North Dandalup Walk overview

The challenging 1km off-track scrambling and/or wading up North Dandalup River across small pools and up cascades below the North Dandalup Dam is the very rewarding highlight here, providing adventure of a different kind which is not for the timid and inexperienced walker. The later parts of the walk are mainly easy, along existing tracks and roads. There are also good short-walk options.

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  • Main features / Highlights

    The North Dandalup River cuts into the Darling Scarp below the North Dandalup Dam and drops about 80m (250ft) over a distance of less than one kilometre, creating a series of small cascades and waterfalls, including the main cascades which spill down a large granite ledge to the pool below.  This 1km section of the River provides the main highlight of the walk and is also the most challenging, with varied scrambling and some wading up the river/creek, across often-slippery rocks,  through and around rock pools, and over rock ledges, providing adventure of a different kind which is not for the timid or clumsy-footed! In places the surrounding shrubland closes in quite densely across the river course, requiring ‘off-track’ detours upslope into more open territory until the river course again opens up. On a warm day some of the larger pools offer an irresistable opportunity for a refreshing dip. The challenge of the river section should not be underestimated and requires a good level of fitness and experience. Allow plenty of time (at least 1.5 hours) to complete the river section; rushing is more likely to result in injury. (See Alerts / Issues.)

    The later parts of the walk are mainly easy, being mainly ‘on-track’, along existing roads/old forestry tracks (~40%) and the Munda Biddi Bike Trail (~25%), including a visit (or two) to the Dandalup Campsite (built 2002). There’s no need at all to rush, but if uncertain of your stamina, a wise choice would be to take the 8km short-walk option (see below), or one of the various other short-cut options along the walk route (see Route notes).

    The walk route lies within a narrow belt (average 1.5km wide) between Scarp Road (and the North Dandalup water catchment) to the east, and open farmland to the west, straddling the Darling Scarp. It passes through varied forest (in State Forest and small nature reserves), including mixed jarrah-banksia, with patches of wandoo, and low shrubland around outcrops. The route does not enter private farmland.

    Aside from North Dandalup River, the route also crosses Cooleeup Creek (which drains northward into the main River) and ‘Whittakers Creek’ (informal name) which drains westward across the Scarp to also join the North Dandalup River. (The North Dandalup River itself eventually feeds into the Murray River which flows into Peel Inlet.) There are good views from various points along the route: westward across the Darling Scarp to the Coastal Plain, and also NE-ward to the North Dandalup Dam.

    The delightful picnic area below the main North Dandalup dam wall is not directly on the main walk route but is also worth a visit (and is an alternative Start point for a modified walk route; see below). The recreation lake is formed from the original small Pipehead Dam which operated from 1971 until replaced by the current dam which opened in 1994. Overflow from the small spillway at the north end of the old Pipehead Dam flows directly into the North Dandalup River.

    Shorter walk options: See the Route notes for several good options and contingencies to shorten the walk to as little as ~7km if preferred, or if necessary on the day.

    For overnighters: The Dandalup Campsite (at waypoint ’19’) on the Munda Biddi Bike Trail provides under-roof shelter and bunks, and also tent areas. The site also has a toilet and water tanks.  However walkers must respect that the Munda Biddi Trail and its campsites are there for the cyclists.  A walker will be accepted on the Trail by most cyclists if the walker shows common courtesies and recognises that cyclists may rightfully claim priority and must always be given full right of way on the Trail.

