Alongside the historic gold town of Beechworth in the state’s north-east, a steep gorge cuts deep through the granite. As the gorge falls away from the township, the water plays along a series of natural waterfalls and human-made races and sluices - scars from another century.
Though many parts of the gorge are accessible for walks and swims, a wonderful place to escape the summer heat is Woolshed Falls, six kilometres out of town.
Less than 100m from the carpark you will find the falls, water cascading across a wide granite slope and pooling at intervals into convenient little spas. Lose your shoes and take your time walking carefully down the slope to find yourself a pool to sink into.
With a broad-brimmed hat and a shirt to protect you from the sun, you can rest in a private pool and turn your attention to the little skinks and dragons scampering across the rock faces. Charming little Southern Water Skinks slink and dart around by turns, ambushing or chasing down native flies and wasps. Well-accustomed to the presence of swimmers, they will come close in their foraging and clamber all over your towels, even using them to hide in. During a walk along the woodland tracks, quick Jacky Dragons may reveal themselves, scattering away from your feet. With camouflage this good, they need to be quick to avoid being trodden on.
Thousands of miners lived in this small area during the mid to late 1800s when the region was in the thick of the gold rush. Signs describe the massive earthworks that went on here, redirecting the course of the creek by carving deep scores into the hillside. While the valley played host to the workers’ tents and lodgings, almost every tree was felled. The woodland that stands here today sprang up to cover all but the most permanent traces of the miners, showing an amazing recovery over the last century. Here, you will find a woodland dominated by Callitris native pines and three eucalypts – Red Stringybark, Red Box and River Red Gum. Along the paths, Goodenia, lilies and orchids may be found.
In summer, the woods ring with the buzz of various cicadas, and common brown butterflies fill the air. In the crevices across the falls, the pretty Austral Stork’s Bill clusters while dragonflies and several types of jewel-like native wasps flit around in search of prey. The melodious calls of Rufous Whistler and Grey-shrike Thrush are welcome company as White-throated Treecreepers cling to the trunks and small birds like Yellow Thornbills and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters play in the canopy.
Undoubtedly in winter, the splashing sounds of summer will be replaced with the calls of scores of native honeyeaters, chasing the winter flowering. The falls will be no less beautiful, and the relief of sinking into a cool pool will be replaced with the relief of visiting in the peace of the off-season.
This walk will please those seeking nature, a swim, gorgeous views, and a peek into the historic gold rush era. Though the falls can become busy in the summer, the natural pools spread people out and ensure you can always find somewhere cool to escape.
- Located six kilometres from Beechworth in Victoria's north-east.
- Cool down in summer by taking a dip in the small pools surrounding the falls.
- Gold rush history
- A variety of reptile and bird species.
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Cathy is a PhD student and science communicator with a passion for natural history, environmental engagement and photography. When she isn't running the Remember The Wild social media, you'll find her working with little penguins on Phillip Island or underwater somewhere.
You can find her on Twitter at @CavalloDelMare
Banner image courtesy of Cathy Cavallo.