Monday, 7 October 2019

Greenant Creek & Tjaetaba Falls (Litchfield National Park)

An outstanding short walk in Litchfield National Park, the walk to Tjeataba Falls explores Greenant Creek's landscape. Passing through a mix of rainforest and dry savannah woodlands, the pleasant walk leads to the small but excellent swimming hole at the head of Tjeataba Falls. Less crowded than Wangi Falls, this is a more secluded alternative for those looking for an Outback swimming hole experience

Distance: 2.7 km (return)
Gradient: A mix of gentle, level walking and moderately steep descents and ascents
Quality of Path: Generally clear and well maintained trail with constructed steps and railings in places
Quality of Signage: Clear and easy to follow trailhead, with markers along the way. All trail junctions are clearly marked
Experience Required: Some Bushwalking Experience Recommended
Time: 1 Hour (depending on if you swim or not)
Steps: Many steps, particularly leading up and down the cliff
Best Time to Visit: Best when the falls is not closed for swimming. Check for closures during the wet season
Entry Fee: No
Getting There: The trail starts at the Tjaetaba Falls car park. From Darwin, take Stuart Hwy and turn right heading east on Cox Peninsula Rd before turning left onto Litchfield Park Rd. Continue on Litchfield Park Rd for 74 kilometres, and then turn left into Tjaetaba Falls car park

After a pleasant short walk and cool off beneath Wangi Falls, Alissa and I continued along Litchfield Park Rd to our next short walk. Wangi Falls had come highly recommended to us by our friend Mark of Life of Py, and his second favourite short walk had been Greenant Creek and Tjaetaba Falls, located only 9 km east of Wangi Falls.

A less popular waterfall than Wangi Falls, the trail leaves the much smaller car park on a well formed unsealed track through shaded forest that provided some relief from the increasingly warm weather.

A short way into the walk, the trail crosses a bridge over an ephemeral creek. Dry at the time of our visit, it clearly is one of those creeks that flows during the wet season given the provision of the bridge.

Across the bridge, Alissa and I were fascinated by a piece of grass seemingly floating in space. Tethered by a strong but largely invisible spider's web, it was one of those chance encounters on a trail that cannot easily be repeated but nevertheless provide that 'devil in the detail' extra layer of interest.

After moving on from the magical floating grass, Alissa and I continued on the trail across another narrow creek. Unlike the first creek crossing, this one may have been narrow but was flowing well and relatively deep. This creek reminded Alissa and I of the aquifer-fed creeks of Millstream-Chichester National Park back home in Western Australia; these springs and aquifers are the life blood for these areas as they provide a more reliable, year round water supply to fill the gap between the wet seasons and are the reason that rainforests can be supported in otherwise hot and arid conditions.

Indeed, just beyond the bridge Alissa and I found ourselves in beautifully lush and spectacular rainforest that was very similar to what we had encountered on the Wangi Falls loop, and again brought back memories of our time living in Queensland in early 2018.

Trail alignment provides a fascinating insight into how stark the vegetation change can be. Skirting the edge of the rainforest there is sharp, dramatic transition from rainforest straight to savannah, with only the slightest crossover between the two.

Continuing on the cusp between the two vegetation types, the trail passes a linking track that provides access to the Tabletop Track, showing that it is possible to walk between Wangi Falls and Greenant Creek as part of the multi-day circuit.

Leaving the rainforest behind, the trail enters severely burnt Savannah as the trail rises uphill towards Tjaetaba Falls. It wasn't clear to Alissa and I whether this was a prescribed burn or a bushfire but given the scorching heat of the day (already in the mid to high 30s) neither would have been a surprise. With the lack of tree cover, we could really feel how much it was warming up now and we were looking forward to cooling off again.

Higher up the hill, the trees cover increased with a less severe defoliation. Nevertheless, the trees were the kind of thin and scrappy trees that provided very little in the way of shade.

Nearing the top of the climb, Alissa and I could see where the creek flowed into the valley below. There was clear delineation of savannah landscape and pockets of tropical rainforest below, and again illustrated how stark and abrupt the change of vegetation types is in Litchfield National Park.

From a small lookout, Tjaetaba Falls can be glimpsed through the trees. As is often the case with these kinds of lookouts, the number of trees in the way precluded a clear view. As such, it is best to continue onwards to the top of the falls itself if you're looking for a better vantage point to appreciate Tjaetaba Falls.

Heading across the top of the falls, the trail crosses over a shallow pool being fed by a small waterfall upstream.

The layered rocks, flowing water and tropical species made Alissa and I think of Karijini National Park, albeit lacking the dramatic red colour of the iron-rich rock of the Hammersley Range.

Continuing on the other side of the creek, the cliff top provides a great view of Tjaetaba Falls in action. Walkers should note that the pool below the falls is a sacred site for the local indigenous people and as such should not be accessed. There is no easy trail heading down towards the foot of the falls so one would have to be wilfully disrespectful to clamber all the way down there for a swim.

And besides - why would you when there is a magnificent pool located at the head of to falls? Constantly fed by the water upstream, the pool is a perfectly comfortable temperature for a quick dip and is deep enough that even a tall walker would need to swim down to touch the bottom. With its depth, round shape and warm temperature, this pool reminded Alissa and I of the similarly excellent Spa Pool in Karijini, which remains one of our all-time Outback highlights.

After enjoying the refreshing dip (which I did fully clothed knowing I would be dry by the time we got to the car!), Alissa and I made the journey back down to the car park. Having cooled off and being almost entirely downhill, this was an easy and pleasant return leg.

As with Wangi Falls, the Greenant Creek and Tjaetaba Falls Walk was a short but enjoyable walk in Litchfield National Park that really allowed us to appreciate the stark contrast between the Savannah and Rainforests that define the region. While Wangi Falls and its swimming hole is certainly larger and more spectacular, the quiet nature of Tjaetaba Falls certainly has its own charms and if you prefer your nature wilder and with less crowds then I think this would be a preferred short walk option in Litchfield National Park. Either way, this was another gem of a walk that was a perfect second walk in the Northern Territory.


After completing the two walks, Alissa and I continued on the loop through Litchfield. While not a walk, it is well worth checking out the Magnetic Termite Mounds in the park. These fascinating termite mounds look not dissimilar to the Pinnacles of Western Australia but of course are made by termites instead. These termites have a magnetic sense that allows them to know where north is, and as a result they build their termite mounds to maximise surface facing the Sun. It is an intriguing and alien landscape, and served as a great finale to our time in Litchfield Naitonal Park. 

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