visitors should be
aware that this area can occasionally be affected by bushfires or flash
floods; you are strongly advised to seek local advice
before setting out
the main road from Fernbank to Dargo off the Princes
Highway is bitumen
the road from Briagolong to the Blue Pools is
bitumen but narrow and winding with blind corners for the last few
the Freestone Creek Road north from the Blue Pools
to the Dargo Road is 2WD gravel but narrow with steep drops in places;
it is quite safe if approached with care
all other tracks are best attempted with 4WD
none of the gravel roads north of Briagolong are suitable for caravans
TRACK 96 GOLDFIELDS - AN OVERVIEW
Mud Map No. 1
Introducing the walking tracks in the Briagolong district including BLUE
POOL, FREESTONE CREEK, LEES CREEK and GRANITE CREEK areas. These may
be accessed from either the Briagolong or Dargo ends.
The Freestone Creek, Lees Creek and Granite
Creek areas were the location of a number of alluvial gold mines. These
were first discovered in the mid-1860s and though not highly profitable,
continued to be worked into the twentieth century.
During the late 1800s and early 1900s, a track existed
to service the needs of the miners, connecting Briagolong and Gladstone
Creek (also an alluvial field) to the gold fields at Lees Creek and
Granite Creek. This track was marked on a Government map dated 1909 as
"Track 96". The Granite Creek fields were also serviced from Stratford via
the main Dargo Road.
Since the 1970s members of the Ben Cruachan
Walking Club have been interested in identifying, retracing and clearing
Track 96 but it was not until the 1990s that serious attempts were made to
bring the dream to reality. The project, once underway however,
included all of Track 96 from Granite Creek in the north to the Blue Pool
Walking track in the south, giving a total of 60 kms of walking.
This network of walking tracks has taken over six years
to complete and would not have been possible without the many hours worked
by the Ben Cruachan Walking Club and the Department of Natural Resources
and Environment assisted by many unemployed people. This group of
people can be proud of the end result that has created out of an historic
track, a network of walking tracks for all walkers to use, while retaining
a vital link with our past history. The maps have been prepared by
John Smith and Jeremy Hales with support from the DNRE.
The new tracks provide different degrees of
difficulty, so casual or experienced walkers can choose the challenge
which best suits them. Already the tracks have attracted large numbers of
walkers, who are able to enjoy the excellent views and historical areas at
their own pace.
BLUE POOL WALKING TRACKS
Mud Map No. 2
Pre-history of the area
The area was inhabited by the Briakulung, a tribe of the Gunai/Kurnai
people. Remnants from their era are the grinding grooves and the scar
trees still evident in some places.
The Freestone gold rush
Originally Mr Selwyn, a government geological surveyor stated that gold
would not be found in the Upper Devonian rock formation of the area. In
1864 a 16 year old boy, Tanjore Boyce, was prospecting on behalf of some
residents in the region and found some gold. By the end of 1865 most of
the alluvial mining had finished. By 1866 there was a land rush near
recognized mines, thus creating another gold rush near Top Plain, Valencia
Creek and the lower regions of the Freestone Creek.
Twelve months later gold mining had almost stopped when there were
reports of 18.5 dwt (approximately 26 grams) of gold being found in a 60ft
mine shaft. This discovery encouraged mining and one area, Lees and Powers
Paddock, yielded approximately 4ozs (or 113 grams) of gold a day. Nuggets
of considerable size were also being found, especially at Stewarts Gully.
Soon a 4ft track and a water race were being constructed and a stage
coach began operation in 1868. Nuggets were discovered in mine tunnels at
Upper Gladstone Creek, on Maximillians Creek. These mines are still open
today and are in good order.
In August 1868 the township known as Maximillians Creek was officially
named "Gladstone". This township, mostly comprising tents, was located near the Gladstone bridge,
upstream from the Gladstone-Freestone Creeks junction. It was burnt down
on Christmas Eve the same year and never re-established, Briagolong
becoming the alternative settlement.
By 1871, most miners had departed. However, some mine shafts were still
being sunk, but either the money ran out or the shafts became too wet and
dangerous to work. Crushers were also tried. In 1888, twenty-four years
after Tanjore Boyce had first discovered gold, he once again found another
mystery reef. He was the only person to make a profit from the area at the
1. Gold Mine Walking Track: This walking track winds its way through dry open forest made up of
predominantly Red Box, Stringybark and Ironbark. On the way to the gold
mine, scrapings suggest possible sites of other mines. The actual mine is
30-40ft deep; it is capped for safety. There is a chimney ruin of an old miner’s hut near the
Junction Ridge Track.
2. Peregrine Lookout: The lookout takes its name from the Peregrine Falcons which nest nearby
from September to December each year. From this vantage point you can view
the Freestone Creek as it meanders to the Blue Pool and beyond. On the
cliffs opposite there was a crystal mine. The tower seen in the distance
is the Moornapa Telecommunication Tower, which also houses the Department
of Natural Resources and Environment fire lookout. It is situated on Mount
The circuit from Blue Pool to the Peregrine Lookout
takes about an hour return.
