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Home > Travelogues > 2009 Travelogues Index > Kakadu National Park > Ubirr
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Kakadu National Park - The East Alligator River and many large Crocodiles

Read more about crocodiles in Australia here
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Jabiru was town busy with tourists.  There were several resorts and caravan parks, although the town is principally accommodation for the Ranger Uranium mine with the company owning all the houses.  The Ranger mine is eight kilometres from Jabiru.   We returned to the Arnhem Highway then headed towards Ubirr on the Oenpelli Road. 

Crocodiles were cruising the murky waters and disappeared from sight when they dropped below the surface.  Despite warning signs, fishermen stood on the crossing and children played on the rocks at the edge, with fishing parents seeming oblivious to what the children were doing or to the crocodiles lurking close by them.  There have been many incidents including fatalities in 1987 and in 2017.  Park Rangers estimate there are 100 - 120 crocodiles within two kilometres of Cahills Crossing.  We did not see any fish caught by the fishermen; only by the crocodiles. 

Ubirr is a small settlement near the East Alligator River with the small Border Store being the centre of business in the settlement. Here we booked the Guluyambi Cultural Cruise for the next morning and the young lady in the shop said she would be taking the boat out next morning and would show us plenty of big crocodiles.  

 

We took the Mannagarre rain forest loop walk which is alongside the river northwards from near the Border Store.  There was a large fruit bat colony near the river.  Other walks in the area include the Bardedjilidji sandstone loop walk of 2.5 kilometres which leaves near the upstream boat ramp.  There are further sandstone and river walk extensions. 

We crossed part of the Jabiluka Mining Tenement.  The only Uranium mining currently taking place within the leases is further south at the Ranger mine a short distance east of Jabiru.  The Jabiluka lease, although no longer being mined, is not included in the Kakadu National Park which surrounds it.  

The name Mudginberri on a gate triggered my memory Ė there was a story.  This dispute involves the Mudginberri, Meneling, Victoria Valley and Alice Springs abattoirs. These meatworks were traditionally award free and had worked on a system of contracts with employees.

 

Extract from The Mudginberri Dispute 

 

Mudginberri Station is some 250 km east of Darwin along the Arnhem Highway in the 'uranium province' of the Northern Territory.

 

It was, prior to the establishment of the Kakadu National Park, a traditional pastoral lease held for many years by the Pioneer Concrete group and taken over by the Commonwealth for the establishment of the Kakadu National Park.

 

John David Pendarvls was employed as Manager of Mudginberri Station by Pioneer Concrete and in the early 1970's he developed a small abattoir at Mudginberri to take advantage of the huge herds of feral buffalo which exist in the flood-plain country which makes up most of the Mudginberri lease.

 

The industrial saga that unfolded involved 27 court hearing over the two years 1983 - 1985, with the final toll being the eventual demise of all abattoirs in the Northern Territory and the bankrupting of the AMIEU (Australian Meat Industry Employees Union) over damages claims from Mudginberri Abattoir.  Both the Federal Government and the Farmers Federation were criticised over their roles.  There were no winners. 

Cahillís Crossing is a rock lined concrete causeway across the tidal river and is the access road to go to Oenpelli and further into northern Arnhem Land.  It is approximately ninety kilometres from the river mouth and is subject to tidal influences. 

 

A permit is required to enter Arnhem Land so we did not cross the river, although at low tide there was very little water flowing across the causeway. 

Some vehicles waited for the tide to subside, but some drivers crossed as the water deepened.  One fisherman remained, casting his line towards the crocodiles. 

The tidal surge could be seen coming around in the bend of the river, and it wasnít long before crocodiles were crossing the road in the shallow water to line up at the upstream side to await a feed of barramundi which were also soon crossing the causeway. A splash was all that could be seen as the crocodiles snatched the fish.   

The crossing was bathed in smoke from fires the other side of the river.  We would return to the crossing to watch the tide coming in from a viewing platform above the river.   

How quickly and easily these cumbersome looking animals can move in water.
Soon the hook jagged one and it tugged at his line while people from the platform called him all sorts of names alluding to his intelligence (or lack thereof).  He yelled abusive comments back and claimed it was not his fault.  The conversations were not pretty. Soon the crocodile did a couple of quick rolls until the line snapped.   
The Bowali Visitor Centre displays are based on the flora and fauna and geological aspect of Kakadu and what to see and do during your visit. It is 2.5 kilometres south of the turn off into Jabiru.
We stayed at the Merl campground for the duration of our visit to Ubirr. 
Continue reading for our cultural cruise on the East Alligator River and our visit to Ubirr Rock
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Cahillís Crossing