Australia So Much to See
Mataranka and the Elsey National Park
A little further along the road an old plunge sheep dip from the station days was of interest. To get rid of external parasites,
sheep would be dipped through a chemical added bath following shearing. Sheep swam through a narrow trough, being pushing under
the water with a stick to ensure complete cover by the chemical. 1913 was the start of an experimental flock of sheep on Mataranka
Station. Floods and droughts took their toll and in 1920 the last of the remaining sheep were sold.
At the Four Mile, a short walk and wading across two shallow creek crossings took us to the Roper River where there is a boat ramp. While people fish in the Roper, caution is needed as it is not guaranteed to be crocodile free.
We passed the ruins of an Aboriginal internment camp. Following the bombing of Darwin in 1942, the Aboriginal settlement nearDarwin was taken over for use principally by the Army, and Aboriginal residents were moved to a number of other locations including
one on the Roper River near Mataranka.
John Hauser Drive continues past the Mataranka Homestead turn off through the Elsey National Park, with points of interest signed
along the way. The first stop was the Botanic Walk, through a tropical rainforest with fast flowing spring fed streams forest
and wetlands oozing with water through to the Little Roper River at a point shortly before where it is joined by the Waterhouse River to
form the Roper River. There were information panels to identify the species of various trees. Sulphur crested cockatoos
squawked from the tops to the palms near the riverís edge. Butterflies were abundant in the shade of the trees.
A short walk to a pool on the pandanus lined Roper River at Wabalarr is another fishing opportunity. Mulurark is also a fishing
spot on the Roper River, where the contrasts of this country come together. From a sandy beach, looking upstream the river is
wide and downstream it becomes shallow as it runs across a series of rapids. Across the river the north side a dry red stony
hill typical of this harsh land. People were fishing, but caught nothing while we watched. Lots of tiny fish; some sparkling
silver and with some stripes or spots, darted in the shallows.
The National Park Campground of Jalmurark is near the Twelve Mile Yards. The Park Campground has amenities with hot showers,
but as it is a National Park campground there is no power and generators are not permitted. A concrete boat ramp has been provided
at the river near the cattle yards. The cattle yards were built alongside the river in 1969 with a one way gate to trap the
station cattle as they came to the river for water. The gate was usually left open, but engaged when it was time to mark
calves, separate cows from calves, or select cattle to market. Cattle for sale were driven on foot into Mataranka, then trucked
There is a sixteen kilometre long walk trail commencing at the Little Roper River where accessed by the Botanic Walk then following
along the Roper River, linking all the riverside points we took short walks to, and on beyond the Twelve Mile Yards to Korowan;
This part of the station was destocked and declared a National Park in 1991.
After one last refreshing dip in the warm waters at Bitter Springs, it was time to pack up ready to head further north in the morning.
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