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Thread: June Long Weekend in the Pilliga

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    Junior Member Ditch's Avatar
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    June Long Weekend in the Pilliga

    Met up with some friends over the long weekend to show them around the Pilliga, a place I have spent some time exploring. Although we only spent three days there you could spend weeks exploring the area with many more points of interest than we visited. Travelling the roads is not difficult, some deep sand can be found in the southeast area, which can be a bit of fun. 4wd is not really necessary but might come in handy if a storm dumps some rain on the tracks. If you can make it through the first gully you should not have any problems after that. Not a place to take a large caravan, camper trailers would be ok.

    The Pilliga is a vast area, covering nearly a million acres made up of State Forests, State Conservation Areas, National Parks & Nature Reserves on both sides of the Newell Highway between Coonabararan & Narrabri in northwest NSW. Bush camping is permitted in the Pilliga & Pilliga East State Conservation Areas, small fires are allowed, but you must bring your own wood.


    Originally occupied by the Kamilaroi people, the area is rich in indigenous history & evidence of their lives can be found throughout the area. Europeans first arrived in the mid 1800`s & have also left their mark on the landscape.

    The country is comprised of the decomposing sandstone bluffs that are prevalent in the eastern side of the Pilliga that were uplifted during the Nandewar volcanics (Mt Kaputar) some 23 million years ago that have eroded over time to leave behind a vast, mostly flat sandy landscape. The Flora is quite diverse, made up of Red Gum along the creek beds, Cypress Pine, Yellow Box & Wattle just to name a few.

    You can also see many animals, birds & reptiles while driving the tracks, Emu, Red & Grey Kangaroos, Wallaby's, Paddy-melons, Red Tailed Cockatoos, Mallee Ringnecks, Sulfur Crested Cockatoos, Finches & if you are lucky the endangered Pilliga Mouse. Goanna`s & Bearded Dragons also live in the area. Dingo`s were also prevalent once but I have`nt seen one for years.


    Saturday - Boggabri to Yamborah

    After loading up the Patrol on Friday it was an early start for the 90 km drive to Boggabri to meet up with Cris & Brenda in their 2010 Nissan Navara D40 & Frank & Toni in their 1998 Mazda BT-50. From there it was west from the Kamilaroi Highway at Boston St, Boggabri, which becomes Caloola Rd. At around 13 km from Boggabri, we veered right at the ramp into the property Caloola (30.39.1699s 149.53.3496e). This section of the road starts to get a little rough & the first gully can be steep & can become deep after heavy rain erodes the base.

    Another 6 km along Caloola Rd we came to the access to Pilliga East State Forest at Smithers Gate (30.38.2664s 149.49.9744e) & turned south on Scratch Rd which follows the eastern boundary of the forest along the "Vermin Proof Fence" that was built in the 1930`s to keep the wild dogs out of the adjacent grazing land.


    Smithers Gate & a section of the Vermin Proof Fence

    Keeping left at the intersection of Beehive Rd (30.38.8483s 149.49.6067e) we followed the winding Scratch Rd until we reached a rocky ridge line. On the southern side of this where the road once again meets the fence is a small cave under a ledge (30.44.1055s 149.47.2821e) where we stopped for smoko & a look around. The wind worn patterns in the sandstone are well worth a look.


    Heading south we entered the Willala Aboriginal Area which was the traditional homeland of the Boggabri tribe of the Kamilaroi people. Willala Mountain (30.49.8902s 149.45.9322e), our next stop was used as a ceremonial & meeting spot. The mountain is dotted with caves & overlooks the Namoi River plains to the east. After exploring the area we had an early lunch before turning around & heading north.


    The bluffs of Willala Mountain & one of the large caves overlooking the Pilliga

    About a kilometer north of the mountain we turned west onto Willala Trail (30.49.3945s 149.45.8965e) which winds it`s way northwest to Delwood Road (30.46.3242s 149.43.2656e), one of the main east - west roads in Pilliga East. This area is part of the Pilliga East State Conservation Area which is managed by NSW National Parks & conditions for using a National Park apply.



    Delwood Road

    Travelling west on Delwood Rd which winds it`s way through the varying vegetation, Cypress Pine forest one minute then Ghost Gums around the next corner with evidence of the bush fires that tear through the scrub in the summer months we came to Creaghs Crossing over Borah Creek, turning south onto Borah Creek Rd (30.46.7382s 149.32.8537e) to about 500 meters past the crossing & then 1.5 km we turned east onto an unnamed road (30.47.7296s 149.32.8529e) that crosses back over Borah Creek to our overnight camp at Yamborah Historic Site.


    Crossing over Borah Creek at Yamborah Historic Site

    Yamborah (30.47.8607s 149.33.1776e) was a small farm & sawmill established in the 1930`s. Not much is left of the homestead, just the brick chimney, water tank & the front steps. The foundations of other buildings, the stockyards & fences made from the off cuts from the sawmill are still standing along with a couple of corrugated steel sheds can still be seen. Horseshoe Dam would have been the main water supply but it was nearly dry when we were there, but the remaining water is a draw card for the wildlife in the area, with Emu`s, Red Tailed Cockatoo`s, Kangaroos & other wildlife gathering around it at dusk & dawn.


    Whats left of Yamborah Homestead


    An old canoe in Horseshoe Dam

    After a long days travelling in which we had not seen another sole since leaving Boggabri, we set up camp & had a wander around the ruins before settling around the fire to enjoy a meal of roast pork, potato, pumpkin & carrots cooked in the camp ovens followed by damper & Billy Tea.


    The weather had been pretty good, just a light cloud cover that cleared just before the full moon rose, giving me the opportunity to take some photos of the Milky Way & the "Emu in the Sky". If you look at the Southern Cross, you will see a dark spot known as the "Coalsack", which is the head of the Emu. For more info visit Emu Dreaming

    After a few drinks & a yarn or two, we hit the swags, looking forward to the next days travels.


    The Emu in the Sky

    Sunday - Yamborah to Rocky Creek Mill

    I was up at first light & after stirring up the fire & a making a coffee I set out with the camera for a stroll around the area. Plenty of bird life around the dam & I was lucky to see a family of Emu`s gathering for a drink,even one of them decided to have a bath. I headed back to camp to find the rest of the crew up & about
    with bacon & eggs cooking away over the fire. It was then time to pack up & hit the road.


    Heading back across Borah Creek we turned south on Borah Creek Rd to Kerringle Rd (30.51.4980s 149.31.1309e) where we turned west heading to another historic site at Airlands, just east of the Newell Highway.

    In 1870, Airlands (30.50.1387s 149.28.7988e) was once the site of the Peebles Hotel, a Cobb & Co. & drovers stop midway between Coonabarabran & Narrabri. Owned by the Peebles family it was once robbed & more info on the hotel & robbery can be found here

    It was later used as a farm & relics from those days are still scattered around the area, including an old Sunshine harvester, stock yards & building foundations. A memorial stone to the Peebles family is located in the middle of the large paddock near the old machinery.


    Back in the vehicles, it was only a short drive to the Newell Hwy where we turned south & then west again on No.1 Break Rd (30.56.2090s 149.25.5352e) for around 20 kms then turning south on Top Crossing Rd (30.54.7969s 149.14.2500e) heading for the Sculptures in the Scrub in Timmallallie National Park.

    The Sculptures in the Scrub Rest Area & campground (30.59.7188s 149.13.8457e) has sheltered tables, toilets & water with several campsites along the ridge line of Dandry Gorge & is also an area used by the indigenous tribes before European settlement. The main feature is the walking trail along the top of the gorge taking in the many sculptures along the way. Information plaques tell of the association the aboriginal people had to this area. The walk also descends into the valley floor, returning to the rest area along the creek.



    Two of the many sculptures along Dandry Gorge

    After a quick lunch it was back onto Top Crossing Rd heading north to No.1 Break Rd where we turned east & then north at Rocky Rd (30.54.9375s 149.15.4922e) heading to the Salt Caves.

    The Salt Caves Rest area & campground (30.44.6602s 149.17.4668e) has sheltered tables, toilets & water. The main attraction is the small caves in the sandstone bluff that were once used by the aboriginal people to gather salt that collected on the walls which was used to cure meat & was also a valuable trading commodity. Animals also use to site, licking the salt for the minerals they contain. The sandstone was formed millions of years ago when the area was under a vast inland sea. Salt was collected in these rocks & was carried by rain water through the rock after the area was uplifted to form small stalagmites & stalactites of salt.


