Pack your hiking boots and wanderlust and head west to head to the spectacular gorges of Gregory National Park. Also known as Judbarra to the local indigenous people, it is the second-largest park in the Territory.
Gregory National Park (now Judburra National Park) is a 13,000 square kilometer wilderness area in NT, around 200 km west of Katherine. It’s a park for outdoor and four-wheel driving enthusiasts as well as families. So, it is a perfect destination for day trips or weekend breaks.
Do you want to know more about Gregory National Park? Here’s what you should know…
If you are from Darwin, you can follow this route:
- Head north on McMinn St toward Tiger Brennan Dr
- After 100 m, turn right onto Tiger Brennan Dr
- After 800 m, turn right onto Garramilla Blvd
- Continue onto Tiger Brennan Drafter 290 m
- After 17.2 km, merge onto National Hwy 1
- Keep right to stay on National Hwy 1 after 23.1 km
- Turn right to stay on National Hwy 1 after 274 km
What Should I Know About Gregory National Park?
Gregory National Park is under the Victoria River District (VRD) and features deep historical significance in a lot of ways. The whole of the area had been settled by Aboriginals as early as 40,000 years ago. Archaeological sites are typical throughout the area and have been well documented. Archaeologists have inferred that the VRD may have been one of the first Aboriginal colonization points, being extremely close to the islands and land bridges that lead to the north, and being reasonably hospitable in wildlife and estuarine and river systems. Also, six language groups are found in this region.
The first important non-Aboriginal contacts arrived with the exploration of Europeans. In 1819, Phillip King arrived at the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf and the mouth of the Victoria River. The area wasn’t ventured into by Europeans until twenty years later in 1839 by Commander John Stokes and Captain John Wickham, who entered and gave Victoria River its name.
Stokes’ positive reports led eventually to the beginnings of land-based exploration, starting with Augustus Gregory’s major Northern Exploration Expedition of 1855-56. Beginning from a landing on the river, Gregory initiated two trips simultaneously into the southern interior, exploring along with the river systems of the region and opening up significant new plant species under the team’s botanist Ferdinand von Mueller. The iconic boab, Adansonia gregorii, was named after the prominent traveler.
Gregory was followed in 1879 by Alexander Forrest who provided the recommendations that contributed to a rapid expansion of pastoral care in the VRD. During that time, it was one of the few remaining large areas holding unclaimed rural grasslands in Australia, covered by black soil plains, Mitchell and Flinders grasses, most of the wildlife, and abundant water resources. Historic stations like the Wave Hill and Victoria River Downs were founded early under the famed pastoral identities and families, including the Duracks, Buchanans, and the infamous Vesteys.
Despite its apparent promise, pastoral growth in the early years had only moderate success, suffering from long distances for the cattle to be transported either to northern ports or to Queensland stations. Calves in the VRD would grow, but they couldn’t be quickly fattened through the long dry seasons, and they would mainly lose the condition they did have on the drives, to the extent that they would require need re-finishing. Also, this was on the longer runs.
There were several smaller interstitial ‘stations’ that tended to run primarily on a limited ‘parasitic’ basis reporting cleanskin bovine animals under their labels. One of the stations was Bullita in the Park. All around, there were the remote area hardships of Aboriginal antagonism and spearings, loneliness, male-dominated society, and lack of medical assistance, with the significant death rate in labor for the small number of women who made it to the early VRD.
Slowly, the Aboriginals were integrated into the pastoral workforces and economic interdependency until the 1960s, during which agricultural operations and the Aboriginal experience changed forever. The opening of trafficable roads and the advent of modern transport meant less reliance on Aboriginal labor. It combined with the current land rights movement, which started on Wave Hill Station (which borders the western side of GNP) when Vincent Lingiari and his companions walked off the station owned by the Vestey family and ‘sat down’ in the creeks.
After much struggle, Lingiari was successful in 1975 when Gough Whitlam handed him and his people formal ownership over their ancestral lands, pouring the sands through Lingiari’s fingers – now a noteworthy even for Australian history. Also, a federal government Northern Territory lower house seat is named after him.
How Are The 4WD Tracks in Gregory National Park?
The Gregory National Park 4WD track network includes the Wickham, Broadarrow, Bullita Stock Route, Humbert, Gibbie, and Tukawam tracks. This trek will take you from south to north, passing through the fascinating remote country over its entirety or some parts of the first four. But the national park and this trek can also be reached from the Buchanan Hwy in the east through the Victoria River Downs.