  • Route notes

    From the start point (at waypoint ‘START’), pass the barrier gate and follow the rough vehicle track SE-ward uphill initially through an area of forest that is being rehabilitated. (Or see Option 1 below and Access/Directions for alternative start points.)The vehicle track steepens before reaching a fork in the track after about 400m, at ‘1’. Take the older, right hand track. Follow it S-ward for only a short distance (~130m) to where it veers left up the hillside (at ‘1-1’). Leave the track to continue SSW along slope through jarrah forest. Veer more westward at ‘2’ and head very gently downslope (via ‘2-1’), then find an easy way through a small patch of parrot bush to reach (at ‘3’) the top of a small outcrop above a steeper westward slope, gaining a good view over farmland to the Coastal Plain. Then veer SW and again pick an easy way down the steepening hillside through patches of parrot bush and across or around small outcrops. Veer due south at ‘4’ to walk along slope through mixed forest (including wandoo) and reach a small outcrop at ‘4-1’, with a view south to farmland across the North Dandalup River valley.  Head approx. SSW down the steep hillside to reach the North Dandalup water pipeline. Cross easily under the pipeline (at ‘5’) to reach the adjacent bitumen service road. Turn left to follow the pipeline road eastward for about 400m across a gentle spur ridge. At about ‘6’ (or up to 50m before) find a suitable opening in the vegetation on the southern, downslope side of the road and ensure the initial slope is gentle enough to allow a safe – but quite steep and partly scratchy – descent via ‘6-1’ to the North Dandalup River. (Or see Option 2 below if you would prefer a gentler descent to the River.) Cross the River at ‘6-2’ above a small pool. (You can probably find a way across without getting your boots wet).  Then head SE-ward initially upslope of the south bank via ‘7’ and ‘7-1’, bypassing denser bushland near the river and soon paralleling a farm fence separating the river nature reserve from farmland which lies steeply upslope to the south. At ‘8’, veer more southward, and pick an easy way through patchy denser shrubland to ‘8-1’. Alternatively, you can opt to descend to the River and boulder hop and wade upstream along the river course, and if the fringing vegetation gets unpleasantly dense, or the rocks too slippery, retreat back up the south bank and rejoin the described route. (At ‘8-1’, if you are feeling energetic, see Option 3 for a short return climb to a nearby granite bluff.) Cross the River at ‘8-2’ and pick a way along the north bank through dense shrubland/tall heath to ‘8-3’. You are now just below the first small cascades (and also just above the confluence with Cooleeup Creek which joins North Dandalup River from the south). Cross the rocky river course to ‘9’ below the cascades, then scramble around the outcrop and pick a way along the south bank via ‘9-1’ passing 4 separate pools along the way. (Alternatively, you can opt to follow the River course and wade and scramble upstream, floating your day pack if necessary in a bag or on a pack cover to keep it dry across the deeper pools. This is a nice cooling, fun activity on a warm day!).  Continue upstream (via ’10’ and ‘10-1’) taking great care on the treacherously slippery boulders along the river course. At ‘10-2’ reach a larger pool at the foot of the main cascades. Pick a way around the south edge of the pool, or wade, to ‘11’ near the foot of the rock ledge.Then climb via ‘11-1’ to the top of the granite ledge through the low shrubland and heath fringing its southern edge, to reach the river course above the cascades at ‘11-2’. Return to the river course above the cascades. Continue upstream (via ’12’, ‘12-1’, …‘12-5’), across the more gentle upper cascades and reach a rock ledge at ‘13’ on the south bank, above another pool. This is the end of the River section and the place to put the boots back on if you have been wading. The pool below the ledge is almost 30m long, and is another good place for a swim and to cool off on a warm day. Head SE gently upslope, picking a way through shrubland on rocky ground via ‘14’, and reach a narrow granite slab at ’15’. Climb southward up the slab, then up a broad, rocky ridge via ‘15-1’. The ridge narrows upslope and you will need to pick a way through patches of scratchy shrubland (mainly Calothamnus sp.). There will be views NNE up the valley to the Main Dam and water intake tower. Veer SSW at ‘16’ to meet an old forestry vehicle track at ’17’. Turn right to follow the track southward around the hillside. (Or see Option 4 for a much-shortened (~7km) walk if you are feeling low on energy after the River section.)  At ’18’ veer to the right, off-track, to leave the track and head SW-ward downslope to ‘19’ to reach the Dandalup Campsite in a picturesque setting among wandoo trees; A nice place for a good rest stop and/or lunch. Join the Munda Biddi Trail at ‘20’ via the short (40m) side trail from the campsite. Turn right to follow the Trail downhill for less than 200m to ’21’ then head WSW off-track, gently downhill through mainly open forest. (Or see Option 5 below, if you would prefer an 8km shortened walk after visiting the campsite.)  Cross Cooleeup Creek at ’22’, and another sidestream soon after at ‘22A’, then climb steadily, passing into a patch of wandoo trees. At ’23’ (where you may get a view NE to the Main Dam) veer SW and continue uphill to ’24’, soon passing  a cluster of large granite boulders. Then veer right (WNW) upslope to cross the forested hilltop via ‘24-1’ and reach the north edge of an outcrop at ’25’, fringed by low shrubland. Veer southward to descend the outcrop to meet an old vehicle track at ‘25-1’, passing near a few remnants of a building which once straddled the nearby granite ledge. Head southward on the vehicle track which soon meets another track (at ’26’).  Turn right onto this other track and follow it westward past farmland on the right, with views northward to the Coastal Plain. (Or see Option 6 for a short-cut to save about an hour of walking if you are running short on time or energy at this stage.)  At ’27’, the old vehicle track connects to Hoares Road (unsealed) at a bend near farm gates. Turn left to follow road 600m SSW to Whittakers Road (at ’28’). Turn left to follow Whittakers Road (dirt road) for only about 50m to ’29’, then veer southward ‘off-track’ to follow an old overgrown  telegraph line track. (Alternatively, at ’29’, you could take a very unexciting ‘escape’ short-cut by continuing SE along Whittakers Road to rejoin the described route at ’39’ on the Munda Biddi Trail.)  At ’30’ the old track meets a currently used track, near farm buildings. Turn left to follow the track SE. It soon becomes disused, but can be easily followed via ‘30-1’ and ‘30-2’. At ’31’ where the track veers southward down the hillside, continue off-track ESE along slope through the forest for about 250m to cross a narrow outcrop at ‘32-1. The outcrop forms a 70m long rock ledge near the north bank of ‘Whittakers Creek’ (informal name). Cross Whittakers Creek at ’33’, then head SE-ward upslope across mainly bare rocky ground to ‘34’. Veer left (eastward) along slope and reach the foot of an outcrop at ‘35’. Head southward up the outcrop and reach an old vehicle track at ‘36’. Follow the track eastward for about 700m to reach Scarp Road at ’37’. Turn left to follow Scarp Road 300m northward, flanked on both sides by a small farm property which straddles part of Whittakers Creek valley. (The now disused Whittakers Mill campsite is located about 500m east.) At ’38’, at the northern edge of the farmland, veer off Scarp Road to follow an old vehicle track (a former, now-abandoned section of the Munda Biddi Trail) NW to meet Whittakers Road at ’39’. Turn right and follow the Road for less than 50m to the Munda Biddi Trail entry at ’40’ on the left. Follow the Munda Biddi Trail northward (via ’40’, ‘40-1’, ‘41’ and ‘42’). At ‘43’ a trail – which bypasses the Dandalup Campsite – diverges to the right from the main trail. Turn right to follow this ‘bypass’ trail around the hillside to ‘44’ where it rejoins the Trail from the campsite. Turn right to follow the trail uphill NE across a gentle hill top through jarrah-banksia forest. The trail then descends gently and meets Scarp Road at ‘45’. Follow Scarp Road NW.  After 250m, at ‘45-1’, the road crosses a bridge across the Main Dam spillway cutting. Stop to inspect the cutting from the south side of the road (the amount of excavation of the solid granite is impressive!), and then cross the Main Dam wall via ‘46’, with a good view from the west side down to the old Pipehead Dam picnic area below, and down the North Dandalup River valley. At ‘47’ take an optional  very short detour into the carpark on the east side of the road to inspect a commemoration plaque at ‘47-1’ which includes a map identifying the various dam site facilities. Rejoin Scarp Road at the end of the carpark at ‘48’, crossing the gentle ridge that separates the Main Dam from the smaller Saddle Dams to the north. At ’49’ cross the vehicle crash barrier strip on the west side of the road and follow a vehicle track for about 50m NW-ward to ’50’, taking care not to veer right (NNW) onto an intersecting track which leads down the dam wall. Then veer westward off-track, initially gently downhill via ‘50-1’, and then mostly along slope to ‘50-2’. Then descend to a small gully at ‘51’, and follow the gully NW downslope to soon meet an old forestry track at ’51-1′. Follow the old track NW for only about 50m and at ‘52’, then veer left (WNW) off-track and downslope to cross a narrow gully at ‘53’. Veer westward around the very gentle, north-sloping hillside. Briefly follow a very short section of an old vehicle track from ‘53-1’ but leave the track at ‘53-2’ to continue along slope to meet the access road at ‘54’ close to the start point.

