Springs feed mighty Roper

The amazing Bitter Springs are one of the main tourist drawcards of the Northern Territory.
The amazing Bitter Springs are one of the main tourist drawcards of the Northern Territory.

The mighty Roper River is born as small creeks and springs, all within the boundaries of the 13,840ha Elsey National Park.

Numerous springs within the park feed the river which during the Dry season flows gently through waterholes and tumbles over rocks and amazing ‘tufa dams’.

At Bitter Springs, water rises from underground at 30.5 million litres per day at around 34 degrees Celsius.

This mineral rich water is contained within pools linked by a creek that is surrounded by a palm forest and fringed with water lilies.

The silty mud along the banks can be sticky and slippery.

Entry points with hand rails and steps at several places along a loop track make getting in and out of the water safe and easy.

Using these hardened areas also protects the delicate banks of the waterway ensuring that this beautiful place stays relatively undisturbed.

A favourite way to enjoy the crystal clear water is to enter at an upstream spot and float down, riding the current on a pool noodle.

Goggles and a snorkel are great additions as although there are not a huge number of fish you can see the occasional turtle and water weed and algae form underwater landscapes.

There is a handy set of steps just before the footbridge that marks the end of the recommended swimming area.

These lead straight to the track that will take you back to your start point and back into the water!

Bitter Springs is a quick and easy one hour drive down the Stuart Highway from Katherine adjacent to the township of Mataranka.

Other sites around Elsey National Park offer a glimpse into the past or the chance to hike, fish, canoe or camp near the river and all sites within the park are accessible with a two wheel drive vehicle.

The township has everything you will need during your stay and there are commercial campgrounds just outside the park that offer a range of accommodation options.

Elsey is also the home of the Never Never, the location of a classic Australian novel of that name by Jeannie Gunn.