Sunday, September 16, 2018

Hattah Lakes Circuit, Hattah~Kulkyne National Park - September 2018

Lake Hattah
The Hattah Lakes National Park is one of my favourite spots in Victoria. Over the years I’ve spent many nights camped up here, either beside one of the lakes or on one of the many beaches along the meandering Murray River. There is something about the red sand, native pines, Red Gums and fresh water desert lakes that has obviously got under my skin as I just keep coming back up here. Whilst I’ve visited the area a lot I haven’t always done a lot of walking up here, sometimes I’ve just been cruising around checking things out in my 4wd and at other times we’ve been happy to just camp on the Murray River and kick back on the beach. The first time I walked in this part of the park was in the middle of summer with my teenage nephew, needless to say it was stinking hot so we ended up shortcutting the walk along Brockie Track. I’ve been back twice since then to attempt the complete walk but both times I’ve been thwarted by flood waters flowing between Lake Hattah and Little Lake Hattah, after checking out the Parks Vic site and finding no issues I figured that today was the day.
Our camp at Lake Mourpall, we didn't get here until 1:30am this morning.
We’d only arrived at our camp at Lake Mournpall at 1:30 am this morning after the 7 hour drive from home, so it was a pretty relaxed start today. After breakfast at Lake Mournpall we packed up camp and headed across to the walk start at the Lake Hattah Campground. Like the Lake Mournpall Campground, Lake Hattah Campground was more or less empty, I’ve mentioned this before but it looks like the exorbitant fees as well as the need to pre book your site is stopping many people from enjoying these spots. A lack of people isn’t something that worries me too much though, but I do wonder if the punters aren’t visiting and falling in love with these spots then who is going to stand up and protect them when the need arises? As I’m writing this there is a push from some conservatives to give the environmental water needed to keep these ecosystems alive to irrigators due to the drought. In other wetland areas along the Murray logging of old growth Red Gums forests is an issue and in other areas salinity is also an issue. There is certainly plenty to worry about and fight for.
The walk starts from the Hattah Lake Campground.
Setting off this morning, we (yep, I’d roped Sam in) soon crossed the regulator between Lake Hattah and Little Lake Hattah, this was the spot that flooding had stopped me previously but there was no water flowing between the lakes on this visit. Almost as soon as we’d crossed the bridge the track moves a little bit north of Lake Hattah and strikes off to the east. The walking along here is through open red sand country, the track following a long low ridge. Apart from the kangaroos and emus the other point of interest now was Lake Bulla to the south of me, like Lake Hattah the Red Gum lined Lake Bulla had a good amount of water still in it.
The regulator between Lake Hattah on the right and Little Lake Hattah on the left is the spot that has been flooded on my last couple of visits.
I'm guessing that these Red Gums germinated after the man made 2010 environmental floods.
I'm not sure how old these mature Red Gums are.....lets just say that they are bloody old!
With the temperature this morning in the high teens, virtually no wind and a perfect blue sky overhead it was hard to think of anywhere I’d rather be really. The shimmering water of Lake Brockie marked the spot that we’d leave Bugle Ridge Walk and turn hard left onto Brockie Track. This is the spot you can short cut the walk (the way that I walked with my nephew years ago) if you go right instead of left. Continuing on again we soon started to cross a few very small red sand dunes as Brockie Track skirted around yet another fresh water lake, this time Lake Tullamook. After a bit of a dog leg Brockie Track arrived at a t-intersection and we turned south along Nip Nip Track, we were now well and truly in red dirt country.
Heading away from the lakes things dry out pretty quickly.
The first section of today's stroll followed the marked Bugle Ridge Walking Track.
Lake Brockie
We headed hard left along Brockie Track here.

