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Please Note:
  • 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 kilometres
  • 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 vehicles
  • 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 time.

The walks:
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 Moornapa.
     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 area.

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 vegetation.

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. 3

     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 Road.
     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.

Alternatives
     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 Mile Track.


SPORTSMAN CREEK JUNCTION to COBBANNAH     Mud Map No. 4

     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 views.
     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 1600ft.
     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 Cobbannah
     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 completed.

     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 in 1868.
     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 Road.
     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.


Overview  |  Blue Pools walks  |  McKinnon Point  |  Cobbannah  |  Lee Creek walks  |  Granite Creek walks