Access to the tracks usually is between June and November in dry conditions with the trails slowly opening north to south with the Broadarrow typically the last in late July or August.
NT Parks and Wildlife
classify these tracks as being reasonably easy with some moderate to challenging sections. There can be some rough sections on the Broadarrow Track, and along the way, there are creeks with relatively steep entries and exits. Aside from that, there are a lot of rocky sections in the track. So, care should while driving through it. The Broadarrow is also notorious for causing punctures on many 4WD enthusiasts’ vehicles. The road is also impossible to miss with virtually no alternative options or offtakes and is indicated extensively by boab-themed markers and distance signs. The park also advises against driving the tracks using camper trailers, but good quality, high clearance, well-articulated off-road trailers may be more appropriate.
Most tracks are in the reasonably flat country, although the area is located south of the Humbert River. There is one sharp climb up (with a couple of false crests) on the Wickham Track and one tricky ‘shaley’ descent leading to the Bullita Stock Route. Three crossings, one in Humbert River and two East Baines are complicated, not due to its depth (only around 30cm as of August 2009), but choosing the right line through the plunged ledges isn’t that easy – even with the marker stakes. Having your navigator ‘spot,’ these parts will make life much more comfortable.
Drive carefully at the first East Baines crossing at Bullita where the sign says to keep to the left side of the markers. But if you go too far left you can discover a hole. The Bullita SR is notably rocky and slow for the first 12 km. All the tracks go through wide meanders as the route tries to avoid the worst of the numerous creeks, tributaries, and rivers.
Camping is free at several designated sites (with the typical tiny fireplaces) on the tracks, and bush camping (along with loose firewood) is available almost everywhere. Also, water is obtainable at a lot of places along the route, but the quality would vary greatly. Camping charges only apply at the campgrounds with more facilities such as Bullita campground on the East Baines River. There are several swimming waterholes but plenty of croc areas as well, so take caution and heed the relevant signage.
Don’t miss the short one-kilometer walk that leads to the north of the Fig Tree Yard turn off – it is not difficult and provides excellent views, especially in the late afternoon. There is another short walking trail in the area close to the Humbert crossing to Police Creek Waterhole. It is also worth spending a little bit of time at Bullita Outstation
From Bullita (if you’re not keen on driving through the challenging Stock Route option), there is a sealed 2WD road to the Victoria Hwy.
What Are The Other Things That I Can Do in Gregory National Park?
When you explore Gregory National Park, you can explore the following tracks:
- Buntine Highway & Broadarrow Track Access
- Wickham Track
- Humbert Track
- Bullit Stock Route
- East Baines River Crossing
- Victoria Hwy & Bullita Access Rd
If you want to head to see new things or take a dip, you can head to:
- Top Humbert Yard
- Gunbunbu Waterhole
- Fig Tree Valley Lookout
- Spring Creek Yard
What Do Other 4WD Enthusiasts Say About Gregory National Park?
“We traveled the Gibbel, Wickham, Humbert, Bullita Stock Route, and the Tuwakam Tracks towing a camper without any dramas in May this year. I wouldn’t recommend the Tuwakam Track as it is extremely rocky, and the scenery is average. There are a couple of jump-ups on the Wickham Track that were a little loose but nothing over the top. Good camping at Paperbark Yard, Fish Hole Yard, Limestone Gorge, the camping on the Bullita Stock Route is pretty average. all in all, it was a great drive and a nice park.” -Len & Rhoda (https://www.exploroz.com/forum/139001/judbarragregory-national-park?p=/treks/gregory-national-park)
Where Should I Stay in Gregory National Park?
Much like other national parks, there are a lot of campgrounds scattered throughout the area where you can stop and take a rest. You can set up camp at:
- Depot Creek Campground
- Broad arrow Track Campground
- East Baines Camp
- Camel Point Campsite
- Top Humbert Yard Campground
- Fig Tree Yard Campground
- Bullita Station Campground
- Spring Creek Yard Camp: You can also camp at the banks of the creek
What State Is Victoria River In?
The Victoria River, a river of the North-east Murray catchment of the Murray-Darling basin, is located in the Alpine and East Gippsland of Victoria, Australia.
What Is The Shortest River In Australia?
Patterson River. The Patterson River is a partially man-made urban river of the Port Phillip catchment, located in the south-eastern section of the Greater Melbourne region of Victoria. It is the shortest river in Victoria at only 5 kilometers in length.