Tjaynera Falls (Sandy Creek Falls)

Litchfield National Park / Batchelor, Northern Territory, Australia

About Tjaynera Falls (Sandy Creek Falls)


Hiking Distance: 3.4km round trip
Suggested Time: about 90 minutes

Date first visited: 2022-06-16
Date last visited: 2022-06-16

Waterfall Latitude: -13.24455
Waterfall Longitude: 130.75828

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

Tjaynera Falls (Sandy Creek Falls) is one of Litchfield National Park’s more elusive waterfalls primarily because it involved driving a pretty scary 4wd road to reach.

That makes it a little off the beaten path compared to the park’s other main waterfalls like Florence Falls, Tolmer Falls, and Wangi Falls.

Tjaynera_Falls_106_06152022 - Tjaynera Falls or Sandy Creek Falls
Tjaynera Falls or Sandy Creek Falls

As you can see from the photo above, this is indeed an impressive waterfall worth the trouble to get to, especially when you consider that it’s one of Litchfield’s bigger waterfalls.

I haven’t seen any legitimate height figures concerning this waterfall, but from trying to extrapolate the heights of people who swam up to the falls, I estimate that this waterfall probably is in the neighborhood of 40m tall.

Why Is Tjaynera Falls Tricky To Access?

We’ve actually been aware of this waterfall ever since our first trip to the Northern Territory in June 2006, but unfortunately the road to get to the Sandy Creek Trailhead was closed.

This reflected the conflicting requirements so common in other Top End waterfalls where on the one hand you want more water so the waterfall will put on a show.

Tjaynera_Falls_050_iPhone_06162022 - Traversing scary-looking Tolmer Creek on the Reynolds River Road, which is a 90m stretch that must be crossed in order to access the Sandy Creek (Tjaynera) Trailhead
Traversing scary-looking Tolmer Creek on the Reynolds River Road, which is a 90m stretch that must be crossed in order to access the Sandy Creek (Tjaynera) Trailhead

However, on the flip side, too much water means access closure due to flooding and saltwater crocodiles.

It wasn’t until 16 years later that we finally had a chance to try again, and that was when we experienced a rather scary and murky creek crossing on the Reynolds River 4wd Road (see directions below).

Indeed, this firsthand taste of why the road was closed on our first trip definitely was one of those moments where we took a “leap of faith” with our 4wd rental vehicle, so to speak.

Fortunately, there were depth indicators on this creek crossing (which I think is Tolmer Creek) to help put some numbers to the crossing, especially since we couldn’t see the bottom of the water!

Tjaynera_Falls_002_iPhone_06162022 - Beyond the crossing of Tolmer Creek, the Reynolds River Road remained narrow and rough with the odd potholes and puddles along the way.  This is definitely a drive that only well-equipped 4wd vehicles should even bother with
Beyond the crossing of Tolmer Creek, the Reynolds River Road remained narrow and rough with the odd potholes and puddles along the way. This is definitely a drive that only well-equipped 4wd vehicles should even bother with

This crossing was on the order of about 90m long so a high clearance vehicle is definitely necessary.

Moreover, the 4wd (or at least 4-wheel lock capability) is necessary to keep the wheels moving in case a pair of them get stuck in mud or on a slippery rock.

Only once we got past the scary crossing did we continue driving the narrow 4wd road passing by the Blythe Homestead (which we didn’t do) and eventually reaching the Sandy Creek (Tjaynera) car park and campground.

From there, we then did a pretty straightforward 1.7km walk (3.4km return) on a combination of rocky terrain through monsoonal rainforest before following a sandy surface alongside the aptly-named Sandy Creek.

Trail Description for the Tjaynera Falls Hike

Tjaynera_Falls_018_06152022 - On the Sandy Creek Trail to Tjaynera Falls as it went through a monsoonal rainforest in the early part of its 1.7km length
On the Sandy Creek Trail to Tjaynera Falls as it went through a monsoonal rainforest in the early part of its 1.7km length

From the car park at the Sandy Creek Falls, we went on a pretty straightforward track that skirted a monsoonal rainforest supported by Sandy Creek while clinging to an escarpment ledge within a small canyon.

This scenery lasted for the better part of the first half of the hike, but then the scenery started to widen a bit as the surface got sandier alongside the banks of Sandy Creek.

The track passed through what appeared to be a burned area that might have been treated with prescribed burns during our June 2022 visit.

Shortly after the sandy stretch, the track passed through another well-vegetated area where we crossed a side creek (unbridged) and then continued along the northern banks of Sandy Creek for the final stretch to the falls.

