Bells Rapid – Mount Mambup Walk overview

Bells Rapid, at the edge of the Darling Range near Brigadoon, is best known as a viewing spot during the Avon Descent. In late winter when the river is ‘up’ canoeists practise here for white water action. After good rainfall an impressive waterfall displays in a picturesque side valley. Energetic uphill climbs on both sides of the River are rewarded by excellent views along the Darling Scarp, across the Swan Coastal Plain, and northward up the valley to Walyunga N.P. The walk can be extended northward for a worthwhile 16km return walk to visit Walyunga and Bungarah Pools on the Swan River at Walyunga N.P.

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  • Main features / Highlights

    This is a relatively short walk,  but an excellent one if you are wanting to step up to something a little more challenging than easier walks such as Bold Park or Thomsons Lake.

    Bells Rapid, at the edge of the Darling Range near Brigadoon, is best known in W.A. for its association with the very popular annual ‘Avon Descent’ down the Avon-Swan Rivers from Northam to Perth. The footbridge over the Swan River at Bells Rapid provides spectators with a great vantage point to catch the canoeing and power-boat action at close-range during the popular ‘white-water’ event held in early August each year. A 1.3km section of this walk also follows the River bank at Bells Rapid along part of the City of Swan’s short Bells Rapid Walk Trail). If you don’t mind the crowds and opt to walk at that time, viewing some of the Avon Descent action (or the trial runs in the weekends before) will be one of the highlights, but even without that added attraction, the Swan River itself is a worthy sight when in full flow after good winter rains. Another outstanding feature after winter rains is an impressive (but unnamed) waterfall in the very picturesque side valley just east of Bells Rapid. The waterfall has a significant main drop of around 25m and rivals other falls along the Darling Scarp including Lesmurdie Falls (see Darling Scarp Walk) and the Sixty Foot Falls (see Ellis Brook-Bickley Brook Walk).  Energetic uphill climbs on both sides of the River (including the 210m climb up Mt Mambup) are also rewarded with many outstanding panoramic views from the steep valley slopes, including views along the Darling Scarp and across the Swan Coastal Plain to Perth City and the coast, and also views northward up the Swan-Avon River valley to Walyunga National Park. The walk also crosses the grassy summit area of Mt Mambup (elevation 220m) though the views from there are mainly restricted by surrounding woodland.

    The off-track sections are mainly through very open woodland and former pasture-land, but include a short scramble up steeper slopes near the waterfall in the east, plus one rocky stream crossing also in that area.

    The walk route is across land that is mainly reserved for parks and recreation. Much of the area north of Bells Rapid (i.e. west side of Swan River) was previously known as Jumbuck Hill Farm, and is now managed by DPAW  as Jumbuck Hill Regional Park, effectively as part of Walyunga National Park which it adjoins to the north.  The area in the immediate vicinity of Bells Rapid is managed by the City of Swan. The part of the walk route east of the railway tracks along the east bank of the Swan River is on land reserved for parks and recreation and was excluded from the adjacent Brigadoon Estate development. This reserved area also effectively forms a southern extension of Walyunga National Park, ultimately under DPAW management.

    The Nyoongah Community formerly led groups on a 6.5km walk, Coondebung’s Kalleepgurr Heritage Trail, which visited sites in the Brigadoon area which are of special Aboriginal Heritage significance, including the large waterfall on this walk route, and the Winaitj, a special area for women which holds the spirits of the kangaroo women (half women-half kangaroos).

  • Route notes

    The 9km route recommended here should be reasonably easy to follow, including the approx. 3 km of off-track sections.  GPS is certainly not essential but the waypoints provided here will make your navigation more certain and will allow you to test your skills if you are new to GPS.

