Jim Jim Falls in Kakadu National Park
Access, Camping, The Pools, The Walks, The Views...
Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls in the Jim Jim Area of Kakadu are two of the best known attractions of Australia's Kakadu National Park.
Most of the Jim Jim Falls pictures you see show the falls during the wet season.
After a good rain the Jim Jim Creek thunders over the edge of the escarpment and 200 metres into the gorge below, which totally fills with the spray drift.
This photo was taken by a reader who had the opportunity to see the falls at their most spectacular. Even the pilot was impressed!
Most people don't get to see Jim Jim Falls like that. This is a creek where the water level drops very quickly, as soon as it stops raining at the end of the wet season. The falls are reduced to a mere trickle, usually long before the unsealed road into the Jim Jim area opens (late May to mid June).
But, as you will see below, even when they are totally dry, these falls and the gorge are still very impressive and definitely worth the effort! And a bit of an effort it is...
Getting to Jim Jim Falls
Getting to Jim Jim Falls—and even more so to Twin Falls!—used to be a real adventure. In the past it took two hours to cover the 60 km from the Kakadu Highway turn off (near Cooinda, or a good 40 km from Jabiru) on a rough four wheel drive track. No more...
Access to the area has been greatly improved. Today there is a well maintained gravel road and even two wheel drive vehicles can get to the Jim Jim camping area, though not to the falls themselves. The drive on this corrugated highway may not be an adventure anymore, but it is still very scenic as you approach and drive along the escarpment.
Luckily (in my eyes) the last 10 km from the Garnamarr campground to Jim Jim Falls have been left as a nice little four wheel drive track. It has some sandy patches with deep ruts, and there are also some creek crossings, so a high clearance four wheel drive is still the best vehicle to have. (According to the campground manager the little "toy" 4WD vehicles, RAV4s, X-trails etc., like to get bogged on the sandy stretches.) Early in the season you may also need a snorkel on your vehicle.
Jim Jim Falls Gorge and Plunge Pool
The walk from the car park to the plunge pools at the bottom of Jim Jim Falls is only 900 metres long, but don't underestimate it!
The first part is easy enough. Don't miss the little side track to the "viewing pool". (Not that you can. It's sign posted.) From here you get your first view down the gorge to the falls.
The second half of the walk requires scrambling and rock hopping over bouders, boulders and more boulders. They are often slippery with sand and it's very easy to slip here and do some damage to yourself.
The closer you get to the end of the gorge the more impressive it becomes. This is one massive cliff face! The pool is enclosed on three sides by the vertical cliffs and is huge! You can swim here all year round.
It's hard to capture the area, everything is just too massive. Can you see the tiny dot to the right of the bottom of the waterfall? That's a person swimming.
The water doesn't see much sun and is rather cold. There is second pool just a little bit further back, with a nice sandy, white beach, that's also very popular for swimming.
At the top of Jim Jim Falls
The Jim Jim Falls plunge pool sure is impressive, everybody likes a swim on a hot day, so most people leave it at that. However, I recommend you set some more time aside in your schedule so you can also walk to the top of Jim Jim Falls.
This is quite a walk, called the Barrk-Marlam Bushwalk (6 km return). It branches off from the walk to the plunge pool and according to the official guide takes about six hours return. I'd say anybody reasonably fit won't need more than four. (Provided you do it in the morning as recommended. In the hot afternoon sun it probably takes a bit longer...)
The first part of the walk is a very steep climb up the side of the hill, but most of the walk is an easy stroll through the bushland along the top of the escarpment. I thoroughly enjoyed the walk, and the views from the top are spectacular. You can barely make out the people on the sandy beach at the bottom. (And in the picture you can't at all.)
Camping at Jim Jim Falls
The Jim Jim camping area is called Garnamarr and was relocated in 2004. It is now further back towards the highway. It is in a very scenic location at the bottom of the escarpment and offers great views of the rocks at sunset.
The facilities are excellent. (No wonder, it's all very new.) The big ablutions block is very well appointed and has solar hot showers. The campground is well laid out, with concrete tables and benches and fire places, and room for 250 people.
The only downside: it's a popular place and does fill up...
Camping fees are the same as everywhere else in Kakadu National Park: $10 per person per night. The campground manager comes around at night to collect your fees. The man has been at Jim Jim Falls for six years now, so he can also answer all your questions!
Other popular places in Kakadu: