The ‘Holiday Hiatus’ (xmas to New Year) is an ideal time to get away. Our version of ‘Romjul’ allowed us time to recce the southern part of Drive Darling Scarp – an awesome 4WD Road Trip in preparation.
The plan was to drive south from Karragullen to Pemberton, following the Darling Scarp as closely as we could, checking out tracks as we went and confirming their accessibility. As the Trip progressed we were able to keep fairly close to the plan.
Saturday 26 December 2020
We turned off the Brookton Highway onto Kinsella Road, a gravel road in reasonable condition that connects with Albany Highway. It passes through the Monadnocks Conservation Park (not much different from a National Park). Through Jarrahdale, onto Scarp Road and into Serpentine National Park. Past North Dandalup Dam and onto Del Park Road to again pick up Scarp Road.
Forty metres onto Scarp Road we saw this sign.
Although the road looked well used we respected the prohibition, turned around and resumed our journey along Del Park Road before taking a track I had used numerous times previously that took us into Marrinup. From there we continued to Scarp Pool and then the underwhelming Scarp Lookout.
Leaving Scarp Pool we headed west on Pinjarra-Williams Road, for Cookernup. As we approached Scarp Road’s intersection with Pinjarra-Williams Road I decided to check it out. There is no Water Corporation ‘No Entry’ sign here.
Seven kilometres along Scarp Road is the turnoff to Oakley Dam. This is hidden gem. A great, un-advertised swimming hole. The associated Lookout is difficult but not impossible to access from the dam – it would seem that the intention is to access it via a lengthy walk on the opposite side of the car park – but it does provide great views over the coastal plain and the Alcoa Refinery.
We continued north along Scarp Road, crossed Alcoa’s conveyor belt and eventually came to point where we had turned around a couple hours earlier.
There is no matching sign at the Pinjarra Williams Rd end of Scarp Road nor anywhere along it. There are numerous signs in the intervening 14 kilometres between those two points warning that certain activities such as boating, camping, fishing marroning, etc are not permitted but nothing about ‘No Entry’. A bureaucratic bungle.
From the amount of traffic that clearly uses the road it would seem that the reasonably-difficult-to-see sign is largely ignored.
The ‘official’ Drive Darling Scarp route is along Murray River Fireline that, as the name suggests, follows the Murray River. From Driver Road the route is west to Hoffmans Mill. We had done this route a few weeks previously so we decided to instead take the bitumen to Cookernup on the South Western Highway and then rejoin the Drive Darling Scarp route at Logue Brook.
Leaving Logue Brook we headed to Stirling Dam, not confident that we could get past this imposing construction without a lengthy detour. And so it was.
Our detour took us over the Worsley conveyor a couple of times. We eventually got to Big Tree Road and found an acceptable campsite in the Brunswick Hills.
Sunday 27 December 2020
The Brunswick Hills 4WD tracks have a fearsome reputation. Our recce was more about linking features, attractions and four wheel driving tracks rather than actually doing the 4WD challenges so we tried out only a couple of tracks.
Time to head south along the Darling Scarp again
Beela Road took us out of the Brunswick Hills and on to the Lennard Track. As with the Murray River Fireline, we had done this track only a few weeks previously so elected to take the scenic route through the beautiful Ferguson Valley, up Mount Lennard and down Lennard Road (rather than Lennard Track).
We continued south through Kirup and pushed through an interesting grove of banksias to the Balingup-Nannup Road. – one of Australia’s great drives. The 41 kilometres of bitumen between Balingup and Nannup has 90 bends, great country scenery and closely follows the Blackwood River. Though Nannup is a few kilometres off the line of the Darling Scarp, this drive makes the diversion worthwhile.
We headed south-east out of Nannup on an old stock route.
South-east of Nannup
Near Donnelly River we were looking for a way south when our way was blocked by the most serious road block I have ever encountered.
The tracks we were wanting to follow to stay close to the Darling Scarp were all blocked or in DRAs (Disease Restricted Areas) so we had to veer further east towards Donnelly River.
We found a secluded campsite off Gordon Road.
Monday 28 December 2020
The southward push continued. We determined to locate Greens Island Campground.
Greens Island is a large, open style DPaW Campground located on a bend in the Donnelly River that gives the impression that it is an island.
We crossed the Donnelly River on Palings Road and two kilometres further east turned south onto an overgrown track that at one time was a well used road. It was incongruous to see normal road signs hidden by vegetation overgrowth.
We were able to squeeze past the first log, however, the second completely blocked the track.
Our shortcut took us out to Waistcoat Road and, though our intended direction was to the right, we shot up the road to Palings Road to confirm that it intersected with Waistcoat, should future travellers on this Road Trip decide not to take this shortcut.
Duch Fonti Road
We turned off Court Road looking for some challenging tracks – and succeeded.
Karri Forest Explorer
However, it was not too far along the track before a large log, immovable with our resources, blocked our progress. We moved west to Chainman Road where we encountered numerous more obstacles before coming out onto Stony Crossing Road, part of the Karri Forest Explorer route.
The Karri Forest Explorer route took us in to Pemberton. Refuel, revictual.
After a coffee we headed out to the Gloucester Tree.
We wanted to find another track into Pemberton that connected with the Karri Forest Explorer at a different location to that which we connected earlier in the day, so we headed out on that Route – this time in the ‘normal’ direction. Where the Karri Forest Explorer turned left after Giblett picnic area we turned right on to Beedelup Road.
We were hoping that this open track would provide a ‘non-scratchy’ option for travellers on the Drive Darling Scarp Road Trip. All looked good for a kilometre or so at which point we came across a few small logs.
A little bit further along two substantial logs blocked the track. They will be dealt with on a future Trip. We found where previous travellers had made a way round the obstacle and continued on – for 900 metres.
It took us an hour to clear a path through the log jam. We pushed on towards Willow Springs campground
Along the way we diverted down a track off Andrew Road that should have saved us a few kilometres, however, it was very overgrown and, ultimately, our forward progress was blocked at a bridge that had been modified so only bikes could get across. Back the way we had come. McNab Road took us to Austin Road (relief) which took us to Willow Springs, arriving about 6.00 p.m.
We spent the evening chatting with a couple of fellow travellers, one of whom was walking the Bibbulman Track.
Tuesday 29 December 2020
The intention was to find tracks that headed more directly back towards Nannup but all tracks off Austin Road were closed under DRA regulations.
We decided to head into Nannup, refuel, have a coffee and then follow the Blackwood River along Denny Road through to Warner Glen before heading to Margaret River.
Scott had to meet with Tony by about 1.00 p.m.
© Cockburn 4WD Club 2020 and Kim Epton
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Text, layout and photographs by Kim Epton.
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