Hawksbury Basin Falls, North Sydney Coast

The high escarpments to the north of the Blue Mountains are home to some impressive single drop falls. Near the tops of the escarpments, locals have also cut paths to smaller, human sized falls.

Blackheath Falls

Govett's Leap

A high plunge waterfall off the sandstone escarpments into the Grose Valley, near Blackheath, NSW. This fall is well signposted with established viewing areas including walks to the base and top of the falls.

Charles Darwin stood here and looked out across this valley in the Blue Mountains in 1836. A little further on he came to Govett's Leap. He tried hard to understand the country, but thirty years after leaving the place forever, he admitted defeat.

"About New Zealand, at last I am coming round & admit it must have been connected with some Terra firma; but I will die rather than admit Australia." - Charles Darwin (August 1863, an argument at Kew Gardens)


Horseshoe Falls

Horseshoe from Barrow Lookout

An intermittent plunge waterfall off the sandstone escarpments into the Grose Valley. There are a couple of falls named Horseshoe, including one at Hazelbrook. This is best observed in winter/early spring after rain.

From Barrow Lookout, in the early morning, the head of a horse can be imagined on the cliff face (center, left, lower). Having thrown a shoe, its foot is cooling at the base of this fall. Apart from descending into the jungle at the base of this fall, the best vantage place for this fall is at Barrow Lookout or from the air. With a small catchment, this fall is often dry, or very slight. It is best viewed after rain. This is a significant single drop, in the order of 200m (600') (?).

The official signage to this fall is very dodgy. The signs near Govetts Leap will take you to the top of the falls (down a cliff face path that was partially collapsed last time i looked) and even if you made it to the top of the falls it would be foolhardy to attempt a photograph over the edge. For those who are inclined to look over the edge, remember that it is not the fall that kills you, but the sudden stop. Having regard to wind resistance, and depending on what you ate last, you might be looking at 6+ seconds. Which might be long enough to check wiki and invoke a dropped turtle (or hare, cant remember which now) first and rely on pure mathematics (* not Floyds algorithm, the other one).

To avoid doing the maths (and the sudden stop) start instead at Govetts Leap and walk away from the falls to Barrow Lookout (just past the falls on Govett Creek).

If, despite this warning, you wish to walk towards the waterfall remember that waterfalls such as this with small catchments will stop flowing on the surface in the summer heat, which regularly exceeds 38 degrees C (100 degrees F) out of the shade. Within the shade of the rainforest the cicadas and birds are noisy loud. The temperature is about 10 degrees cooler, but still hot and oppressively humid. There is abundance of life (and puddles).

The track to this point down the opposite cliff face of the canyon is dangerous, overgrown in places, and washed out in a number of places. Like most waterfalls, there is no cell reception. The path had a number of brown snakes on it and while shy, they are blindingly fast when they heat up. Do not attempt this without proper hiking equipment, water and crepe bandages.

As i travel deeper into these places, i am beginning to realize how terrifying some of them really are, and i find myself moving slower and taking more precautions. Still, even so, it is easy to make a mistake. Recently i climbed out onto a rock ledge while photographing the waterfalls off the old volcano Canobolas. While the way out to the ledge was safe, try as i might, i could not return safely. Instead, i ended up having to climb up the bottom waterfall without ropes :( It way not very far, and it did not involve any great risk, but even a small drop can twist a leg or make it very hard to retrace your steps to get help. I try to learn from those types of error.


Minnehaha Falls Yosemite, New South Wales

Access to these falls has now been (permanently?) closed.

View from the plunge pool. From a distance, the fall looks like a stepped waterfall. This image shows that the lower 'step' is interrupted by a ledge. Locals tell me that the amount of water coming down the falls was unusually heavy, the usual flow is far less. The pool is great for a dip, but like all plunge pools under high waterfalls has risks (falling debris, obstructions under the water, sharp drop-offs under water, and unexpected currents).

Surprisingly difficult to locate (because of poor signage, some of which will lead the visitor in the opposite direction to the falls), this was a popular falls a century ago. When I visited the falls, i was delighted to see a number of young locals walking to the falls (all excited about the effect of heavy rains on the falls). Note that closer cascades are often mistaken for the falls. Allow about two hours for the hike in and back.

This shot is from a vantage point on the opposite cliff wall on the track down to the plunge pool.

The water was lovely and cool.

An advertisement for the sale of land nearby in 1881 read
All the delights of a
within an hour or two's easy travel to

The 'official' trail was old and a bit tricky in places, but the walk was spectacular. I say 'official' because i have now followed a dozen false leads trying to find this place (following instead a nearby Mini HaHa Fall Trail, which leads to the edge of the escarpment, and no waterfall at all). Previously, i have wondered, as i beat my way through thick bush, whether the Trail name was a joke designed to capture folk like me who could not spell the Longfellow name properly (and if so, my opinion would have been that it was a joke in poor taste). Still, it just made the finally discovery, just a little sweeter. 

The name, of course, comes from Longfellow's Song of Hiawatha (1855):
"Thus it was he won the daughter
Of the ancient Arrow-maker,
In the land of the Dacotahs!
  From the wigwam he departed,
Leading with him Laughing Water;
Hand in hand they went together,
Through the woodland and the meadow,
Left the old man standing lonely
At the doorway of his wigwam,
Heard the Falls of Minnehaha
Calling to them from the distance,
Crying to them from afar off,
"Fare thee well, O Minnehaha!"
  And the ancient Arrow-maker
Turned again unto his labor,
Sat down by his sunny doorway,
Murmuring to himself, and saying:
"Thus it is our daughters leave us,
Those we love, and those who love us!
Just when they have learned to help us,
When we are old and lean upon them,
Comes a youth with flaunting feathers,
With his flute of reeds, a stranger
Wanders piping through the village,
Beckons to the fairest maiden,
And she follows where he leads her,
Leaving all things for the stranger!"

