The East, South and West Alligator rivers teem with saltwater crocodiles, barramundi and brave fishers. 

Story + Photos David Hancock

It might be less than a metre deep during the dry season and not very wide, but Cahills Crossing would have to be one of the most dangerous water crossings in Australia, if not the world, according to long-time Top Ender, Andy Ralph.

“The most dangerous time can be at the start of the wet season, when rainfall upstream in Arnhem Land fills the catchment area and, with little warning, floods the East Alligator River. You’ll wake up one morning and the crossing will be a metre deep with fast-flowing floodwater, whereas it was blowing dust the day before.

“In 1998 we had 13 cars wash off the crossing before Christmas, with all manner of vehicles coming to grief, including the Gunbalanya Social Club beer truck.  Following a successful delivery of wet-season supplies, the truck was only half its gross weight when it got washed off the causeway on its way back to Darwin.”

While being washed away by floodwaters or fast-flowing tropical tides is frightening enough, it is what lurks in the water that is just plain terrifying – up to 50 saltwater crocodiles can gather around the crossing, upstream and downstream, waiting to catch fish as the tides change.

Andy estimates half a dozen vehicles get washed away every year but, amazingly, there hasn’t been one recorded death linked to vehicles fording the river, despite the water being filled with crocs day and night.

This story excerpt is from Issue #132

Outback Magazine: Aug/Sep 2020