Tjaynera_Falls_048_06152022 - The family traversing a sandy stretch flanked by trees and shrubs burned by what I think was a prescribed burn on the Sandy Creek Trail to Tjaynera Falls
The family traversing a sandy stretch flanked by trees and shrubs burned by what I think was a prescribed burn on the Sandy Creek Trail to Tjaynera Falls

In that final stretch of about 300m or so, the track eventually descended to the plunge pool fronting Tjaynera Falls.

Right at the end of the track, there were flat rocks to make it easier to wade into the water before committing to the swim.

This area was wild enough that there were some pretty sizable fish in the plunge pool, and one other visitor there even spotted a (monitor?) lizard.

Overall, this 3.4km return hike took us a little over an hour (closer to 75 minutes) though we also spent another 45 minutes just chilling out and enjoying the plunge pool before Tjaynera Falls.

Timing A Visit For Tjaynera Falls (Sandy Creek Falls)

Tjaynera_Falls_012_iPhone_06162022 - Tjaynera Falls or Sandy Creek Falls with real-time postprocessing by the iPhone (whereas it would look much harsher on the Sony or other DSLR)
Tjaynera Falls or Sandy Creek Falls with real-time postprocessing by the iPhone (whereas it would look much harsher on the Sony or other DSLR)

As for witnessing Tjaynera Falls, we showed up in the late morning when the falls was still mostly in shadow with the harsh sun cutting across its top.

It didn’t make for the greatest lighting, but I’d imagine since this was a west-facing waterfall, then afternoon would be when the falls would be bathed in sunlight and the surrounding rocks and cliffs could glow more orange.

As for the seasonality of Tjaynera Falls, we already touched on the fact that Wet Season access (when the falls would have the most volume) would not be feasible due to the Reynolds River Road’s crossing of Tolmer Creek being too deep and unsafe.

However, if you wait too long into the Dry Season, then Sandy Creek may not have very good flow.

Tjaynera_Falls_115_06152022 - Framed look at Tjaynera Falls with someone swimming in the large plunge pool flanked by some tall shrubs and grass against the harsh morning sun
Framed look at Tjaynera Falls with someone swimming in the large plunge pool flanked by some tall shrubs and grass against the harsh morning sun

I believe it may go dry or at least trickle deep into the Dry Season (think August or later).

So to make the best of both worlds, you’ll want to pursue Tjaynera Falls shortly after the road is open for the season (which could be as early as late May though we managed to be successful in mid-June 2022).

Of course, under these circumstances, you’ll definitely want a high clearance vehicle that can clear at least 0.2m of water depth on Tolmer Creek (which would be about half-way up a 4wd wheel.

