Friday, 25 April 2014

The Deua - Northern reaches - Shoalhaven River

The Deua is a vast ancient wilderness area in South East Australia.

From surrounding escarpments it drops away into deep sunken forests.    

My first contact with the Deua was back in late 2002 fighting a bush-fire along the top of the western escarpment.  At night we looked down into burning forests that seemed to stretch to the horizon - watching as fires raced up nearby hills and exploded into the sky.  I still have nightmares about the ancient forests burning, even though I understand how fire is an essential part of the way these forests renew.

Northern Reaches

In the North, the park borders the Shoalhaven River below Braidwood.

Walking trails take you from a camping ground across the river.  The water is usually a safe knee-deep and the footing is firm.

(To read on and see more pictures - press "Read more" below)

The walks will take you through a series of distinctly different eucalyptus forests.  You will see Banksias, StringybarkBlack AshMonkey GumMessmate and White Ash.  You will also encounter swamp wallabies, kangaroos, rosellas, black cockatoos and fly catchers.  Take water and keep hydrated (particularly in Summer).   There are plenty of sheltered places to stop and snack along the way - so take a (light) picnic if you are going for the longer walk.

Camping ground to the 'Big Hole'

The path starts in eucalyptus forests.  The path from the camping ground to the sink hole is about 1.5kms (with a rise of 100m).

At the start of the walk, the track will take you to the Shoalhaven River which you will have to wade through  (be prepared to stop at that point if the river is in flood or the crossing is unsafe).  Near the end of the walk, you will emerge from the forests into heath land dominated by dwarf She Oaks - Allocasuarina Nana.

At the end of the walk is a sinkhole, the "Big Hole".  It is a massive 90-100m (300') deep.  A forest of tree ferns can be seen growing at the bottom.

Allow 1-2 hours for a walk to the Big Hole.  The round trip is about 3 kms.

The 'Big Hole' to the 'Marble Arch'

From the hole, a walk of a further 4-5 kms will take you to the Marble Arch.  Initially the path drops 40m to cross the Bettowynd Fire Trail.  It then slowly climbs through a series of gentle rises and falls to the top of the escarpment over the Reedy Creek.  From there, a sharp drop of about 100m (350 steps) takes you to the Marble Arch complex.

At this point Reedy Creek cuts its way through a limestone canyon. In the canyon is a cave complex.  Some of the cave - made of marble - has partly collapsed.

Allow 5-7 hours for a walk from the camping ground to the Big Hole and on to the Marble Arch.  The round trip from camping ground to Marble Arch and back is about 13kms.  It includes a number of climbs and drops that should be taken carefully.

You do not need lights for the cave complex - simply wait in the darker parts of the cave for a couple of minutes for your eyes to adapt.  The main cave follows the creek path - over uneven rock strewn ground - with plenty of side and top openings to allow light to penetrate into the the cave.  At the far end it opens into a deep fern covered canyon that travels on to a waterfall.  Plenty of places to slip or strain an ankle - so take it easy (I had to carry someone with a strained ankle out of such a canyon - an incredibly difficult exercise).

Peter Quinton
April 2014

ps.  Thanks to +Belinda Karmel for giving me a small shove on this one :)

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