    A large observation tower has been built on the hill & gives 360 degree views of the Pilliga.

    Leaving the Salt Caves, we turned west onto Wellyard Rd for around 4 km, then turned onto Reilly's Rd (30.45.0234s 149.15.5742e) for another 4 km to Reilly's Corner (30.43.9688s 149.13.6640e), southwest on Sixteen Foot Rd for 1 km, then northwest on Windup Rd (30.44.3437s 149.13.1836e) to our overnight campsite at Rocky Creek Mill.

    Rocky Creek Mill (30.42.9942s 149.8.6832e) is in Euligal State Forest, on The Pilliga Forest Way, the main road from the Newell Highway to Barradine. There are no facilities there, just a table & an old BBQ. It was once the site of one of the earliest timber mills cutting cypress pine, but was destroyed by fire in 1953.

    We set up camp & got a fire going, had a wander down to the creek & around whats left of the mill before settling down around the fire to an excellent Stir Fry followed by a Cobb Loaf with Spring Onion Dip cooked in the camp oven. We spent a few hours telling a few yarns around the fire about the things that go bump in the night, mainly about the Yowie that is known to frequent the area & the tragic story of The Pilliga Princes, a bag lady that lived in humpy somewhere in the scrub.

    She was killed while walking on the Newell Highway when a truck hit her. This is actually a true story, there is a roadside marker on the highway where this happened. There have been reports of a ghostly figure jumping in front of trucks travelling the highway late at night near that spot.

    Little did my friends know that I had hidden a CD player in the scrub near the camp with animal noises & sounds of things moving around in the bush. It was set to start playing 15 minutes after I started it when I went to the toilet later that night. The first sound was of a tree falling over, that got their attention, followed 30 seconds later by the sound of a pig squealing like it had been caught by something that had them looking around with a worried look on their faces & then the sound of a Red Stag bellowing did the trick, the girls running for the tents, the guys looking for weapons.

    The next sound was me laughing my head off, followed by some choice words from them. After several minutes of laughing from all of use & threats of payback, we settled down around the fire for a while before hitting the sack. The next morning a few of them complained of not enough sleep due to noises in the bush. We did have a shower of rain during the night, not enough to make the roads slippery, but enough to wet the tents, which I hate packing up wet.

    Monday - Rocky Creek Mill to Home.

    Brekky around the fire & it was time to pack up & get on the road. We headed northeast on Pilliga Forest Way for around 20 km to Swaggers Bore (30.36.2558s 149.18.9653e), then east to Lanes Mill Rd (30.36.5805s 149.24.0394e) were we turned south, then east on Rutleys Rd (30.38.2467s 149.23.9876e) to Goldmine Rd (30.38.5617s 149.26.0431e) for 400 meters then southeast on Yarraman Rd (30.38.3704s 149.26.3038e) & followed it back to the Yarraman Rest Area on the Newell Highway. Directly across the highway is Beehive Rd which we followed to Garlands Crossing (30.42.1448s 149.33.9696e) which crosses Bohema Creek.

    Following Beehive Rd east to Mt Pleasant Rd (30.41.4239s 149.39.6506e), then north on an unnamed road for 100 meters, then east on Falnoo Trail before turning northeast on Falcon Trail (30.42.8479s 149.44.0561e) for about 6 km then southeast to join Warrumbungle Trail (30.40.4520s 149.45.4472e).


    Beehive Road & Falnoo Trail

    Mt Pleasant Rd, Falnoo & Falcon Trail are a little tight with scrub that might scratch your vehicle. An alternative is to continue on Beehive past Mt Pleasant Rd for another 10 km to Warrumbungle Trail (30.39.1809s 149.44.2059e)

    Pantons Lookout (30.41.4059s 149.47.6239e) was our last stop for the trip before heading home. There is a wobbly steel tower used as a lookout for fires in the Pilliga, with some great views back to where we had come from. From there it was south on Warrumbungle Trail to Scratch Rd (30.42.5742s 149.49.4297e) & 8 km north back to our entry point at Smithers Gate & along Caloola Rd to Boggabri where we parted ways.

