Avon Valley N.P. – Both Sides Walk overview

This walk offers a good sampling of the rugged scenery of the Avon Valley National Park on both sides of the Avon River. It also offers a sense of W.A. history, with a visit to a site where bushranger Moondyne Joe operated in the 1850’s, and also to two historic rock cairns placed by pioneering surveyor-explorer John Forrest in 1878. There is a river crossing to negotiate and even a quirky scramble through a culvert. The uphill climbs are rewarded with some excellent views across the valley.

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  • Main features / Highlights

    This walk offers a good sampling of the rugged scenery of the Avon Valley National Park on both sides of the Avon River. The River runs southwestward through the park,  cutting deeply into the granite of the Darling Range  (as it has also done about 20km further SW at Walyunga National Park, where it becomes the Swan River).

    Western Australia’s most famous bushranger “Moondyne Joe” once roamed the slopes of the Avon Valley (between 1855 and 1861) and the pioneering surveyor-explorer, John Forrest (later a Premier of W.A.) and his surveying team in early 1878 placed cairns on several  observation points  near the hill-tops overlooking the valley. This walk captures some sense of that history by including visits to the historic sites at “Joe’s Cage” (where Moondyne Joe once captured wild horses and cattle) and at “Cairn DP” and “Cairn GR” (two of the best preserved of the John Forrest cairn sites, with marked trees nearby).

    The steep slopes on both sides of the Avon River provide for some reasonably challenging uphill climbs which are rewarded with some excellent views across and along the main valley from both sides.  The walk also includes two crossings of the River, one at the ford below the Valley Campsite, and the other 1km upriver from Emu Falls.  The Falls, which are not on the main walk route, are unlikely to be flowing at the times of year that this walk is most feasible, but they can be visited by an extra 1km round-trip diversion along the railway service road from near the  crossing point at the ford.

    The Park lies at the northern limit of the jarrah forests and includes a transitional mix of wandoo woodland with jarrah and marri trees. There are some short sections of thicker shrubland. (You may prefer to wear trousers or gaiters to avoid scratches. And be aware of ticks!)

    Alternative walk:  Considering the fairly rugged terrain, the full walk is only for the suitably fit. Also, because the River may be unsafe to cross during much of the peak wildflower season, you may prefer to do the separate Avon Valley (South Side) Walk  which doesn’t require the river crossings.  That alternative walk also allows flexibility to change your plans if the River just happens to be unseasonally high when you visit.

    Two-day visit:  Another good option is to spend a weekend in the Park, arriving Saturday morning and leaving Sunday afternoon. Camp at the Homestead Campsite. Do this walk on Day 1 and then the Avon Valley (South Side) Walk on Day 2.  There is no significant overlap between the two walks, but both start conveniently from the Homestead Campsite.

    The Valley Campsite (at waypoint ‘VALL’) provides an alternative good camping option for this walk.   It is much closer to the River and easily reached via waypoint ’33’, about 4km before the end of the walk route.

    Other opportunities:  Much of the western area of the Park, west of Joe’s Cage, is less easily accessible, and is quite rugged and challenging in places, especially between Plunkett Rd and the Avon River, with some dense, scratchy shrublands, but it also has potential for some good walking.  Access is possible from Great Northern Hwy, via Chittering Rd (from Bullsbrook) and Wilson Rd, then into the Park along unsealed roads (Smith Rd and Plunkett Rd). These unsealed roads are quite rutted and rocky in places and more suited to 4WD.

    However, a little further north on Chittering Road (14km from Bullsbrook) the “Peace Be Still” Guest House/Retreat  provides easy access to walking at the westernmost fringes of the Park, above the Brockman River and Chittering Valley (e.g. Kyotmunga Walk Trail  and ‘Out & Back’ Walk).

