Finally!! The long-promised blog post on the beautiful Nethercote Falls! We first visited this area at the beginning of September, when hearing of the imminent road closure to this special spot.
Nethercote Falls is situated on the Yowaka River and is part of Nullica State Forest. As such, it comes under the jurisdiction of the NSW Forestry Corporation. Initially, they had plans to permanently close all access to the falls (due to risks to public safety, as well as ongoing road maintenance difficulties), but there was such a hue and cry from the locals, many of whom had been visiting Nethercote Falls for generations, that there was a change in policy, still allowing the general public to visit the falls, but on foot only!
A barrier gate was to be erected in early September, so we beetled down there very quickly and managed to still use the steep 4WD road down to the Lower Car Park. We were so happy to have still been able to do this, as it confirmed that future visits by foot were indeed worth it!
Here are the directions to find Nethercote Falls :
- Driving south on the Princes Highway, just south of Pambula, turn right on to Mt. Darragh Rd for 5 km.
- Turn left on to Back Creek Rd for 5 km.
- Turn left into Pipeclay Rd for 400m. At this point, the road forks. Take the right hand fork, but not the sharp right turn, on to Nethercote Falls Link Rd. Follow the road for 1 km to the Upper Car Park. It is a very narrow dirt road, so take care to allow room for vehicles coming in the opposite direction.
On our first visit, we were able to take the steep 4WD dirt track to the Lower Car Park, but now this road has been blocked off by a barrier at the top, so you must walk down this steep hill (and up it at the end! But it is well worth it, even if you may need another swim at the top to cool off!!!)
From the Lower Car Park, it is a 300m walk down to the main falls with one river crossing. There is a long, deep pool (40 m long, 15 m wide and over 2 m deep) within a rock gorge with steep sides and a 40 m drop waterfall at the end.Unfortunately, there have been quite a few accidents with foolhardy, risky behaviour on those steep sides, leading to very tricky and costly helicopter rescues, the very reason cited by the Forestry Corporation for closing public access to the falls.
But, as one objector pointed out, you can never totally prevent idiotic behaviour and to close all spots with potential risks is unfair to the careful majority, counter-productive to tourism and well-nigh impossible! Yes, put up plenty of warning signs, including the notion that accidents may incur huge personal expense if helicopter rescue is involved. But I think that people do have to accept personal responsibility for their actions, especially when that activity may involve some risk!
So, be extra careful on the rocky ledges, especially on wet rainy days, when the rock surfaces can be very slippery. Remember, as my Mum always used to warn us as kids when peering over the edge of the wharf, ‘Your head is the heaviest part of your body’!!! And if planning to dive or jump into the pool from a height, ALWAYS pre-check the depth of the water into which you are to jump, as well as checking for submerged rocks/ logs and objects. There have been far too many unnecessary spinal injuries from diving or being thrown into shallow pools and while it might be fun or a buzz at the time, spending the rest of your life in a wheelchair (especially a high cervical injury) is not!!! Also beware of any undercurrents in the water, especially if you are not a strong swimmer. Needless to say, kids should always be supervised and please leave your dog at home! One of the rescues earlier this year involved a dog, who was stuck on the cliff face!!!
The falls are well-visited on hot Summer days, so the main pool is often quite busy, but fortunately, there is a small track, which leads up the side to above the falls to a series of smaller necklace pools, 1-10 m wide and more smaller falls, so it is one surprise after another until you end in the quiet river flat at the top, overlooked by huge gums, sheoaks and wattles.
The gorge is comprised of rhyolite and its unusual weathering has been the subject of geological research and intensive scientific interest. I love the worn round pools, formed by whirlpools of water eroding away and smoothing the rock surfaces.It is such a beautiful area and we felt it really should be part of National Parks or designated as the Nethercote Falls Flora Reserve, as has been proposed. It is a really interesting area botanically, as it is the southernmost limit of distribution for many species, which are otherwise unknown on the Far South Coast. For example, Pultenaea villifera and Daviesia acicularis are both otherwise unknown South of the Tuross River.
