Outback MagazineOutback Magazine


Paddling with the crocs

Story and photos David Hancock

CrocsThe warm air resonates with a constant chirrup of cicadas, a sure sign that the "wet" is on the way in the Top End. But until the first big storms arrive the locals are in for some testing weather - relentless heat, stifling humidity and long nights.

Some call this period in September and October the "troppo" season, while others refer to it as "the build-up".

It doesn't get much hotter than around Katherine late in the dry season. The mercury frequently climbs past 35 degrees and out around the plains and escarpments of the Victoria River District temperatures often punch through 40 Celcius.

But down on the Flora River, 80 kilometres west of Katherine, conditions couldn't be more pleasant. A cool breeze blows down the channel, there's plenty of shade among the huge silver-leaf paperbarks that hang over the banks and the water is astonishingly fresh.

CrocsThe Flora is a little-known Top End river, overshadowed by mightier cousins such as the Victoria, Adelaide, South Alligator and Katherine. Less than 100km long, it rises from spring-fed creeks and joins the Katherine River (which has its source in Arnhem Land), at a junction that marks the start of the Daly River that flows to the Timor Sea.

The Flora is different to most other northern rivers because it is bisected by scores of "tufa" (limestone) dams that ensure it drops about 25 metres from its source. Tufa is formed when the lime-rich water of the Flora evaporates, leaving calcite (calcium carbonate) to crystalise. This rock can form quickly if conditions are favourable and plants and invertebrates encrusted in the calcite are often preserved as fossils. Story end

Full story: Issue 21,February / March 02

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