  • Route notes

    Start from the Homestead Campsite (waypoint ‘START’), cross Governors Drive and head NNW gently uphill via ‘1’,  through light forest and shrubland and across small granite outcrops. At ‘1-1’ veer right, more steeply upslope to ‘1-2’ near the crest of a ridge. Turn sharp left (NW) and soon meet a firebreak vehicle track, South Break, at ‘2’. Follow South Break track mostly NE-ward for a total of about 1.7km. The track initially descends to cross a stream gully (at ‘3’), then climbs to cross Forty One Mile Rd (at ‘4’). After crossing the road, South Break track turns north (to ‘5’), then veers NE-ward again, crosses another stream gully, and climbs through wandoo woodland. At ‘6’, near the crest of a broad ridge, turn left to head about northward off-track. The descent soon steepens and after ‘7’  crosses a gentle saddle before reaching asmall rocky hilltop at ‘7-1’.  Continue NNE to ‘8’, then veer right (NE) to descend through a short (less than 50m) patch of denser understorey to reach a small granite slab (at ‘8-1’) which provides a good view NE up the Avon Valley. Then at ‘9’ veer NW to cross the rocky crest of the ridge. Descend a quite steep granite outcrop after ‘9-1’ and on reaching ‘10’ veer NE along the lower edge of the outcrop to soon meet a vehicle track at ‘11’. Turn right to follow the track approx. NE to reach the railway embankment. At this point you must exercise your own independent judgment as to whether it is safe for you to cross the railway tracks or alternatively you may wish to walk almost 1km eastward along the vehicle track to a recognised crossing location at the end of Quarry Rd. WalkGPS accepts no liability whatsoever if you choose to cross. (Caution: The line is independently controlled by Brookfield Rail who state that for safety reasons any walkers planning to cross are to contact the company in advance and permission may be declined. Trains pass frequently, so exercise great caution near the railway. Walk well away from the lines and if you consider it safe, cross quickly after ensuring that a train is not approaching.) Upon reaching the service road on the north side of the railway embankment (at ’12’) turn right to follow the service road east for 200m (to ’13’) and then turn NW to descend off-track to cross the Avon River (at’14’).  (If the river is flowing strongly do not attempt any river crossing but shorten the walk by firstly heading westward back along the railway service road for 1.5km to waypoint ’32’ and then continuing with the remainder of the route south of the River from there. That shortened route totalling about 10km also passes near Emu Falls at waypoint ‘EMUFLS’.) After crossing the river head approx. northward up the nearby ridge (via ’15’) which soon narrows and steepens and provides a view east up the Avon Valley. Veer NW at ’16’ and soon cross some small granite outcrops (e.g. at ‘16-1′). The route climbs more slowly to ‘17’ then steepens again to reach historic Cairn “DP” at ‘18’ on the flat laterite-capped hill-top . Stop there to read the information notice and to also locate the nearby tree marked by the John Forrest survey team about 130 years ago.  Then walk a short distance due west through the open wandoo woodland to reach at ‘19’ the firebreak road at the Park boundary (with farmland immediately to the north). Follow the firebreak road generally WSW-ward (via ’20’, ’20-1′, ’21’ and ’22’) for 1.7km, crossing a few quite deep gullies. (Waypoint ’21’ is at approx. the halfway point on the walk.)  At ‘22-1’ where the track starts to veer to the left of a ridge rising to the west, veer right, off-track, to head up the crest of the ridge through delightful open wandoo woodland. Soon climb more steeply to cross a small laterite-capped hilltop at ‘22-2’. Continue across a small saddle and meet Sapper Rd at ‘23’ near a vehicle barrier gate. Continue west on Sapper Rd which is flanked mainly by thick dryandra shrubland with scattered jarrah trees on the laterite-capped plateau-like surface. Turn left at a track (at ’24’) indicated by a small red Survey Heritage Trail marker and follow the foot-track through quite thick shrubland to soon reach the historic “Joe’s Cage” site at  ’25’). Stop to read the information notice and to locate nearby a small part of the original wooden ‘cage’ structure that was used by bushranger ‘Moondyne Joe’ in the 1850’s to capture wild horses and cattle as they came to drink at nearby springs. (Moondyne Joe lived in the Valley between prison terms served mainly for petty theft and prison escapes. The ‘cage’ structures measured 20m by 10m.) Head approx. eastward from “Joe’s Cage” for less than 50m to cross a gentle stream gully at ’26’ then climb through initially quite thick heath/shrubland to soon reach open wandoo-dominated forest on the slopes. Walk ESE along the hillside, climbing gently to ‘26-1’ to stay in wandoo woodland and upslope of a thicker understorey of shrubs downslope. Veer left (NE-ward) at ‘27’ to contour around the hillside via ‘28’ before descending northward to meet Sapper Rd again at ‘29’. Follow Sapper Rd steeply downhill. To the left at ’30’ toward the bottom of Sapper Rd pass an old campsite (with drop toilet possibly no longer maintained). Cross the river at a concreted ford at ’31’. A vehicle track  up the south bank meets the railway service road at ’32’. (At this point if time and energy allows, it may be worth considering a 1km round-trip diversion NE-ward along the railway service road to visit Emu Falls (at ‘EMUFLS’), the site of many thrills and spills during the annual Avon Descent white water canoeing event. Turn right at ‘32’ to follow the service road SW for about 600m (to ’33’). Then rather than crossing the railway embankment, locate a twin culvert at ‘34’ which passes under the railway embankment. The two culvert pipes are 1m diameter and free of debris. Most walkers will find it is a very quick, easy and comfortable option to scramble or ‘waddle’ through in a low crouching gait to emerge on the SE side of the embankment. Once through, meet a nearby vehicle track at ‘35’ and follow it to the right (SW) to ‘36’  Then head approx. SE off-track and gently uphill. When the shrubland thickens (at ’37’) veer right (approx. SW) and continue up the steepening slope. At ’38’ veer left (SE again) and climb a steep rocky slope before reaching quite open and flatter ground at ’39’.  Veer sharp right WSW and gently uphill through fairly open forest and some scratchy heath to ‘39-1’ where a large granite slab provides a view across the valley. Continue SW upslope to reach a narrow rocky ridge (at ’39-2′) with another view NW across the Valley. Then continue southward up the ridge through light scrub and trees for 120m to reach historic Cairn “GR” sitting on a large rock (at ’40’). Stop there to read the information notice and to also locate the nearby tree marked by the John Forrest survey team in 1878. Then head eastward along slope through wandoo woodland (to ’41’). Continue ESE, soon climbing up across an escarpment onto the flatter laterite surface or ‘plateau’. At ’42’ veer approx. south to follow the edge of the laterite via ‘42-1’ through mainly open shrubland and low heath.  Descend via ‘42-2’through woodland to a narrow ridge (at ’43’), then veer more SE-ward to follow an old track along the ridge to meet South Break track again (at ’44’). Turn right to follow the track southward for only about 200m (to ’45’).  Then veer left (southward) and off-track and walk gently downhill to ’46’.  Veer left (ESE), cross the stream to the south bank at about ‘47’, then re-cross to the north side at ‘47-1’ and cross Governors Drive to reach ‘48’ which is back at the Start point at Homestead Campsite.