    Option 1, Alternative picnic area Start point & modified route: If preferred, park at ‘PICNIC’ at the old Pipehead Dam picnic area below the main dam. From the picnic area near the lake follow the path (via ‘P1’ & ‘P2’) around the east (main dam) end of the lake to the north side.  Head westward from ‘P2’ to ‘P3’ along a rough track above the north side of the lake. (A potential short-cut across the lake via the old Pipehead Dam wall and spillway is blocked by a secured gate at the end of the public walk way across the wall.)  At ‘P3’ turn right (NW) onto a vehicle track and follow it for 700m quite steeply uphill – ignoring a track that forks off to the right at ‘P4’- and then across the crest of a ridge at ‘P5’ to join the described route at ‘1’. On returning across the Main Dam wall near the end of the walk, instead of proceeding beyond waypt ’47’, simply follow the nearby side road back down to the start point at the picnic area. This route does not reduce the total walk distance significantly.

    Option 2, for gentler descent to North Dandalup River:  If the initial descent point near ‘6’ appears uncomfortably steep to you, continue to alternative point ‘6-alt1’ about 250m further eastward along the pipeline road up a steep hill, then head due south from ‘6alt1’ down a gentler slope through thickening understorey for 200m to ‘6-alt2’. Then pick a way down the ridge through partly dense scratchy shrubland to  rejoin the route at ‘8-3’,  bypassing the downstream waypoints.

    Option 3, for a short return climb to a nearby granite bluff (from ‘8-1’):  From ‘8-1’ head SW up the steepening hillside to ‘8-opt’ to reach the foot of a weathered granite bluff about 100m SW of the River course. This is 50m above the River and provides a very nice view up the river valley, toward some of the small waterfalls and cascades on the route ahead. After the climb, descend to rejoin the route at ‘8-2’).