The rhyolitic soils support 4 rare plant species :
- Phebalium ralstonii
- Acacia subtilinervis (1st 2 photos below)
- Pseudanthus divaricatissimus and
- Hakea macreana (3rd and 4th photos below).
There are also 2 undescribed species of Grevillea (with affinities to Grevillea miqueliana) and Westringia ( with affinities to Westringia glabra).
Much of the vegetation is Shrubland, dominated by Kunzea ambigua and Melaleuca armillaris.
Here are some of the botanical photos we took back in early September. The 1st photo is a Hovea species, followed by Hakea macreana and a Forest Clematis (Clematis glycinoides). The latter is called Headache Vine in Queensland, as the crushed leaves are supposed to alleviate headaches.The 4th photo is the Rock Waxflower (Philotheca trachyphylla), followed by Sweet Wattle (Acacia suaveolens) and the last photo is Hardenbergia violacea, seen on the drive along Yowaka River on the way home.
I love the tenacity of these little battlers, ekeing out a life on the rocks!
Also these resourceful carnivorous sundew plants and beautiful moss!We revisited Nethercote Falls in late October on the strength of the masses of Rock Orchids (Dendrobium speciosum), high on the cliff face above the main pool, which by now should have been in full flower and absolutely stunning! In Queensland, we knew them as King Orchids. Unfortunately, we could not find one bloom, even a trace of a spent one! We were either too late, too early or maybe they just didn’t flower this year!!! At least, we saw their blooms at Australian National Botanic Gardens in Canberra!We recently visited these botanical gardens, where they had a whole glasshouse devoted to this species and its variety of forms. Current scientific thought is of the opinion that they are all the one species with geographical variations in their appearance, rather than a number of different species. Apparently, the aborigines used to roast and eat their starchy stems.But back to the falls! There was also a huge wasp nest on the cliffs.These were some of the flowers we did see in late October!And it was good to check out the new barrier gate and get an idea of walking times. It really wasn’t too bad! Walking downhill was very pleasant, listening to the constant peal of Bell Miners; the creak of a Gang-Gang Cockatoo; the trill of a Fan-Tailed Cuckoo; the ‘Duke-Duke-Wellington’ song of the Grey Thrush and the beautiful song of the Golden Whistler. There were so many birds! We also saw Grey Fantails, Scrub Wrens, Eastern Yellow Robins (see below) and Lewin Honeyeaters.And it only took 5 minutes (8 minutes on the way back up) to walk down to the Lower Car Park, a further 2 minutes down to the creek and a 5 minute walk up to the Main Pool! The walk back up was quite possible and not nearly as bad as I envisaged, though it might be slightly more arduous on a hot Summer’s day!It was so lovely to revisit the Falls and Main Pool again, even though the King Orchids were nowhere to be seen! There is always next year! Third time lucky, though I suspect that we may be back again before then! The lure of that long cool pool beckons this coming Summer!You can see Ross on top of the cliffs in the first photo above. The following photos were taken from that vantage point, looking across at the journey of the falls.I think Nethercote Falls is destined to become one of our favourite haunts! It certainly is a very special place!!!
1st October 2016 Update on the Nethercote Kings
Having discovered the wonderful King Orchids in full bloom along the cliff-banks of the Merrica River as it enters the sea at Discovery Bay yesterday (see Merrica River post on: https://candeloblooms.com/2016/11/22/the-kings-of-merrica-river/), we beetled down to Nethercote Falls to check whether the Kings were in bloom there too and I am happy to report, they were – third time lucky (!) , though I must admit to having been a bit spoilt yesterday! Nevertheless, the Nethercote Kings were still very beautiful and well worth the walk down. They grace the top of the falls, as well as the length of the side cliff, as shown in the photos below.They really are such lovely orchids, as well as being incredibly tough!It was so good to finally see them in full bloom, as well as reacquaint ourselves with the local Spring wildflowers, which we saw last year. We also discovered a Native Indigo, Indigofera australis, as well as this sweet little bird’s nest, which had already served its purpose!