Discovering the 1,000 year canyon

WATAGANS NP – 12 November 2020
This was a mid-week, joint MSS/BWOC trip, to check out some creeks that I’d identified as possibly having canyon-like sections (Part #5 in my “Search for Watagans Canyons” aka “there’s got to be something out there”).
We parked our vehicle on a fire trail in Heaton State Forest, and headed off into the extremely unfriendly bush (scrub).  Sadly, I don’t have a photo of this … more about that later.

After 400m we were in the creek which was very easy walking with the occasional block up of flood debris to negotiate.

A few slippery bits where it was safer to slide down the rock.

The cliff on the left hand side of the creek was starting to creep in, and we started to get a few drops, this one was a 1m, but with a bad landing site.

Really pretty part of the creek with lots of pot holes. This is where we christened it the Thousand Year Canyon – figuring that in a 1000 years it would definitely be a canyon. We joked that in a thousand years, if anyone is still canyoning, they’ll see this blog post and go check it out.

Up to this point, we were making sure there was nothing of interest above the creek section.  Whilst it was really pretty creek, it wasn’t until we got to the last 100m of the side creek that we were rewarded with 60m of canyon. We pushed a large log down into this slot (doh – I didn’t bring a hand-line), I shimmied down, followed by Ian.

It was at this point we had a double BLOG disaster. I was sooooo excited that we found this slot that before Ian descended the log, I yelled to Trish, “throw my camera down” (so I could take a photo of Ian coming down the log). She wasn’t sure, but I was standing knee deep, I knew even if I missed the throw the camera would be fine. So, she threw it, I missed it.  And then Ian broke the log!

I was still smiling when Ian broke the log, still thought I’d be able to get the camera!  And then we discovered, that whilst the pool was knee deep, unbeknown to me the camera had dropped into a 15cm wide slot that was at least a metre deep.

Ian tried his best diving down to retrieve the camera and Trish and Penny dropped down some sticks for me to get the camera out of the slot, all to no avail.  Will have to come back now with someone with snorkel and goggles to see if they can retrieve it!  So, all my photos LOST but bless Penny, she’d been recording the trip too so all was not lost.

Ian and I gave the camera up as irretrievable, Penny and Trish walked around the slot and then we I discovered that beyond this slot, there was a 2m jump into a 4m deep pool with a 20m compulsory swim (this is the section of the creek that I’d spied from below).  You have no idea how EXCITING this was, Trish commented that she was seeing the excited M again after not seeing her for quite some time – and she’s right!  Ian and I did the jump, was soooo cool, a lovely deep pool, with crystal clear water so we could see the sweet spot that we had to aim for, definitely have to come back and do the jump again!

Ian and I scrambled out of the pool (to the spot that we had walked to on a previous trip), and then it was an easy walk back along the top of the slot/canyon to where we could drop down and meet up with Trish and Penny.  Then we walked back to a convenient track and thence the car. All up a 3 hour round trip, no snakes and one expensive camera at the bottom of the first jump.

We had lunch back at the car and decided that we’d cut the second creek walk short, taking advantage of another fire trail that would take us to within 300m of our target creek. This rough fire trail in actual fact went all the way down to the creek, with only 20m of off track walking.

We’ve just dropped down into the creek and I could see up ahead that the cliff-line was moving in close, this was getting interesting.

A side creek came in from the north, right after we dropped into the creek. Ian trying to keep his boots dry.

This creek (actually the headwaters of Wallis Creek), was spectacular, long sections of flat rock slab creek bed,  and the cliff-line was like a wave, extending up about 15-20m.  And, then we came to a slide down a 1m fall into a huge pool,  Trish was our crash test dummy, she bravely posed for this shot but she  wasn’t happy, the water was very, very cold.

More creek walking down to this rock you can see in the sunlight in the distance.

Looking back upstream, love the moss on the walls.

We’re now at the rock that stopped us.  And if you think I was excited about the slot in the first canyon, this was AWESOME and SUPER EXCITING and I’ve named the canyon GNW Canyon!  From this side of the rock, looked like a big jump and not safe, but around the other side, you could slide, crawl, creep along to a log which made the drop into the pool safe-as.  Trish and Ian did the jump/swim, and Penny and I walked along the top of the cliff to the end.

On our walk along the cliff-top we found this lovely tree orchid.

By now we’re at the end of the creek (it was a circuitous route for Penny and me but very straight forward for Trish and Ian).  Upstream there was another jump, only a metre or so, but definitely makes this section of creek worthwhile.

From here it was a 45 minute walk along track and fire trail back to the cars.  All up for this creek, it was a 1 hr 45 min round trip.

As we only saw the last 300m of this part of the creek, this is now “unfinished business”, so we’re going to have to go back and check out the upstream section, which (interestingly) has a few very constricted contour lines on the map.

By now you’re wondering what the hell we’re doing getting so excited about 100m of canyon formation? Well, if you live on the Central Coast  with 2 ½ to 4 ½ hours drive from the “good” canyons, and you know that Gap Creek in the Wattagans has a good section of canyon, you get to thinking there must be something there in the Watagans – what else am I going to do in my retirement?  Thank you so much Ian, Trish and Penny for joining me on this adventure and a BIG thank you to Penny for taking the photos!


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