  • Access / Directions

    Great Eastern Hwy and bypass, then north on Roe Hwy, then approx. 48km NE along Toodyay Rd to signposted turnoff to Avon Valley National Park on left (Morangup Rd), then about 5km  to Park entrance road on left. A Park entry fee applies. Follow the gravel road for about 8km, passing Quarry Rd (‘No Entry’) on the right, to reach a fork in the road soon after. Take the left fork which is Governors Drive and is signposted “to Bald Hill”.  (The right fork which is Forty One Mile Rd,  is signposted “to River”, and ends at the Valley Campsite near the Avon River).  Follow Governors Drive for less than  1.5km and turn left into the signed Homestead Campsite and park in the camping area. (Public toilet close by).

    Park opening-closing times are 8.00am-5.00pm. Make sure you finish the walk in time to leave the Park by 5.00pm before the entry gate is closed. Take care driving on the narrow and gravelly Park access roads, and watch for kangaroos and emus crossing.

    Google Map

  • Nearest campsite/s

    The following camping grounds have wood barbecues, picnic tables and pit toilets. Untreated water is available at the campsites. Camping away from the camping grounds may be permitted, but check with DPaW ranger beforehand. A DPaW camping fee applies to the campsites additional to Park entry fee:

    Homestead Campsite (at walk start point).

