The Roper River
Born of a thundering whirlwind all the colours of the rainbow, chewing its course across the savannah plains, the Roper River is one of the most beautiful and untouched rivers in Australia today. The geographers and geologists however have a far less colourful explanation of the formation of the Roper than that of the local Mangarayi and Yangman Aboriginal people.
The river source starts north of Mataranka in the red sandstone of the southern edge of the Komboldgie bloc – or the Arnhem escarpment. The Little Roper and the Waterhouse Rivers wind eighty kilometres southward before merging to form the Roper River near Mataranka. But it is here, just upstream from the confluence, that something unusual happens. Millions of litres of warm artesian water flow from beneath the streams each day and feed the Roper, keeping its clear waters running all year.
Elsey National Park
Close to Mataranka and following the course of the Roper River is Elsey National Park, supervised by Rangers based in Mataranka. Bitter Springs, very close to Bitter Springs Cabins & Camping, is the most recently developed day-use site. Mataranka Thermal Pools is the most famous site within the park, and John Hauser Drive provides access along the Roper River past beautiful picnic spots to the 12-Mile where canoe hire and fishing are attractions.
An eight kilometre round trip from the 12-Mile takes hikers to Mataranka Falls, a delightful place with a fine example of how the high calcium content of the Roper water builds on any obstruction and forms dam like structures.
From Elsey National Park the Roper runs through the pastoral lands of local cattle stations towards its mouth in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Roper Bar is a 200-kilometre drive from Mataranka. This is a natural rock bar across the River that explorer Ludwig Leichardt used during his journeys to the north coast. Fuel and food can be obtained from Roper Bar Store.