Wyangala Dam and Warrumbungles National Park (Week 1)

Monday, Apr 28, 2014 at 10:00

Member-Heather MG NSW

We decided to travel north on the Princes Highway to the turn to Turpentine Road, the alternative road to Braidwood and Goulburn from the coast, which is for the most part now sealed. The road crosses Oallen Ford which has a gross load limit of 5 tonne, ( possibly making us overweight) with one short section of unsealed road just after the turn off the Princes Highway, another near the ford, as well as some slow bits. It took ages to arrive at Yass Service Centre and we decided that while it was a scenic route, it was not one we needed to do again.
We were only on the Hume Highway for a brief time, before turning towards Boorowa, and there we took the minor road to Wyangala Dam. It was sealed all the way but wasn’t all that fast, although we were in no hurry and it’s always enjoyable seeing new roads and places.
A surprise was having the road cross the top of the dam wall, just before the turn into Wyangala Waters State Park, where we had a lovely view over the water for a brief time. On arrival, I paid for an unpowered site for two nights as we decided we would see what the campsites and the place were like, whether we could put the boat in the water and leave it overnight close by our camp, and how easy it was to find a level site with some sun for the solar panel. Unpowered rate is currently $15 for two people.
As is usual, the map of the park seemed to bear no resemblance to the actual place and we drove around the narrow one way streets trying to locate the unpowered camping areas, passing a number of vans, camper trailers and tents set up in the powered section, before we found one area which looked promising and which was also vacant.
Despite it being quite open there were not many places suitable to park vans as the ground was quite sloping, however after a couple of attempts, we managed to park with the bottom side on wooden blocks with the yellow plastic sloping ones on top. Our awning side faced the water and a small bay, perfect to park the boat on the edge, however with current water levels at less than 50%, there was a bit of a walk down to the edge. Once set up, we felt as though we were all alone and had the pick of the sites though as we faced the lake and could see no other camps!


