Today we continue our trip along the Woodlines to Coolgardie via Cave Hill and Burra Rock.
Leaving our last camp at Thursday Rock along the Holland Track, we headed east for about 21kms to Victoria Rock Road where we turned south for about 8kms, and then turned east onto the track leading to Cave Hill.
Victoria Rock Road is a well maintained dirt and gravel road that comes up from the Hyden Norseman Road to the south. (distance from Coolgardie to the Hyden Norseman Rd is approx 143km) However the track could possibly become boggy during winter and care needs to be taken to look out for washaways across the track.
Here is a pic I took along the Victoria Rock Road a couple of years ago.
There are several 4WDrive-only tracks into Cave Hill but we turned at the official sign “Cave Hill 45kms”, rather than taking one of the earlier bush tracks marked by rough signs on corrugated iron.
There are bush tracks throughout this region known as “The Woodlines” – a network of hundreds of kilometres of abandoned railway formations south of the Coolgardie/Kalgoorlie goldfields. 4WDrivers can explore the area by following the old formations – however it is advisable to carry a GPS as amongst the network of tracks you could easily become lost.
During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s timber cutters took hundreds of thousands of tonnes of wood out of this area to supply the goldfields with wood for structural timber for building and to shore up underground mining shafts as well as fuel for domestic use, locomotives and for steam engines which drove water pumping stations and electricity generators.
The Western Australian Goldfields Firewood Supply Ltd was formed in 1899 and initially operated from the Kurrawang Siding 13km west of Kalgoorlie. Camps moved as wood was exploited. A main camp was located at Burra Rock between 1928 and 1932 as the woodlines snaked south. Cave Hill became the main camp between 1932 to 1938, followed by Lakeside, 4km south of Boulder.
It was wonderful to see how the Salmon Gum and Gimlet forests have naturally reforested. This area lays within the environmentally significant Great Western Woodlands which is preserved by Nature Reserves, Conservation Parks and National Parks. The Great Western Woodlands covers sixteen million hectares - the largest and healthiest remaining Mediterranean climate woodland left on earth.
Cave Hill is an impressive granite monolith – 1 kilometre wide and 1.5km long – rising 50 metres above the surrounding woodland. For thousands of years prior to European settlement, the Ngajtu Aboriginal people passed through this area and camped at Cave Hill so it is an important indigenous cultural site.
Explorer, Charles Cooke Hunt camped at Cave Hill in 1864 and named Cave Hill for the hollowed out wind sculptured cave on the western face. Hunt camped here several times during his attempts to penetrate the desolate region in search of permanent water supplies. (in the picture above you might be able to see a "H" carved into the tree on the right of the bottom left photo - Did Hunt carve his initial on the tree? This was my start to a fascination with the history and explorations of Hunt).
The cave is a one kilometre walk from the camping area or 30 minutes return – moderate difficulty. Visitors are asked to view the cave from the viewing platform due to the instability of the cave formation. Four catchment dams can also be seen which were constructed on the rock near natural depressions during the Woodlines era. Rainwater was diverted into the dams by stone slab walls cut from the rock. You can see one of the dams and a diversion wall below.
The camping area at Cave Hill was spacious with plenty of room to set up a camper trailer or tent. There is a drop toilet, tables and fire rings. You can see the Cave Hill camping area in the image below -
From Cave Hill there are two ways to get to Burra Rock approximately 40kms to the north. You can take the formed gravel road, or along the 4WD-only track (as we did) which follows the old railway tracks and embankments. The turn off is signposted.
As the track is slightly raised we didn’t seem to encounter the number of boggy sections as we did on the Holland Track but the track may be closed when wet. It was an attractive drive through the ribbon gums - Eucalyptus Sheathiana – these eucalyptus trees shed their bark in long strips annually. The track is only one vehicle width and in places the scrub comes up to the edge of the track. We stopped along the way for a lunch and to give the children a chance to run around. Along the way you may see evidence of the old railway.
The Burra Rock campground is only about 200-300 metres from Burra Rock. The campground is open with plenty of room to set up and attractively located amongst eucalypts. There is a flushing toilet, picnic tables and fire rings, although please bring your own firewood and be aware of seasonal fire restrictions.
Bush camping is a great way to introduce children travel, the environment and new outdoor experiences. They loved being able to run over the rocks exploring, and also learning about nature. But please do keep track of them! In the picture below you can see one of our children taking a close look at the lichen on Burra Rock.
At the day use area at the base of the rock you will find interpretive panels and some old farming machinery from a small farm here in the 1960s. From here you can climb the rock to see the magnificent 360 degree views over the regrowth woodlands to Cave Hill. Granite rock walls, built from granite slabs hewn on the site, direct rain water into a 11 million gallon dam.
It was a huge undertaking to build these walls. We read that to hew the slabs from the rock the men lit big fires on the rock and let them burn all night. The the morning the granite would be red hot. They carted tanks of water on a dray, and threw the water onto the rock. The rock would explode in big slabs which they could then sledge away. The slabs were stood on end to create the rock walls. As you can see in the image below, cemented together and propped up on one side by more rocks.
Views from Burra Rock to Cave Hill. What a wonderful trip we had travelling and exploring with our family.
From Burra Rock it is 2WD 60km gravel/bitumen road to Coolgardie. But it was not the end of our trip. I hope you have enjoyed this post, and will come back and visit again when I bring you the next part of our exploration through this part of Western Australia.
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Facilities at Cave Hill & Burra Rock – toilet, tables, fire rings. Please be aware of fire bans and please take away all your rubbish with you.
Pets: not allowed
Cultural sites: Cave Hill and Burra Rock are important aboriginal cultural sites, so please respect these places.
Department Environment & Conservation - DEC campgrounds
Great Western Woodland - Gondwanalink– then go to “Achieving the Vision” tab and click on “Great Western Woodland”
Explore Oz – Explore Oz
An excellent guide book with GPS coordinates and notes on points of interest is - "Explore the Holland Track and Cave Hill Woodlines" by Nick Underwood. Explorer Series - Westate Publishing.
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