It wasn’t just the colour of the sand that was of interest here though, Nip Nip Track was also tracking along beside the Kangaroo Fence. The Kangaroo Fence is around 34 kilometres long and it runs around most of the lakes, the fence was built to stop the kangaroo population from sky rocketing in good seasons when the lakes hold water. After tracking south beside the fence line for around a kilometre Nip Nip Track swung around and started heading in a SSW direction, the Red Gums now mostly gone, we were now walking through a lightly timbered Black Box forest.
Brockie Track heads across some low dunes, but it's all pretty easy.
Brockie Track gets fairly close to Lake Tullamook along here.
Lake Tullamook
We headed south along the sandy Nip Nip Track beside the Kangaroo Fence.
The Kangaroo Fence.
We felt a million miles from anywhere along here as we shuffled along the sandy track but the sound of the occasional truck rumbling along the nearby Hattah - Robinvale Road shattered that illusion. After meeting up with the Bugle Ridge Walk again (the other end of the short cut) we set off to cross a large flood plain to the south of Lake Arawak, this flood plain makes for desolate walking, the grey dirt and sparse covering of Black Box trees not doing much to soften up the scene in front of us, thankfully it wasn’t hot today as this bit of the walk would be desolate indeed in hot weather.
Nip Nip Track
The trees were mostly Black Box along here.
Things were a little desolate crossing the floodplain near Lake Arawak.
Eventually the track started to climb a little up onto some red dirt, ahead of us once again was the Kangaroo Fence. A few hundred metres after meeting the Kangaroo Fence we met up with the gravelled Hattah Lakes Nature Discovery Drive, we’d now be more or less following this dirt road back to the ute. The Hattah Lakes Nature Discovery Drive tracks along the southern shore of Lake Hattah, the dirt road making for very easy walking with almost a complete lack of traffic. The Hattah Lakes area was the original home to the Jarijari Aboriginal People and there is a bit of evidence left over from their time living here, one of the best examples of that is the Canoe Tree. As the name suggests this large Red Gum on the shore of Hattah Lake has a big scar on it from where the local indigenous people cut a canoe from it.
Approaching the Kangaroo Fence again.

We followed the Hattah Lakes Nature Discovery Drive for the last couple of kilometres back towards the ute.
The Canoe Tree beside Lake Hattah.
It’s not only indigenous history up here though, moving a bit further along the shoreline we arrived at the pump house and pipeline that used to supply water from Hattah Lake to Hattah railway station for the boilers on the steam powered trains that used to ply their trade up and down the line. After checking out the old pump house we climbed over a slightly higher dune that allowed for a reasonable view down to Hattah Lake and then dropped down to the Visitor Centre. Whilst most of the national park visitor centres are rarely staffed now days, they are generally open and are worth checking out and Hattah Lakes Visitor Centre was no different on both counts. Suitably enlightened after our little break at the visitor centre all we had to do was wander a few hundred metres back towards the Hattah Lake Campground and the ute, to add a little interest to the last short section we dropped down onto the sandy shore of the lake for the last few hundred metres. Trudging along the soft sand under the huge old Red Gums with a nice gentle zephyr blowing of the lake life was pretty sweet.
Wildlife is a bit of a feature of this walk, makes you wonder why I didn't get any decent photos.
The water pump (well bits of it) that was used to pump water from Lake Hattah across to Hattah Railway station back in the days that steam powered trains ran up and down the line.
You wouldn't want to be relying on water from the lake nowadays.
Heading back to the Lake Hattah Campground along the park access road.
The Dirt.
According to my GPS we walked around 15.3 kilometres and climbed 119 metres on this easy walk. We used the map and notes out of Mr Tempest’s book Daywalks Around Victoria, it’s walk number 12 in his book. Mr Thomas among others, has also written up this walk. We also used Meridian Maps Hattah Lakes Sheet along with my GPS topo maps. The tracks on this walk are all well signposted and clear so navigation shouldn’t be an issue. You need to carry all your water requirements for the complete walk, whilst the lakes currently have water in them I wouldn’t be keen to drink it, Blue-Green Algae can be a real issue up here. If, like me, you are partial to Australia’s arid and semi arid country then this walk is definitely one to have on your to do list, I like it that much I’m hoping to head back up in a few weeks to do a more adventurous three day walk….we’ll see.