The names "Minnehaha" and "Laughing Waters" were applied to this area, probably from the poem, well before the 1880s (although officially 1889 is given as the naming date by the State authorities). The original owner claimed that he had never allowed the discharge of a gun on the vast property, but hastened to add, without explanation, that notwithstanding the absence of guns, wolves and pesky possums had never entered this Eden of their own accord. (The appearance of American names in Australian localities was common in the 19th Century. To the north, on the Hawksbury River, the islands of New York are replicated, at least in name.)

Laughing Water Cascade Yosemite, New South Wales

Cascades in flood, upstream from Minnehaha Falls after heavy rain. This would be an interesting place to shoot in quieter flow late afternoon. This was once a short walk from the start of the trail to Minnehaha Falls (follow the signage to the creekbank shortly after the trail starts). This place is often confused with Minnehaha Falls.

Grose Valley

Silver Cascades (sometimes called Victoria Cascades) 

Down in the Grose Valley, there are a number of waterfalls, including the Silver Cascades, a 20m (60') tumble over layers of weathered rock. There is no easy way to the creek. I hiked down the escarpment from Victoria Falls Lookout (a misnomer, as there are no falls visible from the lookout save in deluging rain) - it is a solid hike down 400m of cliffs and steep slopes.

Victoria Creek runs through rainforests and blue gums through a series of cascades and occasional falls.


Hazelbrook Falls

A smaller waterfall 'loop' which is not publicized. Like many others, these days, the falls (some carrying unofficial names like 'Edith', 'Lena', 'Fairy' and 'Glow Worm Nook') are usually only visited by locals.

Horseshoe Falls

One of a series of human-sized falls on a tributary of the Hazelbrook Creek, and about an hour's horse ride from the farm of the artist Norman Lindsay. While cold in the later afternoon, the bush is full of early flowers and the sound of many small falls. 

Oaklands Falls

Late afternoon view of the small sandy beach at the base of the fall.  I seldom meet folk at waterfalls, but it was nice to share this one for a moment.

Burgess Falls

Named after a man who was born in New Zealand and who had come to live near this place with his parents. He had trained to be a school teacher but ended up being a brick layer. He died far away in Ploegsteert Wood, Messines, Belgium during the First World War.

North Lawson Park

Fairy Falls

One of a series of falls in the North Lawson Park, Blue Mountains, NSW. This fall is the most easily accessed and is remarkable for the 'dancing fairy' in the fall (caused by sunlight hitting the flow of water when the fall has a decent flow) and the evil rock face above (faeries were not always cute). Follow the signs to the falls in the west of the car park.


Dantes Glen

A cascade fall, further down the path from Fairy Falls. This fall is some distance down the escarpment. The path is very steep in places (and has recently been repaired). It boasts an old bridge and a superb overhang to the left of the fall.


St Michaels Falls

From Dantes Glen a path leads on further down the escarpment until you are confronted by a sign indicating that the path goes no further. In dry weather, with maps, light creek flows and a dry track, it is safe to continue on to St Michaels Falls, which at first glance looks remarkably similar to Dantes Glen.
Unlike the Glen, these falls are slowly returning to nature, and the provenance of their name is slipping into obscurity. Of course, Saint Michael was an archangel – a sainted prince among angels (not a human, unless you are a Morman, who are convinced that Michael is actually the very human Adam). Apart from that, each religion has gone its own way with some describing the archangel as the chief of God’s armies, some saying he is very noisy and others ascribing to him the power to call down rain and thunder. Othodox priests, ever concerned with the fine detail, say that at the top of his spear you can find a linen ribbon with a red cross.Against such an imposing figure (however vague the details might get) it is difficult to know why some enthusiastic colonial decided to call this friendly little waterfall after her (or maybe him, or perhaps Angels are neither him nor her or any of the other).
Or perhaps the waterfall is named after one of those troublesome dead Russian human saints, perhaps St Mickhail of Tvre (who was executed by the Khan for killing the Khan’s sister), St Michael I of Kiev (who built a church) or maybe the monk Michael who gained renown from camping in a cave.
Although, personally, i like the monk theory, the waterfall itself doesn’t not seem to care as it fades back into the mountain as the chair once built to sit and admire it rots green in the rainforest.

Here, too, in warm wet weather you will find trigger plants

Frederica Falls

This fall is split by a fire trail. The top cascade is small, while the lower falls into a deeper pool. In summer the pool is not sufficient for swimming, but the fall can still provide relief after the long walk down here.

There are two paths from a parking bay to these falls. Only the left hand side track is obvious, and it takes you on a relatively indirect tramp that leads to the firetrail and eventually the waterfall. Check the clearing to the right for the more direct track.

John Paix, who wrote a terrific guide to the geology around Nowra and provided a superb summary of the construction of paths and naming of this fall.


Scheyville National Park - Longneck Lagoon

Scheyville hosts Longneck Lagoon to the north west of Sydney in the Hawkesbury basin. Spoonbills. and nearby, the joy of a couple of trips on car ferries with great views of the sandstone escarpments...Higher yet, near the hidden treasure of Saint Albans, marsh lands. In one, swans and cygnets.




North Lawson

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


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