    The trip from Boggabri & back was just over 300 km. A GPS or good maps & navigation skills are needed as there are many tracks & trails running through the area, some not marked on maps. Water is also scarce so take a good supply. I would avoid the Pilliga in the hotter months as wildfires are a regular event. Also not a place to be if heavy rain is forecast as the creeks become impassable & the tracks become very boggy.


    Might be best to check with National Parks & Wildlife in Barradine at the Pilliga Forest Discovery Center on (02) 6843 4011 or (02) 6843 1370 After hours emergency Contact hours: Open daily, 9am-4pm. (Closed Christmas Day) to check on road & fire conditions beforehand or visit the website. http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/...-national-park.

    A great three days with good company through some beautiful country.

    A PDF of the Pilliga area for download - https://my.pcloud.com/publink/show?c...LJpIGCRLVRKuDV
    "I would rather that my bones had been left to bleach in the desert than yielded an inch of ground I had gained at so much expence" - Charles Sturt 1845

  2. #2
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    Super trip report. My oldies used to live at Boggi and I knew there had to be a way over to the Newell through to the Eastern Piliga.
    The Caves on that side of the road are spectacular
    Last edited by Nick74; 22-06-17 at 05:25 PM.
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    Junior Member Ditch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nick74 View Post
    Super trip report. My oldies used to live at Boggi and I knew there had to be a way over to the Newell through to the Eastern Piliga.
    The Caves on that side of the road are spectacular
    Thanks Nick, stumbled on that access a few years ago, glad I found it, cuts out a lot of travelling & I reckon Pilliga East is the better area to explore.
    "I would rather that my bones had been left to bleach in the desert than yielded an inch of ground I had gained at so much expence" - Charles Sturt 1845

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    Excellent! A story about the Pilliga is nothing without a Yowie! Loved the CD player trick as well.

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    artheserenity Greg's Avatar
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    great trip report Ditch, it's an interesting place to visit. I must get over the other-side to Boggabri.
    Taking the road less traveled
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    Junior Member Ditch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shane_vor View Post
    Excellent! A story about the Pilliga is nothing without a Yowie! Loved the CD player trick as well.
    Thought a Yowie had me one night while camping alone. Turned it was a Mickey bull crashing through the scrub bellowing his head off. Put the wind up me that's for sure!

    Sent from my campfire using smoke signals.
    "I would rather that my bones had been left to bleach in the desert than yielded an inch of ground I had gained at so much expence" - Charles Sturt 1845

  7. #7
    Junior Member Ditch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greg View Post
    great trip report Ditch, it's an interesting place to visit. I must get over the other-side to Boggabri.
    Thanks Greg, pity the Santos gas project is starting to encroach into that area. Might be best to see it while you can.

    Sent from my campfire using smoke signals.
    "I would rather that my bones had been left to bleach in the desert than yielded an inch of ground I had gained at so much expence" - Charles Sturt 1845

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    Forum Enthusiast jtb2879's Avatar
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    Wow!

    That's spectacular country. Heard many stories, mostly around yowies, but I'll had this to the list of "we have to go there!" places for sure.
    On days like this I'd rather be west of the Darling!

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    Junior Member Ditch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jtb2879 View Post
    Wow!

    That's spectacular country. Heard many stories, mostly around yowies, but I'll had this to the list of "we have to go there!" places for sure.
    Sure is, I never get sick of exploring it. Couple of other places that we did not visit on this trip that might interest you.

    Sandstone Caves - just off the Newell Highway, although not signposted . Has some Aboriginal artwork (31.0.6152s 149.24.7676e)

    Pilliaga Pottery & Farmstay- A small gallery & Cafe also off the Newell, make great pizza`s from what I hear!. (31.2.6133s 149.19.0605e)
    "I would rather that my bones had been left to bleach in the desert than yielded an inch of ground I had gained at so much expence" - Charles Sturt 1845

  10. #10
    No, it doesn't leak oil. Redback's Avatar
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    Great report mate, the whole Central west of NSW and Nth too is such a great place to explore with so many untouched areas it's hard to pick where to start, I did alot of this area as a young fella on a motorcycle, I think you've inspired me to go back.
    Cheers Baz.

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