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History

The Department of Industry - Lands & Forestry (the Department) walking tracks are steeped in history. Read on to discover interesting facts about the origins of our three main tracks.

Hume & Hovell Walking Track

By the 1820's various explorers had extended the boundaries of the Colony of New South Wales but the nature of the interior of south-eastern Australia was unknown. Governor Brisbane wanted an expedition mounted to investigate the quality of the land between Lake George and Westernport on the southern coast of the continent. Hamilton Hume was recommended to him as a competent and experienced bushman and explorer. He was joined by William Hovell an Englishman who had been a ship's captain.

The journey commenced on 3rd October 1824. The party comprised Hume and Hovell and six assigned men seeking tickets of leave. In order to reach Westernport, the explorers endeavoured to follow a south-westerly route on every possible occasion, travelling along the western edge of the Great Dividing Range and over the plains toward what would become Albury.

After ingeniously crossing the Murray River by building a raft using a tarpaulin, they continued on, reaching Port Phillip on 16th December 1824, at the present site of Geelong. The poor state of their provisions forced them to set out on the return journey almost immediately.

They arrived at Hume's outstation near Lake George on 18th January 1825, completing one of the Colony's most significant explorations. They had travelled more than 1900 kilometres on foot, in only 16 weeks, and in doing so had discovered some of the most fertile land on the continent.

The Governor, who was under instruction to expand the boundaries of the Colony, was able to exploit the achievements of the small party and settlement quickly followed.

The Great North Walk

The Great North Walk was initially constructed as a celebration of Australia’s Bicentenary in 1988.

In 1981, two walkers from Sydney, Garry McDougall and Leigh Shearer-Heriot, came up with the idea to walk from Sydney to Newcastle. After spending some time identifying an appropriate route, they decided to try and create a formal track.

In 1983 they approached the NSW Bicentennial Committee for support. Minor grants followed and in 1986, the Bicentennial Committee allocated a major grant. The track was then adopted by the Department and became a reality in 1988.

The Department continue to undertake its maintenance, construction, conservation enhancement and future development.

It is estimated that many tens of thousands of local, interstate and international visitors use the walk annually, either taking the challenge of the full 12-16 day hike, or enjoying shorter walks of one or two days in different sections of the walk.

Six Foot Track

In 1884 a government survey party was appointed by the NSW Premier, the Hon. Alexander Stuart to find a horse track from Katoomba to Jenolan Caves.

The group left Sydney on the 24 March 1884 and the following day descended the Katoomba Cliffs at Narrowneck into the Megalong Valley. It was soon thought that the Black’s Ladder might provide better access, so the party blazed a fresh route from the Megalong Creek to the Explorers Tree.

The party then marked a route to Coxs River and a second base camp was established at Little River. From there a route was found which ascended the Black Range. They reached the Jenolan Caves on 2 April 1884 having taken 11 days to mark the original 26 miles (approx 42kms).

NSW Parliament consequently gained 2500 pounds for the track’s construction. Travellers could now ride from Katoomba to the caves in less than eight hours. The new track became popular until around 1904 when a road link from Megalong Valley to Blackheath was opened. This provided improved access to the valley and horses and bullock teams were more easily used for the transport of goods.

By the 1930's motor vehicles became more popular and the number of people using the track declined and sections of the original track were converted into road or fire trails.

In the 1960's an unsuccessful attempt was made to construct a fire trail/road through Nellie’s Glen by dumping soil from the quarry above. A new track has been made on the regrowth area.

In 1985 as part of the track’s centenary, the Department's Office at Orange re-marked the track with signposts and erected stiles so walkers could again follow the track. A diversion to access the new Black Range camping ground has increased the distance to 45kms.

 
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