About Barramundi Falls (Maguk)
Barramundi Falls (also known as Maguk) is a waterfall situated at the head of the Barramundi Gorge (or Maguk Gorge) featuring a very large plunge pool.
Adding to the overall ambience of the falls is the presence of impressive sandstone cliffs surrounding the gorge, and they’re responsible for the waterfall’s main drop.
While the waterfall itself is pretty impressive (especially since accessible swimming hole waterfalls in Kakadu National Park seem to be pretty few and far between), the main draw is that huge, refreshing plunge pool.
This is especially true when you consider how hot it tends to get at the Top End of Australia so it came as no surprise that lots of people came prepared with floating noodles and swimwear.
The only catch was that the Maguk could only be accessed in the Dry Season where there’s a fine balance between seeing the falls perform and being vigilant about the risk of saltwater crocodiles.
Timing A Visit to Barramundi Falls or Maguk Falls
Visiting Maguk Falls when it has good flow involves two conflicting factors.
First, there has to be good waterflow on Barramundi Creek (Gaia GPS spelled it Barramundie Creek), which is a result of monsoonal deluges that occur during the Wet Season (typically from November through April barring Climate Change-related anomalies).
On the flip side, Barramundi Creek must have low enough flow so that the wetlands that the Maguk Track passes through won’t be so flooded that saltwater (estuarine) crocodiles become a major hazard.
Speaking of which, even though Maguk is considered to be a crocodile management area, you do swim at your own risk as no wild waterways is guaranteed to be 100% free of crocs.
Anyways, in our experiences, some time in the month of June is when the Maguk Gorge would be typically open to the public for the season.
That said, we only managed to make our visit in mid-June 2022, which was roughly a week after it first opened for the season that year.
When we first went to Kakadu National Park in early June 2006, we were unable to visit because it still wasn’t open to the public yet.
In order to get the latest information about what’s open and what’s closed in Kakadu National Park, Parks Australia provides a Kakadu Access report, which is updated pretty frequently so you can consult it for your trip planning needs.
Experiencing Barramundi Falls or Maguk Falls
From the Maguk car park (see directions below), we then went on a well-signed 1km track that went right to the huge plunge pool for Barramundi Falls.
The track initially started off as a lightly-forested dirt track for a little over 200m before reaching a catwalk traversing wetlands over Barramundi Creek.
It’s this wetlands area that forces the closure of Maguk if there’s too much water due to the presence of estuarine crocodiles.
Beyond the catwalk, the trail then follows the eastern side of Barramundi Creek for the next 400-500m as the track leaves the wetlands for more rockier terrain.
Some parts of the trail were still a little flooded beyond the end of the catwalk, which might make things tricky if you didn’t want water in your hiking boots (but wouldn’t be a problem with water shoes or hiking sandals).
Anyways, the track goes past a sign indicating we entered a crocodile management zone, and shortly afterwards, we found ourselves weaving between boulders while traversing rocky slabs.
Soon thereafter, we then made an unbridged crossing of Barramundi Creek to get back on its western side.
From there, we continued the final 300m or so along the rocky banks of the creek before reaching the plunge pool access at the end of the trail.
While Barramundi Falls looked a bit distant from here, you’d have to swim and have a waterproof camera (or some degree of waterproofing for your electronics) in order to get a closer shot of it.
All things considered, we spent about an hour to go the 1km from the trailhead to the falls (2km in total) so I’d give it at least 2 hours to do this hike.
Part of the reason why it was a bit slow going was that the footing was a bit slippery in spots around the rocky sections of the hike, and we also had to deal with a little bit of residual trail flooding in the wetlands stretch as well.
Reaching The Top Of Maguk Gorge
One thing that we noticed while enjoying the views of both Barramundi Falls and its large plunge pool was that a handful of people managed to hike to the brink of the falls.
It turned out that because those people were up there, I estimated that the falls probably had a height of about 20m give or take.
From looking at my Gaia GPS map, I saw that there was a trail that was on the other side of Barramundi Creek leading up to the escarpment’s top and ultimately to the brink of the falls.
However, I never noticed any trail or signage indicating that there was a way up there.
Well, it turned out that when we made our way back from the falls, there was an area where the narrowest stream crossing involved doing a hop over a small cascade.
Once on the other side, there was a use-trail within the vegetation that went a little downstream before going steeply up the escarpment.
However, once up near the top of the climb, there was a sign saying that continuing up the trail was prohibited.
It was unclear to my why the trail was closed, but I’d imagine that the traditional Yurlkmanj owners may have imposed the closure for cultural reasons.
Therefore, getting to the brink of Barramundi Falls and the narrow gorge further upstream would likely be considered disrespectful to the Yurlkmanj Nation that jointly cares for Maguk Gorge with Kakadu National Park.
Barramundi Falls (or Maguk Falls) resides in Kakadu National Park near Jabiru or Cooinda in the Northern Territory. It is jointly administered by the Yurlkmanj People and the Northern Territory Government. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.
From Jabiru, we’d briefly take the Arnhem Highway (Route 36) briefly to its junction with the Kakadu Highway (Route 21).
Then, from there, we’d drive about drive south on the Kakadu Highway for about 97km to the signed turnoff for Maguk on the left.
Once on the Maguk Access Road, we then had to drive the final 10km over a very washboarded (i.e. chattering and bumpy) and somewhat sandy road before reaching the car park.
It’s generally recommended that only 4wd vehicles should take the road to Maguk, but I swore I saw a few 2wd vehicles make it though I’m sure they had to take it REAL slow, especially given the washboards.
This drive took us over 90 minutes, but I suspect it might be closer to 2 hours since we also had to take it slow on the 4wd road (and we were in a legit 4wd vehicle).
For geographical context, Jabiru was about 213km (about 2.5 hours drive) northeast of Pine Creek, 255km (about 3 hours drive) east of Darwin, 279km (about 3 hours drive) east of Batchelor, and 305km (over 3 hours drive) north of Katherine.
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