Relevant Posts.
Lake Mournpall Circuit, Hattah~Kulkyne National Park, 2017.
Warepil Lookout Circuit, Hattah~Kulkyne National Park, 2017.
Hattah Nature Walk, Hattah~Kulkyne National Park, 2017.

Lake Hattah

We walked the last few metres along the shoreline before cutting up to return to the ute.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Sale Wetlands, Sale Common Nature Conservation Reserve - June 2018

We had some great weather....for the first hour anyway!
I’ve had my eye on this walk down in Sale for awhile but I’ve never actually made the move to stop a spend a few hours exploring. With this stroll being a wetland walk predominantly I’ve had a winter visit at the back of my mind as a good time to go down an check things out. So with Sam on school holidays and wanting to do a walk with me I figured that the time was right for a visit to Sale. With the walk being as good as flat and the opportunity to finish of the stroll at the Gippsland Art Gallery Sam was on board, although the 5:00am wake up call didn’t go down all that well!
We started this stroll from the old Visitor Information Centre on the western side of town.
There's a nice park at the beginning of the walk, there's even a replica of the famous Gippsland paddle streamer Tanjil for the kids to climb on.
Arriving at the old visitor information centre we were on our way by around 8am this morning. To start with this walk heads through the Port of Sale Precinct. This area is built on the banks of the Sale Canal and makes the most of Sale’s maritime heritage. The perfectly still conditions this morning allowed for some crystal clear reflections of the many boats moored in the dark waters of the Sale Canal. With plenty of manicured parkland, picnic areas, bbq’s this spot would make a nice spot for a picnic I’m thinking, although with the ambient temperature hovering around 4˚this morning we didn’t linger.
Sale Canal
Port of Sale
After leaving the Port of Sale area we headed along a short stretch of suburban road walking before arriving on the shore of Lake Guthridge. So far on our stroll we had been in more danger of being knocked over by a tumbleweed than by a person, but arriving on the shore of Lake Guthridge this morning that all changed very quickly. We were now suddenly surrounded by a sea of activewear as, what looked like the whole population of Sale had squeezed themselves into the lycra and were out for an early morning run. It turns out we had stumbled onto the course of Sale’s Park Run, so as we meandered our way along the southern shore of Lake Guthridge and then Lake Guyatt we were never lonely, we even managed to pick up a posse of ducks at one stage who seemed to want to tag along on our stroll.
The streets of Sale were pretty quiet at this early hour.
There were a lot of locals out and about at Lake Gutheridge.
We got sensational weather......for awhile.
Lake Gutheridge
The locals at Lake Guyatt were a little more aggressive!
We picked up or own posse.
We managed to miss the turn off to the Sale Powder Magazine, this old building dates all the way back to 1864, apparently.
Leaving Lake Guyatt our route zigged and zagged it’s way out of Sale, crossed Flooding Creek and headed along Maxfields Street to enter the Sale Common Nature Conservation Reserve. Now I mentioned earlier that this is mostly a wetland walk so I figured winter was a good time to visit, in hindsight I’d have to say that after spring floods might be a better option as the wetlands were all bone dry on this visit at the end of June. Entering the Sale Common Sam and I headed for the signposted boardwalk, this long section of boardwalk striking out across the wetlands towards Flooding Creek. Unfortunately instead of water and water birds, we mostly got dry grass and reeds today. It wasn’t all doom and gloom though, the early morning sun was helping an the scenery side of things, although the approaching dark clouds weren’t filling me with optimism about the day ahead.

Crossing Flooding Creek on our way out of town, yep the weather had turned already.
Heading towards the Sale Common Nature Conservation Reserve along Maxfields Street the walk suddenly had a bit of a rural feel about it.
Sam's heading out onto the first long section of boardwalk.
The wetlands were mostly bone dry.

