This was another walk organised by Wendy. As well as myself, she was joined by Keith and Peter. Our aim was to walk down the Wolgan River and if possible check out some features near the Annie Rowan Creek junction.
Wendy was keen to see the Totem Pole – an earth pillar on the riverbank, not far below Annie Rowan Creek and she was also keen to see some rock wallabies. With both of these objectives we were not disappointed.
We started out from the main camping area at Newnes about 9:30 am, crossing the river and then heading towards the ruins. There is an old road that runs down the river. It was probably built when mining took place at Newnes early in the twentieth century. The were mines well down the river from the industrial ruins. Probably as far downstream as Big Glassy.
I have walked down the river before. A number of trips back in the 1970’s come to mind. In 1974 I had walked down the valley with Joe Mack on a SUBW trip. We carried lilos and planned to lilo the Colo River later on the trip. On the first day of the trip, we walked down to camp just under the Totem Pole, which Joe spotted the next morning. Before that trip, I had walked down the river between the Rocky Creek junction and the Annie Rowan Creek junction on an epic trip led by Ted Daniels of the National Parks Association. On that trip we had found Inverse Canyon. On another epic walk, in 1975, from Mt Irvine to Newnes we had walked up the river from Annie Rowan Creek to Newnes on the last day of walking. This was also a SUBW walk. Another visit to the river was in 1976, on a Kameruka Bushwalking Club trip down the river and back along the Mt Morgan Plateau till we reached the Pipeline Track. That was on a long weekend and we walked all the way from Newnes to the Capertee River junction on the first day. I have also visited the Annie Rowan Creek area on a number of trips from the south (from Mt Cameron). Other trips to the Wolgan River have been on canyoning trips – both north and south of the river. A lot of these trips have been more recent.
On one of the trips from Mt Cameron, down Annie Rowan Creek I remember meeting a large group of 4WD enthusiasts from Lithgow camped at Tony Luchetti’s property at the Annie Rowan Creek junction. They had used their vehicles to make a road downstream from its previous terminus at Rocky Creek (or had they perhaps followed and re-established an old farm road?). They intended to try and extend their road to allow them to drive all the way to the Colo River, but they encountered difficulties a few kilometres below Annie Rowan Creek where the river valley narrows considerably and there are no more terraces. As well, they would have had to cross a large landslide in the valley below Houstons Creek. As an interesting aside – Houstons Creek was visited on a SUBW trip in the early 1980’s. I wasn’t on the trip. It was the same trip that Crikey Canyon was discovered and later on the party tried to descend to the Wolgan River via Houstons Creek but were stopped by a 100 m waterfall. The trip became known as the “Houstons Creek debacle”. I was on a later trip, where we had gone down Bull Ring Creek and camped at Annie Rowan Creek. It was very hot, bush fires were burning north of the river (we could see the flames), and there was a plague of mosquitoes. I remember having to dig holes in the sand of the river in order to cool off in the water. The river was so shallow! On that trip, we had returned to the tops via the major tributary a few kilometres downstream of Houstons Creek. It too had a barrier waterfall – but it was not as formidable and we could climb around it. But interestingly enough, at the waterfall, in a cave – was a big pile of rubbish – old tins, a mattress and stuff like that. Obviously someone and used the cave to camp in – but how did they get all the junk down there?
Back in the 1970’s the river was fairly fast walking from Newnes to Annie Rowan Creek, and then slow walking downstream from about the Totem Pole. The road went to Rocky Creek – and after that you could walk on the banks or higher up on terraces. Now the road extends about 6 km below Rocky Creek. From Newnes to Rocky Creek it is on the south side of the river, then crosses just downstream of Rocky Creek and follows the north bank for about 5 km, then crosses again to “Sink Camp” and continues for almost another km on the south bank to just below some rock towers. The road is being maintained to allow for NPWS pest control. The Wolgan Valley is the home to a large colony of now rare rock wallabies and they are threatened by foxes. So NPWS contractors lay 1080 to reduce fox numbers. As well, NPWS have been surveying the rock wallaby population for a number of years – and use “Sink Camp” as a base. It is named because it has a sink set up on poles.
The walking downstream from the road terminus seems slower than I remember from the 1970’s. I think more scrub – notably blackthorn, has grown on the banks over the years.
