In the mid 1800s gold was discovered and mined in the area now covered by Lerderderg State Park, about an hour’s drive north-west of Melbourne.
While it was nearly 200 years ago, there are still plenty of signs of this early activity, although with the bush regrowth, it’s hard to imagine thousands of people were here, toiling away trying to strike it rich.
I’ve written before how much I like Lerderderg. The gorge and river, the steep-sided hills, the forest, the calls of birds and rustle of grass as a wallaby bounds away, all combine to create a nice wilderness feel, just a short drive away from a city of just over four million people.
Anyway, every time I go there, there’s something new to discover.
I went recently and this time wanted to explore a mine tunnel I’d often passed and another tunnel I’d seen signs for and heard about.
I’d brought a headlamp and was prepared.
The first tunnel is right beside the main walking track from the little town of Blackwood, where I’d started from.
There’s light for about 20 metres until it turns right and then it’s utter darkness.
With my headlamp I walked in and started looking around. The floor was soft dirt and the walls hard, cut rock. I paid close attention to the roof, watching for bats. There weren’t any. The tunnel went into the side of the hill for only about 75 metres before it just ended in rock. A bit anti-climactic but at least I now know what’s in there.
The other tunnel is down on the river. It looks like it was dug through the side of a hill to divert the river. A long bend further down from the tunnel is now dry.
The tunnel entrance is blocked by debris that the river runs under but is clear on the other side. It’s an impressive bit of work and, according to Wikipedia, was done to expose the river bed for alluvial gold mining.
It’s now a peaceful part of the river and makes a wonderful spot for lunch. On a hot day it would be an ideal place to sit in the river and let the water cool you down.
There was a track from here that wasn’t on my map that I thought I’d explore. It headed in the direction of some dirt roads that were marked on the map, so figured they must link up at some point.
If they didn’t, I thought, I’d just turn around and come back the way I came.
But they did and I followed the dirt roads back to Blackwood where I stopped to taste the waters at the town’s mineral spring. (Spritzy but like drinking out of a rusty pipe)