3. Fern Gully: This track passes through a thick understorey of mainly mint bush
shrubs, then leads into open Red Box forest. The small concentration of
water provided a suitable environment for the ferns to survive on the dry
ridge. Apple Box (Eucalyptus bridgesiana) is also present in the
4. The Bluff: For a short walk, the
Bluff is only 5 minutes over some steep terrain. It is a great lookout point which provides views of the Blue
Pool. The track has a short steep rise to the bluff in the dry sclerophyll
5. The Froam Picnic Area: The track follows the Freestone Creek to the Froam picnic area, which
is situated 0.6km upstream from the Blue Pool near the Freestone Creek.
During the 1930s a home and garden were established here; a few remnants
may still be found by the observant visitor. Some gold has been
found in the creek just below this site. The area has BBQ facilities but
there are no toilets. Camping is allowed.
McKINNON POINT to SPORTSMAN CK JUNCTION
Mud Map No.
These track notes describe the section of Track 96 north of the Blue
Pool Walking Track as far as the junction of Sportsman and Freestone
Creeks. You can pick the start up on the Freestone Creek Road at the
turn-off to McKinnon Point.
Note: there is no parking here; you can leave your vehicle at the
McKinnon Point picnic area but you will face a short steep climb back to
the Freestone Creek Road if you do.
The original Track 96 started just outside Briagolong and lead into the
Gladstone Creek goldfields. On leaving the town of Gladstone it crossed
what is now private land known as "Paddy Melon Gully". To pick up Track 96
you will have to walk around the Boundary Track or take the shorter route
via the Freestone Creek Road. If you do the latter, watch out for vehicles
as the road is narrow.
Track 96 heads north from the Boundary Track approximately 300m off the
Freestone Creek Road. There are track markers here.
There is a second link to Track 96 further along the Freestone Creek
Road near Carneys Creek (refer to inset map).
From Paddy Melon Gully Track 96 takes you along approx 4kms of well
benched track to the 4WD Ten Mile Track ("benched" means a track cut into
the side of a hill). You cross this and follow down the marked spur for
approx 0.5km. Another benched track then takes you to Bullock Head Creek
After crossing this road the track goes through flat open bush. There
is a house site 50m from the road. 200m of benched track take you across
Bullock Head Creek.
The next few kilometres of benched track take you through light bush
parallel with the Freestone Creek Road (50-100m distant). The final
approximately 5kms of the walk are on the Freestone Creek Road. The
junction of the Freestone and Sportsman Creeks is clearly marked. Again,
watch out for vehicles.
The link from Freestone Creek Road at Carney's Creek will give you an
easy 1.5 hours walk returning via Boundary Track and the Freestone Road.
This link track also means that you can do a loop of about 5-6kms via Ten
SPORTSMAN CREEK JUNCTION to COBBANNAH
This northern end of Track 96 serviced the Lees Creek and Granite Creek
alluvial goldfields. The complete distance for this section of the Track is approximately
19km and would take in the vicinity of 6-7 hours walking time.
The walking track, as well as being interesting historically, traverses
some very scenic and beautiful hills and valleys. There are some excellent
camp and picnic sites along the way, with access to a couple of places for
4WD vehicles, which allows some varied walks to be done without needing to
retrace your steps.
The first section of this walk commences at the Freestone-Sportsman
Creeks junction, 25kms north of Briagolong. About 7-8 kms long and
reasonably easy walking, it follows the Freestone Creek to the Lees Creek
junction. Here you’ll find a camping site with 4WD access.
This section of track has some very interesting parts to be seen,
places where it has been cut into quite steep cliff faces, then onto creek
flats that would be great for picnics or camping, some areas quite close
to the creek with others right up on the hillsides offering some great
The second section of the walk comprises 2-3kms up Lees Creek past the
alluvial workings. A separate mud map (No. 5) is available for this area. The
Track leaves the circuit walk at the dam site. It is well signposted.
The final section of the walk is about 7-8kms also, and except for the
haul up onto the Budgee Track it is easier walking. If you start the walk
from the Dargo Road end, which is signposted, the main climb is only
You now go beyond Lees Creek and head up the spur onto the main range,
a reasonably stiff climb up to the top of approximately 2000ft. Most will
find the breathing and heart rate increasing even to the point of needing
a series of rest stops on the way. A number of zig-zags have been cut on
this section to help ease the climb.
Once you reach the top of the range the walk follows along the Budgee
Track for a short distance, then diverts onto an old logging road down a
spur into the Reedy Creek catchment, where you pick up the old trail again
as it drops down the spur, to meet another old logging road passing close
by the junction of Reedy and Cobbannah Creeks. Finally you walk along
Reedy Creek Track out to where it meets the main Dargo Road just north of
The track finishes at the southern end of the Granite Creek goldfield.
A further loop extending up through the Granite Creek area has been
completed, for which a separate mud map (No. 6) is available.
LEES CREEK WALKING TRACK
Mud Map No. 5
Alistair Fielding, a park ranger from Briagolong, saw the potential for
people to discover Briagolong and the Freestone’s gold mining history for
themselves by re-opening a short section of Track 96 at Lees Creek.