On our trip, we walked down the road, stopping at a nice campsite under Big Glassy for lunch. “Big Glassy” is the rock climbers name for the massive cliff north of the river. It is one place that the half way ledge is so thin that the burra-moko and banks wall sandstone layers have merged. A lot of the rock on Big Glassy is rotten, brittle rock called “choss” by climbers and there is a large roof near the top of the wall – making it a serious proposition for climbers. A friend, the late Andrew McAuley had achieved a number of bold first ascents here.
After lunch we continued on to the Rocky Creek junction and crossed the Wolgan River. As we were putting our shoes back on, we heard a vehicle coming back up the road. It was the NPWS contractor, on his way back from laying the fox baits. We had an interesting chat, and it allowed me some time to photograph the river which is very beautiful here.
We then continued downstream, along the road. On the way – we noted a huge orange-black wasp trying to get back into a fresh hole dug into the ground. We later noticed a number more of these wasps (They were hard to miss – their bodies being about 5 cm long) and we noticed that they seemed to be in areas where the cicadas were very abundant. We correctly conjectured that they must paralyse or kill cicadas and take them back to the hole – drag them underground and then impregnate the cicada with their eggs. They were indeed Cicada Killer Wasps.
We crossed the river at the ford, back to the south bank and found ourselves at Sink Camp. We kept on heading along the road and camped near its terminus. Above us were some spectacular rock towers.
Our campsite was a nice grassy flat. We drank water from the river (after boiling, all the side creeks offer good water) and there was plenty of firewood. But there were also nettles nearby, and lots of bull ants and their relatives the jack jumper Ant (red-black ones). The bull ants here are black ones, the same as ones we had seen upstream (there does seem to be a lot in this valley), but we found only red ones downstream of Annie Rowan Creek. Anyway, at our camp – the bull ants and jack jumpers seemed to be appearing from nowhere. I remember flicking one from my hair. It seemed that they were falling from the trees. Perhaps they climb the trees to get the sap that the cicadas drink? And after filling up – they fall from the tree? There were certainly plenty of cicadas and their drumming was very loud – and it started before the sun came up. As well as their deafening noise, the cicadas were raining liquid down on us….. unpleasant to think about. I remember Pete remarking that at one time it was raining. No it wasn’t!
To deal with the bull ants, we and to resort to an old solution – and one that works – scissors! Standing on them, trying to squash them, trying to cut them in half with a knife all seem to fail, but a quick snip with scissors to separate their rear end (with the sting) from the front end seems to immobilise them. The only scissors we had where on Wendy’s Swiss army knife – and we all borrowed it numerous times – often with alacrity.
The first night it rained lightly during the early morning. Not enough to put up the river, but enough to wet the bushes. On the second day, we set off with daypacks, downstream. It looked easier going higher up on the banks – and we hoped to find some nice terraces, and also spot some rock wallabies. At first the going was quite good and we did see numbers on signs on a few trees – part of the rock wallaby survey. Higher up, we did spot a pair of rock wallabies. Unfortunately they were too shy to stay around for a photo. Later the going became a bit scrubbier and we descended to find some nice open grassy terraces – part of the old Binnings Hole Farm, just upstream from Annie Rowan Creek.
The big flats open grassy flats at Annie Rowan Creek are still there – but a bit smaller than before and with a lot of blackthorn growing. We passed a nice campsite and crossed Annie Rowan Creek and continued downstream.
The Totem Pole lies about 1.5 km further downstream. At first the river was scrubby, so we climbed on a terrace and followed that – reasonable going, and then becoming scrubby, so we descended to the river for the last part. it was quite nice going over sandy flats and over boulders. At one place we disturbed a Tiger Snake – which reared up at us and then crawled away. Then, Wendy shouted out that she could see the Totem Pole – and indeed she could. About 50 metres up on the bank – it was the same as I remembered from previous trips and it also seems quite unchanged since it was found by J Carne on his geological survey over 100 years earlier. The Totem Pole is so crumbly looking that it seems to defy nature.
After a few photos, we walked back up the river, being careful to avoid the Tiger Snake and being delighted to find a huge Diamond Python further upstream. Back at Annie Rowan Creek, we took a break for lunch and Pete spotted a few fossils in the shale rock in the creek bed. Then back upstream to our camp. No more rock wallabies this time.
On the third day of the walk – we retraced our path back up the river – easy walking along the road.
Thanks to Wendy for suggesting and organising this great walk. More photos are on my website starting at this page.