    From the ‘START’ point at the unsealed parking area at the end of Cathedral Avenue, head down the track to wayoint ‘1’ to cross the Swan River via the footbridge at Bells Rapid.  If the Avon Descent is in progress you will want to spend some time on the footbridge viewing the white-water action from this excellent vantage point. Cross the footbridge toward ‘2’ on  the north side of the River.  Pass the sign to Bells Rapid Walk Trail on the left (near ‘3’) and veer right to continue up the dirt vehicle track which climbs to the NE. Turn left at the gate (at ‘4’) to head steeply up an old fenceline, reaching another gate (at ‘5’). Continue uphill (NW) on the track past the gate, ignoring the trail sign pointing westward along a firebreak track (Bells Rapid Walk Trail). The uphill climb soon becomes more gentle  and the track bends toward the  SW around the hillside, from where you get a good view southward across the valley to the falls up the opposite side valley and down to Bells Rapid and the footbridge. Just before  the track reaches the crest of the ridge, turn sharp right (due north) at ‘6’ to follow an old vehicle track  up the ridge through fairly open woodland, balgas and patches of grassland. Take the right hand fork at the Y-junction at ‘7’. The old track then soon climbs to the crest of the ridge. Leave the track at ‘8’ to head NNW along the ridge which initially flattens, but then steepens again after ‘9’. Pick a route around a few small granite outcrops in open woodland to reach the broad, flat summit area (after ‘10’) of Mount Mambup. Head initially NNE to cross the grassy summit area (via ‘11’) and then continue NE-ward down the initial gentle hillside, mainly across grassland with balgas, and reach an outcrop (at ‘12’). Find the gap in the rocks to head eastward more steeply downhill for only about 100m.  Then veer north to reach a rough dirt vehicle track (at ‘13’). Take in the views across and up the valley (toward Walyunga National Park).  Then follow the track northward via ‘14’ (don’t turn right to follow it down the steep hill!). The track veers westward back up the hillside (via ‘15’) to join another track at a T-junction (at ‘16’) on the crest of the main ridge of Mount Mambup again.  Turn left to follow the track south, passing close by the summit area of Mount Mambup on your left (visited earlier). Continue gently downhill along the main southern ridge (via ‘17’ and ‘18’), gaining excellent views across the Swan Coastal Plain to the west, and also (near ‘19’) another view down the hillside to Bells Rapid and across to the waterfall east of the Swan River. The dirt vehicle track veers slightly off the ridge crest in places and passes close to a small rocky knoll (‘RX’).  Soon after ‘19’ the track crosses to the westward flank of the ridge and descends mostly SW-ward, then westward after ‘20’ to meet a T-junction with a N-S track (at ‘21’). Turn left (south), passing at ‘22’ the end of Copley Road (an alternative walk start point). Continue south downhill to join the Bells Rapid Walk Trail (at about ‘23’).  Follow the trail close to the north bank of the Swan River (via ‘24’. ‘25’, ‘26’) and turn right at ‘2’ to re-cross the footbridge at Bells Rapid.  At the south end of the footbridge (at ‘1’) , head up the short rough foot-track that heads steeply uphill to meet a dirt road (at ‘27’) which is a continuation of Cathedral Avenue.   Turn left (east) to follow the road – another excellent vantage point for viewing Avon Descent action at Bells Rapid below – and soon reach a closed boom gate (‘28’). Pass around the end of the gate and cross the railway tracks, first ensuring none of the frequent trains are approaching (see “Caution”). Pass around the boom gate on the other side of the tracks (‘29’) and follow the road to ‘30’, where a vague foot-track heads SE across pastureland and through very open forest, along the north bank of a small stream which flows quite strongly in winter. Follow the track eastward up the steepening side valley and find an easy spot to boulder-hop across the stream to the south bank (at about ‘31’). The very picturesque waterfall and cascades below come into full view.  Follow the track up the steepening hillside and scramble up a short rocky section via ‘32’. Continue to near the foot  of the main drop of the falls (at ‘33’), then veer due south to climb and partly scramble up the steepish, mainly grassed and partly rocky slopes to reach an old farm track (at ‘34’).  Turn left to follow the track NE-ward around the hillside for less than 200m (to near ‘35’). Then leave the track to cross the small rocky stream-course at ‘36’ and head NW-ward, following kangaroo trails around the lightly forested, grassed hillside. Ensure that you stay well upslope (at least 50m) from the edge of the bluffs which drop off to the stream below. – You will again get a view through the trees down to Bells Rapid, 500m to the west.- Veer more northward at ‘37’ and begin descending carefully across the steepening slope. When a small gully appears ahead, veer sharply SW (at about ‘38’) to continue descending across the slope, again following roo trails where possible to help make the quite steep descent easier. You will need to cross an old wire fence. Reach a dirt road (at ‘39’) and turn left to follow the road back across the railway tracks (via ‘29’). Continue to retrace your steps  (via ‘27’) back to the Start point at the carpark.

