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Timber Creek, NT

Roadhouse evolving into a town on the main road from Katherine to the Kimberley.

Timber Creek, a major stopping point roughly halfway between Katherine to Kununurra on the Victoria Highway, is a town in transition. It currently has a population of less than 300 which makes it more than just a roadhouse but hardly a major service centre. The increasing traffic during the winter months means that it has attracted enthusiastic anglers eager to get onto the Victoria River and catch the precious barramundi. For non-anglers its interest lies in the western section of the Judbarra/Gregory National Park which is accessible by 4WD and offers opportunities to explore gorges and rugged outback country far removed from the crowds who cling to Highway 1.

Location

Located on the Victoria Highway 286 km south-west of Katherine and 228 km east of Kununurra, Timber Creek is 601 km south of Darwin.

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Origin of Name

The explorer Augustus Charles Gregory, who reached the area in 1855, named the site Timber Creek because it was here that his boat was wrecked and it was here that he cut some timber to repair the hole in the vessel.

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Things to See and Do

Timber Creek Police Station Museum
The Timber Creek Police Station was built in 1908. It is a typical example of Northern Territory public architecture of the time with covered verandas to keep it cool in summer. Located to the west of the town (it is signposted from the Victoria Highway) it is now owned by the National Trust and operates as a museum recording the history of the local area.

Heritage Trail
There is a 2 km (one way) Heritage Trail which runs from the Roadhouse to the Timber Creek Police Station. Developed by Parks & Wildlife in conjunction with the Community Government Council, it has signage along the way which tells the story of Timber Creek. There are also seats and benches. The views from the trail are particularly impressive in the early morning and late afternoon.

Timber Creek Lookout
There is a lookout on the escarpment above the town which offers a fine view over the Victoria River and the surrounding countryside. The lookout has an Anzac Memorial to the people who kept guard of the Australian coastline during World War II.

Fishing for Barramundi at Timber Creek
It is widely recognised that the local rivers offer some of the best barramundi fishing in the Northern Territory. The popular starting point is Big Horse Creek where there is a good ramp.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Judbarra/Gregory National Park
The Judbarra/Gregory National Park is broken into two sections - the eastern section and the western section. The smaller eastern area is around the Victoria River Roadhouse and a larger western area extends southward from Timber Creek to Depot Creek and Gibbie Creek. In total the park covers an area of 13,000 square kilometres (3,212,370 acres) which moves from tropical-monsoonal vegetation near the coast to semi-arid as it reaches south into the Tanami and Great Sandy Desert. The entire area is dramatically beautiful. The river has cut its way through the ranges and produced amphitheatres with rugged cliffs and escarpments which tumble down to the valleys. There are a number of places along the highway where the visitor can stop and take short walks into the Gregory National Park. Check http://www.parksandwildlife.nt.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/10550/Gregory20FS201120.pdf for a useful map and descriptions of the Limestone Ridge Loop Walk and the historic Bullita Homestead.

Gregory's Tree
Located 9 km west of Big Horse Creek campground, and 3 km off the Victoria Highway on a dirt road, is Gregory's Tree, an ancient boab tree. It is a sacred site for the local Ngarinman Aboriginal people and also the place where Baines, the artist on Augustus Charles Gregory's North Australia expedition, marked the arrival and departure of the expedition. The expedition camped on the banks of the Victoria River. There is an informative sign near the tree. The walk from the car park is 500 metres return. It is easy and there is wheelchair access. The baob tree with the date "July 2nd 1856" clearly carved in it can be accessed from a track which runs from the cairn on the Victoria Highway to the tree which is located at the riverside. The inscription on the cairn reads: "Gregory's Tree. Sailing from Moreton Bay the North Australian expedition landed at the Victoria River and proceeded upstream establishing their main base camp near here in October 1855. Over a period of eight months Augustus Charles Gregory with various numbers of the expedition explored large areas of the Victoria River catchment and penetrated nearly 500 km south along Sturt Creek to the edge of the Great Sandy Desert."

Big Horse Creek
This campground, 10 km west of Timber Creek, is recognised as one of the most popular places for anglers looking to catch a few barramundi. It is worth noting that the fish have to be 55 cm long and there is a daily bag limit of five.

The 4WD Only Area
Sadly some of the best areas in the park south of Timber Creek are only accessible by 4WD on the Bullita Stock Route, the Tuwakam Track, the Humbert Track, the Wickham Track, the Broadarrow Track and the Gibbie Track. Along these tracks are a number of particularly attractive gorges including the Jasper Gorge on the Buchanan Highway and the Limestone Gorge which is off the Bullita Stock Route. This is semi-arid country where expertise and a sense of safety are essential.

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History

* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area around Timber Creek was inhabited by members of the Nagaliwurra and Nangali Aboriginal language groups. They had been in the area for at least 40,000 years before the arrival of Europeans.

* In 1855 Augustus Charles Gregory sailed from Moreton Bay in Queensland to explore the estuary of the river. With a crew of eighteen and a number of scientists and an artist, Gregory sailed up the Victoria River and then explored Sturt's Creek for 500 km before it disappeared into the desert. Gregory's boat was wrecked at the site of Timber Creek. The site of Gregory's camp, known as Gregory's Tree Reserve, can still be found to the west of the town.

* In 1879 the explorer Alexander Forrest crossed the Victoria River on his journey from the Western Australian coast to the Overland Telegraph Line.

* By 1883 European settlement began with the establishment of the huge cattle stations at Victoria Downs and Wave Hill. The stations, both of which lie hundreds of kilometres to the south, have an important place in Territory history. Victoria Downs, once Australia's largest pastoral property and the largest cattle station in the world, was owned by Sidney Kidman, known as the Cattle King. The settlement of the area resulted in Timber Creek becoming an important port, particularly for Victoria River Downs Station. Remnants of the Victoria River Depot including the landing, stores and some graves can still be seen on the banks of the river a few kilometres to the west of the town near the Timber Creek Aerodrome.

* Wave Hill Station was established by Nat Buchanan in 1883.

* The river was used for transportation from 1884 (when the first Victoria Downs Homestead was built and when Wave Hill station was first settled) until the 1930s when road transport made it redundant.

* In the 1920s, after a malaria epidemic, Reverend John Flynn built a hospital on Victoria Downs Station which was operated by the Australian Inland Mission until it closed in 1942.

* In 1966 the Gurindji Aborigines walked off Wave Hill station protesting about the working conditions.

* In 1975 Gough Whitlam's government handed over 3200 sq. km of land which had been taken back from Wave Hill Station. It was the first official recognition of the land rights claims of the Aborigines.

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Visitor Information

The hotel and caravan park will help with information about Timber Creek. If you are planning to explore the Judbarra/Gregory National Park contact National Parks & Wildlife at Timber Creek, tel: (08) 8975 0888. The nearest official visitor centre is the Katherine Visitor Information Centre, Stuart Highway, tel: (08) 8972 2650.

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Accommodation

Circle F Caravan Park and Motel, Victoria Highway, Timber Creek, tel: (08) 8975 0722

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Eating

Timber Creek Hotel, Victoria Highway, Timber Creek, tel: (08) 8975 0722

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Useful Websites

The Timber Creek Hotel has a useful history of the township on its website which can be accessed at http://www.timbercreekhotel.com.au/about_timber_creek.html. There is also an excellent downloadable map and fact sheet for Judbarra/Gregory National Park at http://www.parksandwildlife.nt.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/10550/Gregory20FS201120.pdf which covers the main attractions in the area.

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