    Option 4, for a much-shortened (~7km) walk (after ‘17’): At ‘17’ turn left onto the old vehicle track and head east to cross the upper slope of a granite outcrop to ’18-alt1′. From there just continue due east for 150m to meet the Munda Biddi Trail at ’18-alt2’ and turn left to follow the remainder of the described route via ‘45’ etc.

    Option 5, shortened (~8 km) walk (after ‘20’): For a shorter walk, upon leaving the Dandalup Campsite  simply turn left (uphill) onto the Munda Biddi Trail at ‘20’ to rejoin the decsribed the route at ’44’, bypassing the entire southern loop of the total walk route.

    Option 6, short-cut after ‘26’: Turn left onto the vehicle track at ‘26’ and follow it SE for about 700m along the NE flank of Whittaker Hill to ’27-alt’, then veer left (ESE) of-track downslope to cross Cooleup Creek and rejoin the described route at ‘41’ on the Munda Biddi Trail. This short-cut reduces the total walk distance by ~3.5km.

  • Access / Directions

    73km SSE of Perth. Kwinana Freeway south, then take Mundijong Road east to South Western Highway. Then 23km south on Highway, then 2.8km along Hines Road (on left, immediately after North Dandalup Primary School on the corner, and about 1km before North Dandalup township). Then turn right (at waypoint ‘ENTRY’) into a minor, unsigned dirt road which heads uphill from Hines Road into forest. Park at the ‘START’ point, 100m up the road, on the roadside, just before the gate which blocks vehicle access to the State Forest. (There is limited car turning space, so you may prefer to reverse up the dirt road to make your exit onto Hines Road easier at the end of the walk.)

    There are toilets along/near the walk route: at the Dandalup Campsite (on Munda Biddi Trail);  at the north end of the main dam; and at the picnic area below the main dam wall.

    Alternative Access (& Start points): The walk route (or simple variations) can be easily accessed from several other optional entry points e.g.

    In northeast: Carpark at north end of main dam, via Scarp Rd (near waypt ’47-1’); or carpark at old Pipehead Dam picnic area and lake, below the Main Dam wall (see waypt ‘PICNIC’).

    In south: Whittakers Mill area, via Scarp Rd (e.g. see waypt ‘OLDCMP’; Camping is NOT permitted.);  In southwest: 4.5km from North Dandalup via Del Park Rd, then Whittakers Rd to ~1.1km past Goldmine Hill picnic area and viewpoint (to corner with side road near waypt ’28’).

    Google Map

  • Nearest campsite/s

    Dandalup Campsite:  On the Munda Biddi Bike Trail; Provides under-roof shelter and bunks, and also tent areas. The site also has a toilet and water tanks.  This campsite is also on this WalkGPS walk route (at waypoint ’19’). Walkers must respect that the Munda Biddi Trail and its campsites are there primarily for the cyclists. A walker will be accepted on the Trail by most cyclists if the walker shows commonsense courtesy and recognises that cyclists may rightfully claim priority and must always be given full right of way on the Trail.

  • Escape route/s

    In north, to exit North Dandalup Valley (in an emergency only), follow the dirt road westward along the water pipeline route on the steepish north side of the valley; on reaching the small fenced pumping station, cross the pipeline at waypoint ‘PIPE’ (at the metal ladder), and then cross the nearby fence into the private farmland; head NW across the farmland to reach Hines Rd after 1km (for the initial 750m initially follow the east bank of the North Dandalup River, but when the River veers sharply SW, continue NW to soon reach Hines Rd);  then turn right (east) to follow Hines Rd back to the walk Start point. Alternatively, head due north (instead of NW) to cross the farmland, to reach the road sooner, but that ‘short-cut’ crosses a steepish ridge. (Note: Eastward exit along the valley to the Dam picnic area and Scarp Rd is not possible as the pipeline road is blocked by a gate below the Dam Operations building.)

    Other:  e.g. Via Munda Biddi Trail to Scarp Rd; Via Whittakers Rd in SW.

  • Other Info.

    “North Dandalup Dam” , Water Corp. – Basic information.

    “North Dandalup Pipehead Dam Catchment Area Drinking Water Source Protection Plan”, Report # 54, Water Resource Protection Series, Water Resources Division, Dept. of Environment, June 2005. Note: Access to this walk area is not affected by the protection strategy proposed in Report # 54.

    Other map availability

    South West WA 25K Scale Topo Maps”, Greg Harewood & Landgate, 2015.  – Digital raster; ECW format on 16GB USB. See tiles #301-2133-III-NE and #308-2133-II-SW for relevant map coverage.

    Munda Biddi Trail Map 2, Jarrahdale to Nanga.

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