The Track was first cut in 1895 by a Government Track Cutting party
during the ‘nineties Depression and went from Briagolong to Budgee via
Lees Creek. The modern walking track has been carved out, following the
old pack track where possible, by the Ben Cruachan Walking Club and the
Department of Conservation and Natural Resources in memory of Alistair
Fielding, who died tragically before his vision for the area was
To reach the commencement of the Alistair Fielding Memorial Walking
Track either park beside the Freestone Creek Road and walk the 2.5kms in
to Lees Creek or drive in along the Lees Creek Track. Creek crossings make
this a 4WD track.
The Memorial Track follows the pack track and water race at Lees Creek.
The creek itself was originally named the Pep O’ Day Creek but the name
was changed to Lees Creek after the prospectors who first found gold there
Following the marked track you don’t have to look far for signs of the
old workings. There are still a few mines in the ground and a few sink
holes around, so to avoid falling in please keep at a safe distance.
Further along you can find evidence of the miners’ house sites which may
have been part of the Fellows township, presumably named after Mr W.E.
Fellows, the Leader of the Opposition at the time.
At the old dam site, which is the halfway point of the walk, you can
observe some of the other marvels of nature including giant Mountain Grey
Gums (Eucalyptus cypellocarpa) and the magnificent beauty of the
tree ferns and other gully species. At certain times of the year you can
find the Fringed Helmeted Orchid (Corybas diemenicus) with its
bright red flower, but you will have to look closely as they are only 5cm
high. You should also keep an eye out for lyrebirds; this moist gully is a
perfect habitat for them and they have been seen in the area.
The dam was constructed to store water for mining but has since either
been dismantled or has simply washed away. The northern continuation of
Track 96 leaves the Lees Creek walk at this point.
The walk on the north side of the creek follows the old water race that
the miners dug and used. Along this part of the walk you pass through a
large patch of Hazel Pomaderris (Pomaderris aspera) on the bottom
side of the track.
At a couple of points along the race small holding dams were built for
storage and diversion of water. Further down at the end of the race there
is a short detour off the main track which shows a good example of
alluvial workings. It is in these workings that a miner named Thomas
Goldie was believed to have been crushed by a large rock that is still
there. His death in 1895, which happened when the rock he was undermining
rolled on him, necessitated a Magisterial inquiry which was carried out by
A.H.B. Kelly from Briagolong.
GRANITE CREEK WALKING TRACKS
Mud Map No. 6
The starting point of this walk is situated on the main Dargo Road,
which offers all bitumen access from the Princes Highway. It may also be
reached by taking the Freestone Creek Road from Briagolong, a more
interesting gravel 2WD road but not suitable for caravans.
The complete walk, comprising Circuits 1, 2 and 3, is about 8kms long
and takes 4-5 hours depending on how much time is spent exploring the
mines and other interesting sites. The walk is mainly along cleared water
races (i.e. channels constructed to carry water from creeks or man made
dams to wash dirt and gravel to extract gold). The Granite Creek map
shows five of these water races, though there are more not
relevant to this walk. They all finish up at Granite Creek in a section
about 500m long.
Circuit No 1 - 45 minutes
The walk starts from the car park at the Pretty Boy saddle on the Dargo
Road. There is a shelter here, a BBQ and plenty of room to park cars.
Follow an old logging road down towards Granite Creek and turn off this to
the right after approximately 200m. Follow the signs to the site of the
old battery, used to crush the ore from the mines. On the way to the
battery site you will pass some old house sites.
If you wish to return to the car park at this stage, follow the track
left across the creek and keep to the left past some old house sites and
gold diggings, then across Davis Creek onto No 2 Water Race for a short
distance. Follow the signs back to the car park.
Circuit No 2 – 1.5hrs
Instead of crossing the creek follow No 4 Water Race upstream to the
old dam site which supplied water to No 4 Water Race and the battery.
Swing left and cross Granite Creek. Follow the walking track up the hill
and past the old workings of the Evening Star Mine.
Continue along No 5 Water Race for a small distance, then down to
another old dam site where No 1 Water race finished. The next section of
the walk follows this race around the spur towards Simpson Creek. Once
again there are old mine workings along the way to be viewed.
If you do not wish to complete the full walk, take the signposted track
to the left which will return you to Circuit No.1 and the car park.
Circuit No 3 – 3hrs
Continue to follow Water Race No 1 to Simpson Creek, which you will
cross. There was another dam here. Continue until you reach Reedy Creek
You now have a choice:
a) Turn left and follow the road down hill for approximately one kilometre
to where No 2 Water Race crosses the road. This race will take you back to
Simpson Creek again then towards Granite Creek, and from here up the
logging track back to the car park.
b) Another route that can be taken is to travel approximately 100m down
Reedy Creek Road, turn right on to the old logging road, intersect with No
2 Water race track approximately 350 metres down, then pick up signed
walking track to the car park. If instead you continue on this old logging
road you will join up with the rest of the Track 96 from Lees Creek after
crossing Cobbannah Creek.
Pools walks | McKinnon Point |
Lee Creek walks | Granite Creek walks