After the long section of boardwalk we arrived on the banks of Flooding Creek to find it more or less dry as well, not to worry it was still a nice enough walk as we followed the meandering course of the creek as it made it’s way towards the La Trobe River. It was while walking along here checking out the small billabongs and gnarly old Red Gums that the rain arrived, although thankfully it was only in the form of light showers at this stage. The walk along here follows a quiet 4wd track for a lot of the distance and with Flooding Creek on one side and the large wetlands on the other I’m thinking it would be a good spot when there is a bit of water about.
There are a lot big old Red Gums along the banks of Flooding Creek.
Back in the ye olde days cattle were grazed on Sale Common.
Flooding Creek
I'm looking like I was on a bit of a mission, I think I was shitty with the showers coming down?

It’s a fairly long walk along Flooding Creek, but eventually we arrived at the slow moving, wide, brown La Trobe River. With the light showers continuing on and off we wandered west along a dirt road beside the river towards the somewhat famous Sale Swing Bridge. This old bridge is heritage listed having been built in the 1880’s and is Australia’s oldest remaining swing bridge. The bridge still swings open now days a couple of times a week to let the bigger boats get down the La Trobe River towards the Gippsland Lakes. Climbing onto the deck of the bridge it was a good spot to check out the confluence of the Thomson and La Trobe River a hundred metres or so up stream, the turgid brown water here a marked contrast to the rushing clear water up in the mountains where I’m normally looking at these rivers.
The walk follows this quiet road along the La Trobe River towards the Sale Swing Bridge.
Sale Swing Bridge
The wide, slow moving La Trobe River.
The confluence of the La Trobe and Thomson Rivers.
Leaving the Swing Bridge we started heading back in the general direction of Sale, there is no real danger of any navigational difficulties though, as for long sections I was walking near the very busy South Gippsland Highway on the way back into town. A little over a kilometre from the Swing Bridge our route headed back into the wetlands again, once again striking out across the swaying reeds of the dry swamp. There was a bit of water around on this section though, arriving at the aptly named Long Waterhole I was happy to see that the water birds still had somewhere to feed, although it looks like the water level is about 2 metres lower than normal. If it wasn’t for the sound of the traffic I could easily imagine that I was a fair way from civilisation along here as we wondered along through the Red Gums beside the waterhole.
Back in the wetlands and heading for Sale.
Long Waterhole was the only section of the wetlands that was wet on this visit.
Leaving the Sale Common we passed underneath the South Gippsland Highway and any illusions of remoteness evaporated as we picked up a sealed path heading north along the banks of the Sale Canal. It was about now that the rain got a little more serious so for most of the remaining walk the DSLR was backed away safely in its dry bag. Luckily we didn’t have far to go on todays stroll as we followed the canal into town, after meeting our outward route we headed back through the Port of Sale Precinct to the old Visiter Information Centre, jumped into the ute and made the very short drive back to the Gippsland Art Gallery.
Passing under the South Gippsland Highway, at least we are out of the showers for a minute.
We followed this sealed path back into town along the bank of the Sale Canal.
Things were getting a bit damper now.
The redeveloped Port of Sale Precinct is well worth a look.
With the walking part of the day over now it was nice to sit back in the café in the gallery building and enjoy our lunch, while watching the rain tumble down outside through the floor to ceiling windows. After lunch we headed into the Gippsland Art Gallery to check things out, there has been a gallery in Sale going all the way back to 1965 but this wonderful new space was only opened in early 2018. Apart from the café, the modern building also houses the new Visiter Information Centre. If you find yourself down in Sale it’s worth checking out, just the building itself is very interesting before you even get to the art.
The Gippsland Art Gallery
There was a visiting exhibition by Frank Mesaric.

There is also a good selection of art from Gippsland.
The Dirt.
We walked 16.2 kilometres and climbed 41 metres on this walk. I suppose I’d rate it as a medium grade walk due mainly to the length of the outing. To be honest the wetland sections were a little disappointing, maybe hold off on a visit here until after the Thomson or La Trobe Rivers flood again as I’m thinking that the walk would be lot better with more water about, although it wouldn’t take much to flood the track in spots so be careful there. The Gippsland Art Gallery, like most of these smaller regional galleries it is a credit to the local people who look after it, with visiting exhibitions and a display featuring Gippsland art, stop by and check it out next time you are passing through Sale.

Relevant Posts.