KOWEN FOREST, A.C.T.
CREEKS, WATERFALLS AND NATIVE FOREST
Kowen Forest is not known for good bushwalking. It is a large commercial pine plantation just a few kilometres to the east of the Canberra CBD, just past the airport, and is criss-crossed by logging tracks and fire trails through the pines. It is more often used by cyclists and for car rallies. In the warmer months it is hot, uninteresting, harsh country. Apart from the foot pad running for 3 km alongside the Molonglo River through the Molonglo Gorge, it is more or less shunned by walkers.
Despite the negatives, Linda did some exploratory work on Google Earth and came up with a possible walk of about 8 km along two creeks (down one and up the next) through native vegetation. She put this on as a club walk in June 2016. It was on one of those incredible Canberra winter days : the temperature range was -5°c to 8°. There was a heavy frost and even the high trees were white. Because we were in fairly deep-cut valleys we didn’t see the sun until about 10 am. But as usual on such days, there was a deep blue, crystal clear, cloudless sky and not a breath of wind. As a result, it felt quite warm in the sun at lunch time on Mt Reedy, where we sprawled lazily on the ground for a while. This is, however, a winter walk. In the warmer months it would be too hot and harsh and there would be very little water, if any, in these creeks. I suspect that the waterfalls then would be dry.
I was so delighted with this walk that I put it on again for the usual Wednesday, inter-club, walk on 3 August. It was not as cold, the sun was higher in the sky and there had been quite a lot of recent rain. We met at the intersection of the Kowen and Molonglo Gorge roads where we left some cars as we would be ending up there. We then travelled another 5 km from there, up Sutton Road. It was another superb Canberra morning. We crossed the road and started our climb up the hill through lovely, open native forest, sparkling in the low sunlight. At the top of the hill we crossed a fire trail to drop down to our first creek, close to its source. We descended through lovely open forest, the sunlight catching the white trunks of some of the Eucalypts. Lichens and emerald green mosses caught our interest.
We followed this first creek nearly down to Sutton Road. To begin with the valley sides were close and steep and, near to the creek, were covered in scrub. We proceeded down the creek bed itself. It was a lovely stream flanked by occasional rock outcrops, burbling through mini-gorges and with numerous small cascades and pools. A lovely spot. After the heat of summer the lichens had rejuvenated and the mosses glowed greenly and brilliantly. Good footwork was needed as was balance.
Eventually the stream swung back towards Sutton Road, where the left hand ridge ended. At this point we ascended the next ridge, crossed a fire trail and descended very steeply to the next creek where we had morning tea.
To my surprise, this creek was in flood. On the June walk we had managed to walk virtually up the creek bed, but today we often had to find our way up one side or the other of the steep-sided valley, sometimes through quite dense scrub. The bonus, however, was the waterfalls which now were more numerous and carrying a great deal more water than in June.
Unfortunately, however, we were unable to do the interesting rock scramble up beside one waterfall. Because of the terrain and the flooded creek just below the fall we found ourselves on the wrong side of the creek. From where we were, it was quite impossible to cross to the other side of the fall and do the scramble. Next time! This time, we had to content ourselves with a steep ascent through the bush to get above the waterfall.
We had lunch at the first major creek coming in on our right (true left bank) sitting up quite high above the river with a nice view of more falls ahead up the main creek. It was a beautiful day and warm in the sun. No one was in a hurry to move on. I had intended to continue up the main creek for a while before curving back again along the ridge tops, but this would have added another 800 metres (straight line, on the map) and possibly another hour of walking. Since we had 2-3 in the party who who were tiring and very slow I decided to omit this loop. We continued up the tributary creek we were on for a short while before contouring around a long ridge and then making for Mt Reedy, keeping all the time to native forest. Unfortunately we came across a lot of litter here , including the very old remains of a car.
At Mt Reedy we found the two posts marking the old trig station, and, in the ground between them, a plate proclaiming the fact.
From Mt Reedy we dropped down into a most attractive little creek but which carried little water.
When we came to a tributary creek coming in from the left, we went up it to look at another small waterfall and then climbed up onto the ridge which then led us back to the cars.
All in all, a most enjoyable day.
I would place this walk in the medium/hard category. It is all off-track and good off-track walking ability is needed. One needs good balance too. Often one is walking over wet, slippery and loose rocks. Rock scrambling is needed in places and in places there are short but steep ascents as well as quite thick scrub. With less water in the second creek it would be possible to avoid much of the scrub by being able to walk up the creek bed itself.