Nepean Basin Falls (Valley of the Waters Creek)

The Valley of the Waters falls down the escarpment through a long steep valley. It meets the Jamison Creek before the Burrogorang and the Nepean River.

There is an old trail that follows the creek to the valley floor. The trail is shut below Empress falls at the time of writing following a fatal rock fall and questions remain about how the area can be made safer for visitors. When open, the round trip may take half a day or more. 

While the descent into the Valley of the Waters is challenging (and, in wet or icy conditions, dangerous), those who take the hike are never the same. It is said that those who survive live longer, smile harder and speak slower.

The trail down the valley follows a single stream segmented into a number of drops which in modern times have been given colonial names: Empress, Sylvia, Lodore, Flat Rock. While typical of ravine falls off the coastal escarpments, each fall is a little different. The steep trail features a number of lookouts and demanding sandstone steps and steel ladders, that will first take you to the base of the waterfalls.

Empress Falls

This waterfall starts in a deep canyon. For a moment, the water becomes still, before starting its plunge down cascades to this first waterfall. The final stage is a 30m (90’) drop, besides a curtain of a rock wall and ferns.

Empress is a favorite for abseilers who meet the Valley of the Waters Trail at this point via the canyon above the fall (abseilling to this point requires experience, wetsuits and full gear, with a couple of cold swims including the pool at the bottom). Walkers will only get a glimpse of the canyon, as they traverse the ravine by steel ladder and old steps.


Sylvia Falls

Below Empress Falls, the creek becomes a steep cascade in the rainforest before reaching the top of Sylvia Falls. The top of Sylvia Falls slowly resolves into noisy chutes and fans.

The track taking you alongside that fall is like a great winding ballroom staircase which has seen better days. The track seems to be slowly losing its grip on the mountain side and seems in need of repair.

The top layers of the steps in this waterfall (and the lower ones) are a yellow/orange color, which can become very bright depending on the time of day and processing chosen.

This waterfall is a good subject for ‘face-on’ long exposure shots which give the fall water a silky appearance (as a bonus, you may capture a standing ‘whirlpool’ in the pool below - and if one is not there naturally, don’t be tempted to stir one up, as there is a long drop just below the pool). Remember that long exposure shots can suffer wind blur, water reflection artifacts and loss of distant detail.

Lodore Falls

Lodore Falls is sometimes mistaken for the higher Sylvia Falls. Like a couple of other Australian waterfalls, it was named after an old Cumbrian Fall near Borrowdale.

The path down to this fall has been undercut by storms, and some of the safety rails swept away.

This smaller waterfall falls through a garden of ferns into a shallow rock pool. At the bottom of the waterfall is a bright boulder. The rock faces of the boulder are a fun subject, and I have spent a little time trying different angles (a little difficult because of the chasm immediately behind this pool).

The bright boulder at the base of the falls has a lovely patterned surface. I wondered if it had been gradually rolling from further up the cliff, but looking again more closely, I think it has only fallen a couple of feet, and that the bright part of the rock was once the stream surface.

Flat Rock Falls

A wild fall deep in the Valley of the Waters, these waterfalls cascade down layers of rust-colored flat rocks (similar to the fallen rock at Lodore).

The loop trail plunges down alongside this stepped waterfall (the ochre parts are flat, the black vertical).

These waterfalls are obscured by trees along the path, but when the sunlight hits the water, the waterfalls light up like a stained glass window.


The Valley of the Water Trail is near the town of Wentworth Falls. It is well signposted from the Conservation Hut which is a brisk walk from the Wentworth Falls Railway Station.

Return to Waterfall Page

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


Anonymous said…
These images are straight out of my oldest and deepest dream wishes.
Peter Quinton said…
Thank you Anonymous Dreamer :)
Elders of the First People retrace the old traces (paths or, "jin-oor" (water - trace/path) or "purd-oo" (land/bush - trace/path, a modern 'footpath'). When seeking knowledge, they call such hiking a "walking dream" or following the "dream lines".
With no convenience stores down the road, the rivers became the major pathways from the rich coastlines into the more difficult interiors. Along those passages, Elders see signs of the past - the great hard tool workshops, the river fish traps, the sacred birthing places, the sources of different medicines and clays. They see the old stories of creation and remember the stories of the past.
I see only a little of what those who sing the dream lines see, but i look closely. With my eyes open, and with them shut.
Anonymous said…
"A walking Dream or Dream Lines",perfect and beautiful descriptive names.
Maybe they have a different story to tell us than to the first people. Maybe the message for us is a different one.

I'd like to think that a dream walk there would give me comfort and acceptance. That it brings us what we need. Who knows? Perhaps it grants clarity or wisdom. Or opens our hearts. It looks so magical that I can't help but imagine it to have such powers. Thank you so much for sharing.

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