Who would have thought a Michael Keats canyon would be so good

NEWNES PLATEAU – 19 February 2022
Six weeks ago, Trish, Kathy, John and I had attempted Henry’s Canyon and had been thwarted by high water and a corkscrew drop that looked like almost certain death (well not quite but decidedly off-putting).  So, it was unfinished business.  We’d set aside this day so that the four of us could complete the trip, but sadly Trish and Kathy couldn’t make it, now John’s going to have to go back again!

So, in case you’re wondering “who is Michael Keats”, Michael Keats et al have done a lot of exploring in the Gardens of Stone National Park, and they’ve written about 8 books on the area.  In their exploring, they’ve named a lot of landscape features, some creeks they’ve called canyons, and so John has been visiting them to see if they are in fact canyons, this trip was to check out if Henry’s canyon was indeed worthy of its name.

Anna, Randa and Catherine came along for the adventure – and indeed riving along the Glowworm Tunnel Road was an adventure, thousands of potholes later and we arrived at our starting place.  John, as usual lead us unerringly to our side creek that we’d use to enter the canyon.

We walked in on a spur which, whilst it had fire re-growth, wasn’t that bad, not as scrubby as it will be in a year or so!

We’re at our side creek now, high up on the cliff there was a section of un-weathered sandstone on the cliff, evidence of a rock fall not so long ago.

John and Anna heading down to the waterfall at the end of the side creek to set up the rope to abseil in.

Anna about to abseil into the abyss.

Randa – this will be her first exploratory canyon!

Me on the abseil, from the top of the abseil to about where I’m standing, it was all thick, spongy moss and every time you put your foot on it, a mass of muddy water squelched out, was a bit weird (photo: John G).

Down at the bottom of the waterfall, looking up at the corkscrew drop that had thwarted us. When we were here six weeks ago, looking down from about a metre higher, the water was so high that it was coming over the edge almost horizontally and hitting the wall in front, you couldn’t see the pool or how deep it was, or if there was anything you could put your feet against. Michael Keats, who isn’t an abseiler went down this chute, he must have done it in a dry spell as it’s an awkward climb down.

We’re into the canyon now – and it’s already exceeded our expectations, dark, surrounded by green moss and constricted, with a small swim to start!

Anna had had enough of swims the day before – at least this was only belly button deep – well it was at the start.

The next swim was definitely a swim.

Further on in the canyon, every time we got to a section like this, I expected the canyon to open up but it just kept on going, was definitely a surprise to see how good it was.

A corridor of ferns.

This was a bit of a challenge, getting to the log through a fallen tree, but the fun wasn’t over.

Shimmying down the log, it was really slippery, we all did the first section face first, then everyone except Cat turned around half way down and did a bit of tree hugging. Cat on the other hand went down the tree like a slippery dip.

The mess of logs that we had to negotiate.

The canyons all seem to fade in my memory, but I have to say this has to be one with the most ferns in it I’ve ever seen, very pretty.

More ferns

A tree fern that had fallen over, and all along its trunk small tree ferns have sprouted.

Lovely section of overhang in the stream passage.

The others had walked on but John and I were captivated by the forest of tree ferns (how big are they? you can only just see me in the middle distance). Photo: John G

In the forest of tree ferns (Photo: John G).

More tree fern porn.

We’d started walking again and the girls called us up to the cliff line to a fallen tree covered with Ghost Fungus (Omphalotus nidiformis).

Close up of Ghost Fungus – this fungus is most notable for its bioluminescent properties. It is known to be found primarily in southern Australia and Tasmania.  To see the bioluminescence, you need to be there at night time with a time exposure camera, that picks up the blue bioluminescence, the naked eye doesn’t see it that well (sort of like those bloody Northern Lights).

Back in the canyon and scrambling down a rock fall.

Lovely section of ferns.

A nasty step over, John with his long legs had no trouble, the rest of us needed a hand to get across, if you slipped it would be a nasty fall.

More log jam.

By now we’d traversed a few hundred metres of canyon – far more than expected and it was still going!

We were able to traverse around this small waterfall, but we couldn’t pass by it without standing under it (Randa under the waterfall).

And then we reached our exit gully (look at the clarity of that water). The canyon proper had finished and it was just creek walking further downstream, so we headed up this gully towards the Land that Time Forgot (at least that’s what I’ve named it).

Very similar to Henrys Creek, the gully was fern filled.

We eventually came to what looked like a dead end, lots of rock fall and a tree had fallen over, but we managed to scramble up – it wasn’t easy as we were negotiating the roots of the tree and the soil was very difficult to climb up, it just crumbled away under our feet, John was able to give us a hand though so we all got up safely.

Another obstacle on the way up.

And now we’re in the Land that Time Forgot, a large open area surrounded by tall cliffs, it would have been lovely pre fires, and with all the rain we’ve had it is recovering slowly.

Towards the end, there’s a large overhang, there is a soak coming through the rock which has formed a stalactite at the top and a stalagmite at the bottom.

The stalagmite – we found one of these in another creek out in the Wollemi area and Rod accidentally trod on it and went through the outer shell – I wonder if this one is hollow inside. I loved the green moss all around it.

Heading towards our exit route. From here it was a climb up to a saddle and then another 80m climb to the top of the ridge. Very easy walking.

It was a bit of a slog, and probably took us about an hour to get to the top, and eventually onto the Old Coach Road.  Walking the 2 or 3k along the Old Coach Road was probably the most tedious part of the whole trip.

So, Henry’s Canyon definitely exceeded our expectations and now John’s going to have to go back with his wife Kathy and Trish – I’m sure they both experienced a good dose of FOMO this weekend.

Big thanks to John for leading us on the trip and thanks to Anna, Cat and Randa (who did really well on her first exploratory trip).  Was great to have you all along for the ride and great to get another trip off the Wish List.  As with all trips though, another one arises out of the one you’re on – so next “must do” in the area is Scimitar Slot.

This entry was posted in Abseiling, Bushwalking, Canyoning, MSS. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Who would have thought a Michael Keats canyon would be so good

  1. Trish says:

    Big fomo.

  2. Jenny Hughes says:

    Wow, that looks like it might be the most beautiful canyon I have seen.
    Thank you so much for the photos. As always they are amazing!

  3. Lindsay Barrett says:

    Looks like the name ‘Henry’ is from ‘Henry Deane’ who also has ‘Deane’s Creek’ to his credit. He was the guy who built the Wolgan Valley Railway – he then went on to build the transcontinental line across Australia – thus, he knew what he was doing!
    I love the tree fern sections of this canyon – nice photos.
    BTW, when the train line was in use – you could have caught it for a much smoother ride than the potholed track bed it is today. Now – if only I was alive a hundred years ago!

    • marilyn says:

      Yes, the creek was named after Henry Deane, didn’t realise he went on to build the transcontinental line though, thanks for that!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.