  • Access / Directions

    Great Eastern Hwy and the bypass, then north on Roe Hwy, then 8km north along Great Northern Highway.  Turn right into Cathedral Avenue and follow for about 5km to the last parking area (before the closed road at the boom gate) which is the Start point above the Bells Rapid footbridge.  There are public toilets less than 200m back down the road from the parking area.

    During the annual Avon Descent the Cathedral Avenue access can become congested with spectators’ cars.  For good alternative access at that time, continue north on Great Eastern Hwy past the Cathedral Avenue turnoff  for a further 2.4km. Then turn right into Copley Rd and follow for about 2km and park near the road end, near the entrance sign to the Bells Raid walk trail.  You can join the walk route at this point (see waypoint ‘22’).

    Also see Railway crossing Caution under Alerts /Issues.

    Google Map

  • Nearest campsites

    Walyunga National Park Bungarah Pool:  Overnight camping possible subject to prior arrangement with DPaW ranger. Facilities: Pit toilet, tables and water. Camping fee applies additional to Park entry fee.

  • Escape route/s

    West of Swan River:  Via the various tracks or firebreaks to Copley Rd in west, or via tracks along Swan River bank to Cathedral Ave. via Bells Rapid footbridge in southeast.

    East of Swan River: Via the dirt road to Bells Rapid carpark in the west, or up steeply-sloping pasture land to Campersic Rd (sealed road) in southeast.

  • Other info.

    “Bells Rapids”, on The Sandgropers Blog, Jan. 2008. – Share in the joy (and photos) of a young family’s discovery of Perth’s bushwalking opportunities.

    “Bells Rapid Walk Trail” , City of Swan. Walk trail brochure, for a short, 4.5 km loop walk, accessed via Cathedral Ave, Brigadoon.

    “Canoeing in Western Australia”, Robyn Khorshid site  – For more Avon Descent details and some entertaining “Paddlers’ Stories”.

    “Heritage Trail – Coondebung’s Kalleepgurr”, Heritage Council of W.A., 1998 (see W.A. State Library PR12454/84).  – This pamphlet is no longer current but provides a brief summary of the significance to the aboriginal people of some natural features and areas in the Brigadoon area, including a part of the walk route on this page. This 6.5km trail was not a formal, developed Trail and could only be followed with a guide from the Nyoongah Community.

    “Swan Valley and Perth Hills Trails Discovery Guide”, Eastern Metropolitan Regional Council (‘EMRC’). 2005. (Booklet withdrawn from public sale but a copy can be viewed at the State Library of WA (book Call Ref. # 919.411 SWA). –  See Bells Rapid Walk Trail, pp.74-75, which covers the same trail as in the above City of Swan brochure.

    WalkGPS Walyunga N.P. Walk  – on this site.  Includes information also on Syd’s Rapids, which like Bells Rapid on this walk route, is another great viewing spot for white-water excitement during the annual Avon Descent.

     

    Other map availability

    “South West WA 25K Scale Topo Maps”, Greg Harewood & Landgate,  2015.  – Digital raster; ECW format on 16GB USB. See tile #318-2134-III-NW for relevant map coverage.

    DPaW Conservation Operations Graphic (COG) 1:50,000 map series (current)  – Sheet 2134-3 & 2134-2 (Mundaring & Chidlow).

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