Authorities

Tjaynera Falls or Sandy Creek Falls resides in Litchfield National Park near Batchelor in the Northern Territory. It is administered by the Northern Territory Government. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Tjaynera_Falls_006_06152022 - Looking back at the entrance to the Sandy Creek Falls car park after having finally made it here on our mid-June 2022 trip to the Top End
Tjaynera_Falls_013_06152022 - Early on in the hike, we had to cross a side creek over this plank before following along the north side of Sandy Creek towards Tjaynera Falls
Tjaynera_Falls_016_06152022 - The family skirting the edge of a monsoonal rainforest to the right and the bottom of an escarpment on the left en route to the Sandy Creek Falls or Tjaynera Falls
Tjaynera_Falls_020_06152022 - Julie and Tahia continue through the monsoonal rainforest supported by Sandy Creek en route to Tjaynera Falls
Tjaynera_Falls_021_06152022 - Julie and Tahia continuing to follow along the monsoonal rainforest en route to Tjaynera Falls
Tjaynera_Falls_028_06152022 - Tahia and Julie skirting the boundaries of the monsoonal rainforest along an escarpment en route to Tjaynera Falls
Tjaynera_Falls_033_06152022 - This little uphill stretch on the escarpment was perhaps the roughest part of the otherwise straightforward 1.7km track from the car park to Tjaynera Falls
Tjaynera_Falls_035_06152022 - Another look at Tahia and Julie following along the Sandy Creek Track skirting the escarpment on our left and the monsoonal rainforest on our right
Tjaynera_Falls_039_06152022 - Noticing some interesting fruit or berry or olive of some sort seen along the Sandy Creek Track en route to Tjaynera Falls
Tjaynera_Falls_040_06152022 - The family now passing through a more open stretch along the Sandy Creek Track en route to Tjaynera Falls
Tjaynera_Falls_041_06152022 - Passing through a bit of a charred landscape due to some prescribed burns that were going on throughout the Top End, but particularly in the reserves like Litchfield National Park
Tjaynera_Falls_043_06152022 - Mom going through the charred landscape of prescribed burns as the Sandy Creek Trail started to become sandy as the name would suggest en route to Tjaynera Falls
Tjaynera_Falls_054_06152022 - Mom going across an unbridged crossing of a side creek on the way to Tjaynera Falls
Tjaynera_Falls_057_06152022 - Tahia and Mom continuing to skirt along the fringes of the monsoonal rainforest while the track clung to the escarpment en route to Tjaynera Falls
Tjaynera_Falls_061_06152022 - Finally making it to Tjaynera Falls
Tjaynera_Falls_074_06152022 - Long-exposed dirty reflection shot of Tjaynera Falls across its large plunge pool
Tjaynera_Falls_085_06152022 - Checking out Tjaynera Falls from a slightly different angle during our visit in mid-June 2022
Tjaynera_Falls_102_06152022 - Another long-exposed look at Tjaynera Falls as I tried to take advantage of the morning shadows
Tjaynera_Falls_024_iPhone_06162022 - Context of the far left side of the large plunge pool and Tjaynera Falls
Tjaynera_Falls_113_06152022 - The ladies checking out Tjaynera Falls and plunge pool
Tjaynera_Falls_130_06152022 - Another look at Mom and Tahia checking out the plunge pool before Tjaynera Falls
Tjaynera_Falls_137_06152022 - Looking in the water at some fish in the plunge pool before Tjaynera Falls
Tjaynera_Falls_138_06152022 - Another look at a pretty sizable fish inside the plunge pool of Tjaynera Falls
Tjaynera_Falls_147_06152022 - After having our fill of Tjaynera Falls, it was time to head back to the car park
Tjaynera_Falls_149_06152022 - Julie and Tahia going back through the sandy and burnt stretch of Sandy Creek Trail on the way back to the car park after having our fill of Tjaynera Falls
Tjaynera_Falls_152_06152022 - Making it back to the car park for Sandy Creek Trail
Tjaynera_Falls_153_06152022 - In order to use the facilities, we had to walk through the Sandy Creek Campground
Tjaynera_Falls_154_06152022 - Approaching the restroom facility at the Sandy Creek Campground
Tjaynera_Falls_033_iPhone_06162022 - Frontal look at the restroom facility at the Sandy Creek Campground
Tjaynera_Falls_034_iPhone_06162022 - The drama wasn't over once we were done with Tjaynera Falls as we now had to drive back out on the Reynolds River Road
Tjaynera_Falls_037_iPhone_06162022 - There was a surprising number of vehicles heading to Tjaynera Falls during our mid-June 2022 visit
Tjaynera_Falls_041_iPhone_06162022 - Going across a puddle on the Reynolds River Road on our way out of Tjaynera Falls to the Litchfield Park Road
Tjaynera_Falls_047_iPhone_06162022 - Approaching the scary crossing of Tolmer Creek along the Reynolds River Road
Tjaynera_Falls_056_iPhone_06162022 - Approaching the end of the scary crossing of Tolmer Creek along the Reynolds River Road
Tjaynera_Falls_058_iPhone_06162022 - Getting closer to the end of the crossing of Tolmer Creek on the way out of Tjaynera Falls and back to the Litchfield Park Road
Tjaynera_Falls_060_iPhone_06162022 - Traversing through more large puddles on the way out of Tjaynera Falls


To access the car park for the trail to Tjaynera Falls or Sandy Creek Falls, we had to drive on the Reynolds River Road, which is closed during the Wet Season due to flooding and saltwater crocodiles.

The turnoff for the Reynolds River Road was about 59km west of Batchelor or about 3km west of the Tolmer Falls car park turnoff or a little over 1km west of the Greenant Creek turnoff.

Tjaynera_Falls_002_06152022 - Looking ahead at the car park for the Tjaynera Falls or Sandy Creek Falls Trail
Looking ahead at the car park for the Tjaynera Falls or Sandy Creek Falls Trail

Once on the Reynolds River Road, we then had to drive 7km on the 4wd track before driving the final 1.6km distance to the Sandy Creek Trailhead and Campsite.

It’s worth noting that the scary 90m crossing of Tolmer Creek occurs barely 750m from the start of the north side turnoff of the Reynolds River Road.

For geographical context, Batchelor was 97km (over an hour drive) south of Darwin, 145km (about 90 minutes drive) northwest of Pine Creek, and about 237km (2.5 hours drive) northwest of Katherine.

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Right to left sweep of the large plunge pool before the waterfall and then zoomed in panning along its drop


Sweep from the swimming hole entrance of the falls with the context and zoom-in of the falls

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Tagged with: litchfield, batchelor, rum jungle, darwin, northern territory, australia, waterfall, outback, reynolds river



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