There was an amenities block with hot showers and flushing toilets across the way a couple of hundred metres, which we used most of the time to conserve our tank water, as apart from a rainwater tank somewhere near one of the bigger amenities block, there is no drinking water in the park. Being the only people in that section, we seemed to have exclusive use of the amenities block and took advantage of the Disabled ensuite facilities, with vanity basin and bench, a good space to put things down.
We also used a pile of firewood lying close by and had a camp fire that first night, sitting looking over ‘our’ lake in perfect still conditions, and dreaming of fish catches. As it turned out, it was the only time the weather was so good! The following morning it was cool but fine, John put the boat in the water and we set out with snacks and fishing gear, hopeful of hooking a fish. During the morning, a wind blew up and made conditions on the water not all that pleasant and with not a bite to be had, we returned to the camp for lunch. We saw big flocks of feral goats roaming the rocky shores and bays some distance from the camp ground. It seems these animals are everywhere!
During the afternoon and the following day, John tried unsuccessfully to catch a fish however despite using live shrimp (caught in a bait trap) and a variety of lures, did not even get a nibble. I declined any further offers of fishing and boat trips, instead enjoying walking around the shoreline and further along the dirt roads to the more remote camping areas, and to the tops of nearby steep hills for views and photos, as well as reading and just enjoying the ambience of the place. On the second night, I cooked us a delicious slow cooked casserole over the fire and that took a couple of hours of watching and stirring to ensure perfection!
We had rain and strong winds during the night and caught water from the awning in a bucket which was used to wash up and for other non-drinking purposes, but the day time weather was good enough not to curtail our activities. I walked to the office, quite a distance from where we were parked, and paid for a third night and after John had re loaded the boat, on the last afternoon there, we took a walk high above the Park to Balancing rock and views over the lake and campsites. This walk was one of a number marked on a special walking trails brochure which I picked up at the office.
There is a variety of accommodation, from cabins and onsite vans to powered and unpowered campsites, good amenities and children’s playground. I guess it’s a popular place during school holidays and especially at Easter but we were happy to be there when it was quiet.
The last morning was very cold and with the gas heater packed under the bed, I wrapped myself in many layers, plus a blanket until it was time to have breakfast and pack up. Such are the problems of being an early riser! I usually only sleep for six to seven hours a night at home but have been having much more the past few nights, going to sleep early after reading in bed!
On Thursday 1st May, we left Wyangala and took a number of minor roads across to join the Newell Highway at Wellington. At Molong, we stopped and visited a supermarket and Newsagent before continuing through Dubbo and north a bit before we started searching for a place to stay overnight,. We were looking for somewhere off the highway as it was very busy with big trucks and called in at a reserve along the river with no facilities. Decided it was not for us after hearing gunshots as John also thought it was a bit close to Dubbo…
It was around 3.30 when we pulled into Eumungerie, a small village between Dubbo and Gilgandra where the Recreation Reserve has camping at $10 powered, $ 5 unpowered, and payment is made at the PO. (Out of hours there is an honesty box). It was a good decision, off the Highway and with clean flushing toilets. There was one van there so we parked a few sites away, took advantage of the power, also before we left in the morning filled our water tanks and a couple of containers in preparation for our next stay in the Warrumbungles. The water is bore but, according to signage, is potable, and we use a filter so couldn’t see any problem with it.
It was only a couple of hours drive to Camp Blackman, via Tooraweenah, in the Warrumbungles National Park, and we arrived mid morning. The Visitor Centre is currently housed in a demountable building near the camp, as the original was burnt to the ground in the devastating fires of early 2013, and with bad weather forecast, I paid for a powered site for two nights. ($20 per night plus vehicle entry). We have stayed here in winter and it can be bitterly cold!
The place was very quiet, with only a few campers scattered around. There are plenty of level powered sites to choose from and we parked up the end all by ourselves, in the main powered section, setting up the shade-cloth walls to protect us from the elements as much as possible. It was sunny and warm but this was not to last!
After lunch, we took advantage of the good weather and drove to the Split Rock car park to do the circuit walk up Split Rock-Belougery, one we had done about ten years ago with friends. We were determined to do the rock scramble to the summit, as we had chickened out on the first attempt. With many more years of experience bush walking we hoped this time to be more adventurous however when we arrived at the ladder and saw what was necessary, we decided once again not to attempt it. There was no chain to help climb up the bare rock face and with a distance of 60 metres or so should we fall, it seemed terrifying to both of us and not just one, thankfully! There was much evidence of fire damage and expansive views over the mountains to the Breadknife and Mount Exmouth and it was quite an energetic walk as it was, up and down rocky paths, some quite rough. Good exercise for us! I am definitely fitter, healthier and weigh about 10kgs less than I did 10 years ago, something which makes me happy.
We used the hot showers at the amenities before it got dark, and enjoyed 5 minutes of lovely hot water. They are activated by a sensor so if no one else has used one recently, it is worth activating the one next to where you want to shower as that ensures that the water is hot instantly and you don’t have to stand, shivering, for a couple of minutes until it heats up! It was quite a walk across the creek and at least a couple of hundred metres from where our van was.
By Saturday morning, the cold wet weather had arrived and it had poured rain with strong winds buffeting the van for much of the night. I was oblivious to it all as I wore my earplugs! Obviously, though, we were not going anywhere that day as the rain was relentless. We stayed indoors, reading watching TV and enjoying the warmth generated by our fan heater…a constant temperature in the low 20’s. Outside, the top temperature did not reach double figures! I baked some biscuits and spent time on the internet… There were far worse places to be holed up as there was great TV reception, as well as phone and internet. It was a bloody good decision to be powered!
Sunday morning dawned much the same, with a heavy blanket of cloud and fog obscuring the view of Split Rock. Occasionally it did seem to lift a little and I managed to get to the Visitor centre to pay for a third night. By mid-morning, we decided to set out for the walk to the Breadknife and Grand High Tops, hoping it would clear a little and there would be some views. I packed our lunch and snacks but wore my thermal pants and waterproof jacket on top of three layers of merino! It was not warm and there were intermittent light showers.
The walk took us a bit over 4 hours I think, and was around 14 klms. in distance. We had done it previously a couple of times, on each occasion doing the longer circuit walk. This time we took the shorter option but with the top section closed due to fire damage, we had to re trace our steps from the top of the metal staircases. It was mostly sheltered from the worst of the winds but up on top was bitterly cold and exposed, although for the short time we were there, the clouds lifted a little and I managed to take some quite nice photos. By the time we returned to the car, both of us were feeling a bit foot sore and my back was aching as a result of carrying a small pack with camera and my lunch and water in it. Despite this I felt very satisfied that we had managed to do both the walks I had wanted, and we were now ready for our next adventures to begin in Queensland tomorrow.


Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt. John Muir
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