Lower Cascades Walk
Litchfield National Park
Directions - Entering Litchfield from the Batchelor end, drive along Litchfield Park Road all the way past Wangi Falls and the Litchfield Safari Park. The Cascades car park is well signed and there is a small area to park near the trail head, otherwise the edge of the access road can be used as overflow parking during peak times.
The Hike - With a brief flythrough of Litchfield National Park on the agenda today as we travelled from Darwin to Katherine, the Cascades area was the second stop I had planned. Having missed out on visiting the northern day hikes of Litchfield on our previous visit in 2019, I had returned to experience the Walker Creek Walk and hopefully the Cascades Circuit. Time was against us and asking Caris to do the exposed Upper Cascades Walk in the heat of the day would be a bridge too far so in the end I decided that the Lower Cascades Walk would be the best option.
Arriving at the car park, it was a little full so we parked on the edge of the access road before gathering our gear for the walk. Having a squizz at the information board, the Lower Cascades Walk seemed like the best option but the Upper and Lower walks can be combined into a big loop if you have the time/inclination. Setting off, the first highlight is a series of side trails leading to wooden platforms overlooking the nearby swampy area. We found the last one empty of people so wandered over and looked out over the grassy plain, towards where the Upper Cascades Walk is located. Looking out for birds, insects or something bigger, we weren't lucky on this visit so continued along the trail to where it separates into the Upper and Lower paths. Passing one of the two storey toilet blocks that is the style out here, I noticed a yellow butterfly on the edge of the trail but it didn't want to open its wings for me. Taking a left turn and heading towards the Lower Cascades, the start of the trail through savanna woodland isn't the most interesting part of the walk.
Arriving at a metal bridge over Cascades Creek, the scenery through here greatly improved as you switch from the dry savanna woodlands to the monsoon forest lining the creek. Swimming downstream of the bridge is banned as part of croc safety and to be honest, it didn't look very appealing anyway. Leading up to the collection of stumps over a muddy section, the trail felt a little ramshackle but once you hit the sandy trail and follow the edge of the creek, the scenery changes to a more natural and pleasant looking affair. Looking upstream, there was a magical shot of the creek with some fallen palms making a criss-cross pattern, leaving a lovely reflection in the water. Walking along a sandy path on the edge of the creek, this is the start of some pretty hiking that leads all the way to Curtain Falls. The gentle waters of the creek combined with the increased number of palm trees and thicker vegetation creates a tropical looking scene that was a delight to photograph.
At a bend in the creek, I was fortunate enough to spot my first Rainbow Bee Eater of the trip as it had landed on a branch over the water. Lucky for me it stayed still for a few seconds so I could get a semi-clear photograph and I was quietly pumped at having seen one as they were on my list of birds to see in my lifetime (the ones in WA move north in the winter). The trail heads left at the bend and you begin a small rocky climb where you'll get some great views of the creek below as it's carved through the rock over the aeons. This is one of the sections that gives the trail a Class 4 rating as the ground is uneven there is a small cliff leading down to the water below. It's easy enough if you're a seasoned hiker but given Litchfield can be full of thong wearing tourists carrying pool noodles, I agree with the higher rating just to make people think twice. Through here I spotted a bright bloom of pink Turkey Bush flowers that livened up the exposed section of the area. Dropping down towards another small metal bridge, there is a metal chain on your left to help your balance on the rocky descent.
Joining Caris on the bridge, this was another nice little spot to stop and admire the scenery. With views looking downstream to the small rocky canyon and upstream to a much shallower area that is both open but also shielded by the surrounding forest, I enjoyed being here. Exploring the small rapids just off trail, I had fun photographing the flow before joining Caris back on the main trail. The next section is a short meander through a thicker section of vegetation before you pop out to the final metal bridge crossing Cascades Creek. Walking over a small rapid, I was more interested in the large tree to the right that was home to some bracket fungi clinging to the underside of a burl on the trunk. Heading back into the monsoon forest, this is the final stretch of trail before reaching the end of the line. With the shade of the forest and the cooling effect of the creek to your right, this was a pleasant stretch leading to the lower rapids of Curtain Falls. Caris took a shaded seat on the rocks above the rapids while I started taking many photos of this pretty spot.