    Valley Campsite (off Forty One Mile Rd, within 400m of waypoints ‘32’ and ‘35’).

    Bald Hill & Drummonds Campsites (about 2km west along Governors Drive from start point).

    Also check Sappers Road Campsite (off Sappers Road, near waypoint ‘30’; may be closed).

     

  • Escape route/s

    South of the Avon River:  Via the railway service road (along the north side of  the railway track) either to Forty One Mile Rd (below Valley Campsite) or to Quarry Rd (east of the walk route), then south.

    North of the River (only if river can’t be re-crossed):  Via Sapper Rd west to T-junction with Plunkett Rd then north (about 9 km to Julimar Rd).

  • Other Info.

    “Avon Valley National Park”, DPaW site. – Includes a downloadable Park Guide and Flora & Fauna Guide.

    “Avon Valley Survey Heritage Trails: recognising the pioneering achievements of 19th century surveyor/explorer, Lord John Forrest.” – Undated former Department of Land Administration, Mapping & Survey Division publication (two maps on one double-sided A4 sheet.  Copy provided to me by the Park Ranger but original also available in W.A. State Library map collection at Battye Library; Call # 9022.H65E635.) Some short sections of the “Survey Heritage Trails” network are followed on the route described on this page and you will find red-orange trail markers and also information boards at a few key points (including at the Homestead Campsite entry, at “Joe’s Cage”, and at historic Cairns “DP” and “GR”). Some other sections of the original trails are across very steep and difficult slopes (not on this route, and not recommended!) where the trail is no longer  maintained and has been overgrown and lost in dense shrubland.

    “Bushranger Country: Avon Valley National Park”,  John Hunter, in Landscope magazine (CALM), Vol.14, No.2, Summer 1998-99, pp.10-15. – Article mainly about Moondyne Joe.

    Canoeing in Western Australia, Robyn Khorshid site. – For a kayaker’s perspective of the Avon Valley i.e. the “Avon Descent”, including some great “Paddlers’ Stories”.

    “Kyotmunga Walk Trail” –  A 7km point-to-point trail; access in south from “Peace Be Still” car park off Chittering Rd, and in north from Yozzi Rd off Chittering Valley Rd (initial section is signed as ‘W’ trail through citrus orchard). Lies mainly within the NW-most area of Avon Valley National Park. Regarded as one of the best on-track trails in the Shire of Chittering. Passes partly through wandoo woodlands and provides views across Chittering Valley. See also WalkGPS map including other Lower Chittering area trails.

    Landscope magazine, CALM, Spring 2004 – Included article on CALM/AWC collaborative work to restore wildlife to the Swan-Avon Valley.

    “Moondyne Joe -The Man and the Myth”, Ian Elliot, 1998 (2nd publ.), ISBN 0 85905 244 3.

    “Perth Rock Climbing Guide”, Climbers’ Association of W.A., 2010 (2nd ed.) – Includes a climbers’ perspective of the Avon Valley.

    “Travellers guide to the Parks & Reserves of Western Australia”,  Simon Nevill, 4th Edn. 2011, p.41 (Simon Nevill Publications) –  Includes a brief summary of the Park.

    “Walking in the bush at Chittering with history as your guide” ,  Wendy Gellard.  – Booklet available from “Peace Be Still” provides some historical background including George Fletcher Moore’s discovery of the Chittering area (west and NW of the Park) in 1834-35 and his early interactions with the local aboriginal tribes.

    Other map availability

    South West WA 25K Scale Topo Maps”, Greg Harewood & Landgate,  2015.  – Digital raster; ECW format on 16GB USB. See tiles #329-2134-IV-NE and #326-2134-I-NW  for relevant map coverage.

     

Comments

  1. David Healy says:

    Fascinating, Dave!

    Since the end of March I’ve been working on several walks through North Avon/Julimar/Chittering Valley and have found your material very helpful. The old survey maps, in particular, are of great assistance.

    Your commentary about the state of the Heritage Trail tallies with what I’m seeing on the ground, and I’ve just touched the tip of it.

    Many thanks for the lucid, detailed walk description and the prolific list of waypoints!

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