big water flow, and barn meaning rift or gap. Anyone can visit the area, but for most people, doing so requires a high clearance 4WD, a permit and a key for a locked gate. No more than 40 people are permitted in the area at any one time. If you are on foot, you can give the rough 4WD track a miss and hike in from the main road as we do in the wet season.

This photo was taken during the wet season. Willis's Walkabouts is the only tour operator who visits Koolpin Gorge when the 4WD track is closed.

Natural spa, Koolpin Gorge.

Jarrangbarnmi is part of the region known to the Jawoyn traditional land owners as Buladjang or "Sickness Country". It is associated with two Jawoyn creation ancestors, Bula and Bolung, the Rainbow serpent. Bula created this landscape and then went to live under the ground. Bolung lives in the plunge pools of this country.

These powerful creation ancestors are capable of causing earthquakes, storms, floods and disease if disturbed. Jawoyn people are very respectful and careful while in Buladjang country. They ask that you also show respect for their country and culture.

While there are many art sites along Koolpin Creek, some of these sites contain pictures which should not be placed on the web. In keeping with the wishes of the traditional owners, we have not included any art site photos on this page.

The photo at left shows one group enjoying a spa near the campsite shown below.

Beach campsite, upper Koolpin Gorge

Although Koolpin Gorge is only four kilometres long, it is too nice to rush. On all our bushwalks, we take our time, swimming in the many pools, photographing the waterfalls and visiting the many art sites as we slowly trek to a camp site near the top of the gorge. All but one of our Circle Trips begin with a hike through Koolpin.

Freezing Gorge

Several of our Highlights Trips include a loop bushwalk combining Koolpin and nearby Freezing Gorge. Although Freezing Creek is much smaller than Koolpin, it has carved a deep and narrow gorge where the sun seldom reaches the water — hence the name. The pools are just as inviting as those in Koolpin, perhaps more so since very few of the 4WD campers are aware that it exists. Most of those who do set off in search of the gorge get to the lower section where they have to climb over and scramble around large boulders. They think that this is the gorge and go no further, leaving the best part to those who have hiked the full distance.

The bottom photo on the left above shows one of our Koolpin camp sites. Camping next to lovely pools like this and having them all to ourselves is typical on all our Kakadu and Kimberley walks. The photo at the right shows Freezing Gorge.

For more general information, please see

For more information about the Jawoyn people, see the Jawoyn Association website. We particularly recommend having a look at their

You don't need to stop there. The rest of the Jawoyn Association website has lots more interesting information.

Finally, if you would like to visit Koolpin Gorge on your own, you need a permit for both day and overnight visits. You can find an application on the official Kakadu Access to Jarrangbarnmi (Koolpin Gorge) page.

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

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