Macquarie Basin Falls (Central West New South Wales)

The Macquarie (Wiradjuri "Wambool", the Meandering River), is a long placid outback river, that travels far out west. It is sometimes too easy to forget that it too takes form in highlands with falls, although the bushmen  and women of the outback will often exclaim in surprise at the sight of a hill, for they are inclined to call any shallow run in the river across a bed of rocks "a fall".

Federal Falls

A long single drop on the Boree Creek, with a cave behind the base of the falls. Both base and top of falls is accessible. The falls are a fairly long walk from the car park near the summit of Mount Canobolas. This can become a trickle in hot dry weather.

There is a far closer marked road (the Federal Falls Road) which appears to be at the top of a series of Forestry tracks. I have followed this way in but as the track becomes steep and rough.

There are a number of plunge falls on the western slopes of the old volcano Canobolas in central New South Wales. While some distance inland, Canobolas is high. It keeps visitors guessing. It can be summer down on the plains below but blowing a blizzard up top.

This fall has a couple of unusual qualities. It is slightly periodic - the flow waxing and waning depending on the influence of the wind and frost melt on the upper creek. It does not have a deep plunge pool at its base, suggesting the fall is cutting up the valley fairly quickly. Finally, it has a cave at the base. Caves behind a waterfall are much more romantic from a distance. Up close they tend to be full of mozzies and smell like old washing machines.  I went back and found a pic of the fall showing the entrance to the caves... From memory, the exit is inside the waterfall :)

Some distance along a steep loop walking trail, the Federal Falls and the nearby smaller Hopetoun Falls were closed in February 2018 after a fierce mountain fire damaged gums along the loop. Sadly, some of the unique falls on the eastern side of Canobolas have been destroyed by mining companies. I think Federal Falls is safe, for now, although there has been talk of flooding lower areas to create ample water for miners planning new works to the west.

The now lost Eastern waterfalls of Canobolas were described by the first Geological Surveyor of NSW, Samuel Stutchbury, in 1851:
“In a gully or creek called the Waterfall, running into the Cadiangullong or Oaky Creek..., and at the extremity of a mountain spur known as the Rocky Range, there is an immense mass of oxydulous iron, forming in one solid mass a precipitous waterfall of about 60 feet in height. In this mass of iron, especially in the joints, there is brilliant crystallised iron pyrites, with  small quantity of yellow copper ore, and traces of blue and green carbonates of copper. A few yards below the waterfall large masses of yellow ochreous iron ‘gossan’ occur in the banks and bed of the creek. This gossan contains a considerable quantity of earthy green carbonate of copper, also plush-like malachite. Upon sinking a short distance into it on the eastern side, a rich lode of grey sulphuret of copper was found. In traversing the creek southwards numerous indications of other lodes were visible, together with large masses of mundic.” 
The waterfall must have been a magnificent site, before it was destroyed for the copper.

Waterfalls each have their own names for themselves. This one is HssssShhhFerrr which she sings day and night to those who will listen. 

I travel to Orange frequently and love coming back to these places. Near the top of the old volcano, a couple of kilometers from the summit road is this high waterfall (and the nearby smaller Hopetoun). The walk is worth it; at the bottom is a pool to relax in and, afterall, there is the cave as well :). No phone signals either, although there are plenty of towers on top of the summit.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, when I was younger, I learned about hills and women.

I spent the last couple years of school exploring Mount Canobolas and the nearby caves at Borenore (near Orange in central New South Wales). Kicked out of the state school, I ended up doing my final two years, with a kilt, at a Presbyterian Ladies College. The circumstances are all a bit confused now, but I think the state school probably made the right decision.

The Principal of the local state school was also in politics at the time. He supported a plan to convert the small city of Orange into a mega-city; as part of a scheme to move part of the population of Sydney into the interior parts of the state. It was a good idea and one, in real life, I now strongly support. But the way they went about it was catastrophically wrong, and the errors in approach eventually saw the scheme collapse. 

 At the time I was very young and naive and got caught up in opposition to the proposal. Initially, opposition was restricted to making population predictions (where I picked up some seriously good applied mathematics) and looking at the impact on local farming and water resources (which, perhaps unexpectedly, got me mixed up a theater company). Then it escalated to pamphlet drops and signs in public areas (where I learned basic revolutionary tactics, how to screen print and how to mix paste). Then the Principal responded by calling a series of public meetings, where I made my first and last mistake. He recognized me heckling him. I do not blame him. He was an excellent Principal and did well for the city. So, it was my fault; I had no defense.

So I went looking for a new school. I applied to a couple without success. Then a local girls college advertised bursaries for the coming year (a bursary is a grant, awarded to someone to enable them to study at a college.) I applied in jest, but too my surprise they insisted that i sit the test. I do not think they were too upset when I won the bursary; the school was considering going co-educational.
Over the next two years, I learned many strange, terrible and beautiful things about women and the world.

I knew one of the women at the school. Back when I was three, she and I had climbed a tall haystack and spent an afternoon trying to work out what a hill would be like. Neither of us had seen one, but she was older than me and had been to far-off Nyngan, and thought we might be able to see one from the top of the stack. I was a little bit worried about the adventure because she had unexpectedly kissed me the day before after a desert rainstorm with a beautiful sunset. But I wanted to find out about hills, so I threw caution to the wind. I need not have worried, when we could not see a hill, we lay on top of the stack, hand in hand, and imagined what being on a hill would be like. She never kissed me again but when we met again at school she remembered and told all her friends. Too me, she was cold and distant. She was far to grown up and far too busy to talk to the new boy at school.

I worked out very quickly that I did not ever want to become "one of the girls." I was teased mercilessly but, sometimes, rescued. I took up some new sports. I attempted, briefly and unsuccessfully, to form one person rugby and cricket team. I did better at acting, fencing, kayaking and mountain climbing - about which I still have a life passion. I particularly like playing with mountains.

Once you get the hang of hills, it was difficult to go back to the flat lands. Hills are as exciting as being on top of a haystack with a girl who kissed you yesterday. And just as dangerous and unforgiving.






The trail to the falls is well signposted.

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Author: Peter Quinton
Date Published: 2019-02-24
Date Last Revised: 2019-03-22


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