Published in 4×4 Australia Magazine 1988
Trust the Northern Territory Government to come up with a breakthrough in the conservation of our natural heritage. Far away from the hustle and bustle of southern politics and bureaucratic bungling all interested parties have had an input into the Territory’s newest conservation and recreation park. The politicians wanted it, the conservationists wanted it, the 4×4 and other recreationalists wanted it and the general public wanted it. Everyone who had an interest in the creation of this park was asked to put up or shut up. And they all did!! The net result is that a park of national standard is being implemented to satisfy the needs of all bush recreationalists.
Litchfield Park, not graded as a National Park as yet, but to my mind worthy of it, lies 130km south of Darwin and encompasses the Table Top Range of escarpments with tropical woodland savannah and remnants of rain forest pockets in it’s deep gorges.
Over the past 20 years the area has been part of a pastoral lease and has only been accessible by four wheel vehicles and bush walkers. The escarpment boasts no less than fifteen major waterfalls and numerous streams and springs, some of which, are perennial. The park has been named after Fred Litchfield, a Territory pioneer. When the first survey party to the Northern Territory established themselves at Escape Cliffs on the Timor Sea in1864, Fred Litchfield was dispatched south-west to the Daly River. He is credited for naming Mount Tolmer and the Reynolds River. Mount Tolmer was named after a man who has been described as Australia’s’ first police detective and the Reynolds River, after Thomas Reynolds, Treasurer of the South Australian Government of 1868. The Hundred of Blyth, Hundred of Finniss and Florence Creek were all named by Goyder’s’ Surveyors in 1869.
Mount Tolmer tin mine was operated, with some success, by various miners, from 1889 to 1899. The Hundred of Blyth became a grazing lease in 1882 and the Old Blyth Homestead, which is located at the foot of the Mount Tolmer escarpment, was probably used by various lessees over the ensuing years. The lease changed hands many times until it was acquired by the Sargeant family in 1923. It was eventually named the Stapleton pastoral Lease and this lease was taken up by an American family, the Townsends, in 1964. The NT Government excised the Litchfield Park Crown Lease from the Stapleton pastoral Lease in 1985 compensating the Townsend family for their loss.
During the late 1960’s four wheel drive clubs, like the Landrover Owners Club, were starting to emerge. Out of Darwin, the Table Top range, also known as the Batchelor Escarpment, became the area to explore by weekend 4×4 enthusiasts and campers. Permission had been granted by the Townsend Family for Clubs to utilise the northern area of the Batchelor Escarpment for camping purposes as this country was not suitable for pastoral purposes and was only mustered every once in a while to look for stray cattle. Tracks were established to all major waterfalls over the next twenty years. The main waterfalls visited were Florence Falls, also known as Ida Falls, Wangi Falls, also known as Gwendoline Falls, Tolmer Falls, and Sandy Creek Falls, also known as Woodcutters Falls.
At present the park covers an area of 65700 hectares. This will no doubt increase in the future as an agreement has been reached with the owners of Tipperary Station and the NT Government to excise some of Tipperary Pastoral lease and to join it to Litchfield Park.
Litchfield Park is being administered and managed by the Conservation Commission of the Northern Territory, the latter managing all parks in the NT other than Kakadu and Uluru which are managed by ANPWS. During the late seventies and early eighties the various 4×4 Clubs in the Top End as well as the NT Four Wheel Drive Association urged the Government to declare the Table Top Range a conservation park. Eventually, after tour operators started using the area, the value of this unique landscape became commonly known and the government was spurred into action.
The flora of Litchfield Park is tropical woodland savannah with eucalypts, wattle, melaleuca, pandanus palms and cycads in abundance. Lush rainforest pockets occur in the gorges of the escarpment fed by perennial streams of crystal clear water. The park is home to colonies of the endangered Orange Horseshoe Bats which live in the caves at the base of Tolmer Falls. Large colonies of Ghost Bats as well as Fruit Bats (Flying Fox) are also present within the park. A rare specie of marsupial mouse, a rare bush hen, a potentially vulnerable frog and the endangered and primitive Archer Fish all occur in and around Wangi Falls. Twenty eight species of mammal occur in the park and bush land bird life is prolific.
I have deleted the rest of this article as so many changes to access rules and regulations have been made to Litchfield National Park since this article was written. Please use a Search Engine to find updated information on this very unique recreational area.