Belubula Falls: Bakers Shaft Reserve (Lachlan River System)

The mid reaches of the Belubula River flows through rough country, largely unseen. The river itself is one of the main tributaries of the inland Lachlan River. The explorer Oxley complained that the Lachlan was deprived of decent tributaries that might boost its flow, but like the Lachlan itself, the Belubula lacks a deep wet catchment. The Lachlan is destined to empty into the desert marshes on all but exceptional floods.

The mid- section of the Belubula River (75kms dropping 600m from Carcoar Dam to Canowindra) is dominated by pool-riffle sequences. About 4kms from Bakers Shaft Reserve, the river drops through a series of narrow gorges and a series of small falls and rapids.

While the river valley is used for grazing and crops, the river is fringed by Sheoaks and Red Gums. Remnant White Box and Kurrajongs can be seen on the ridges with Yellow Box, Blakely’s Red Gum and Apple Box on lower slopes (Brainwood, Applied Ecology P/L and Orange Speleological Society). Introduced willows and figs can be found in the river as well.

I recently followed the river down an indistinct path downstream from Bakers Shaft Reserve (if Blackberries have not been kept in check, the way would have been painfully slow) with the Central West Bushwalking Club and my sister. The path will take you back and forwards across the river a number of times.

About 4km from the Reserve, an abandoned weir sits atop a narrow gorge and a pretty waterfall. After flooding rain, the view of the archaic ruined arches and the cascading falls is reminiscent of the the elvish city of Rivendell - a strange juxtaposition of ruins and flowing water. However, there are no elves here. The abandoned weir once provided water through rusting pipes for a hydro-electric scheme which supplied power to Junction Reef gold mine. The Belubula is surrounded on all sides by mining - one tributary, the Cadiangullong, runs through the massive Cadia mining operation on the north slopes of Mount Canobolas.

Abandoned weir (top of falls)
Below the weir is the Belabula Falls. The present course of the falls may be higher and displaced from the original site of the falls.

Today the modest water flows on the river are impounded at Carcoar Dam and released to meet irrigation needs downstream. Accordingly, the flow down the falls is dependent on water releases from Carcoar Dam (most likely during growing seasons) or heavy local rain. These images were captured after a thunderstorm, but, unless the abandoned weir is already topped up, the falls by the side of weir may not flow.

Downstream of the weir the creek moves through deep gorges, including the Needles and Crankies Rock. While in decent flow this might provide an exciting trip, this section will need to be ported to avoid the falls.

In this part of the river is the Cliefden Caves system, a stunning series of limestone caves that offer a view into the distant past. Brocx, Semeniuk and Percival (Department of Science & Engineering, Murdoch University) conclude that the area is "...a rare example of volcanic island biota, including some of the most scientifically valuable (and in several cases, unique) fossils in Australia. At least 191 genera and 263 species of fossils have been described from the Cliefden area with some 45 genera and 101 species unique to this region."

Near the caves, an important contributor to flow in the river is a thermal spring that adds about 400mega litres pa at 30 degrees Celsius to the river.

Proposals to dam the river at the Needles or Crankies Rock have appeared from time to time, but have been abandoned because of the damage to the cave and spring system, because of the geology of the area, and because the resulting dam would loose more water to evaporation than the catchment area supplies and because of the danger posed by a repeat of the breach of the Cadia operations tailings dam upstream. Recent proposals to dam the river have been abandoned in favor of lifting the Wyangla Dam Walls.

Turtles, snakes, birds (Friar birds were fishing) and frogs are evident, and platypus are regularly seen.

Near the little (unpronounceable) town of Canowindra (dont try saying it), the River settles down, and offers long stretches of kayaking from different points. Outside the town can be found the Canomodine Reserve (the Cadomine Creek is a another Canobolas tributary of the Belubula) protecting a grassy white box woodland (an endangered habitat), while the town itself provides a museum of the Devonian fish fossils and a 19th century streetscape.

The little town of Canowindra has also become a hub for balloons, despite being surrounded by barb wire fences. Sadly, the balloon and the barb wire fence are natural enemies in the wild.

Bakers Shaft: Locality Map
I have added the walking trail, the dam and weir to OpenStreetMap (the track is in small dots, hugging the river) Press 'View Larger Map".
The walking trail connects the Belubula Falls with the Bakers Shaft Reserve Car Park.

View Larger Map


Al Chris said…
I'm so jealous - what a rich and ruggedly beautiful area to explore.

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