Would you like to discover a great place to walk and camp with river, a small water fall, and rock overhang with a cave-and to cap it all off-linger over stunning views and scenery? I had heard of a place many years ago and decided to take a look when passing the Mitchell River National Park. If you have some time when heading to Lakes Entrance, check-it-out.
A place of spiritual importance for Indigenous women
The Mitchell River is located west of Licola, the gateway to 4WD mecca, the Avon Wilderness (a hidden location where Avon sales people retire) and east of the Tambo and Snowy Rivers-still lost? Here is the Parks-Web page and a map. The main road that passes the National Park leads to Dargo, which is the Walnut capital of Australia. The drive through dry messmate forests is exciting along windy roads through rugged mountainous terrain-with river views and endless forests. Farms are strung along narrow valley floors and around the occasional towns in this district. The national park is heritage listed and is one of Victoria's better preserved areas, forming a 260km river system flowing into the Gippsland Lakes.
Access to the Den of Nargun is easy enough by conventional cars, but take it slow as the road is a little washed out in places. There is a picnic ground which is well appointed with picnic tables and some are sheltered-gas barbeques and fire places, and amenities-all located adjacent the start of the loop walk.
Wild flowers and interesting plants often brighten the walking paths
The dream-time story of the Den of Nargun is that the cave was inhabited by a fierce creature that was half human and half stone, and would drag unwary travellers or even children into the cave. Stories were told that Nargun could not be harmed by boomerang or spear, and these weapons were reflected back upon those who used them.
The Den of Nargun was used as a special place for women of the Gunaikurnai Indigenous communities, and the fact is it was used for women's initiation and learning ceremonies rather than being the home to a fierce and fearsome beast. Perhaps these ideas kept children and people away from this important place with spiritual purpose. Here is link for more information about the Den.
The walk through the forest and narrow valleys to the Den culminates in a fern gully of veritable green, and a rock scamble leading to the star attraction. The place has a special feel and is quite a memorable site. Access to the cave is prohibited for respect of the Indigenous people who share this special place. The waterfall is fed by Woolshed Creek, a small tributary of the Mitchell River. The area is teeming with wildlife and you may come across eastern water dragons, lace monitors and coppper-tailed skinks. The bird species include swift parrots, glossy black cockatoos, peregrine falcons, wedge-tailed eagles, powerful owls and many more. The recorded mammals include 25 species, including 6 endangered species such as the smoky mouse, spot-tailed quoll, and common bent-wing bat (or should that be the less-than common bent-wing bat) .
In places cliffs line walking trails to the Den of Nargun
The loop track around the Mitchell River gorge area, is quite steep in places. You can manage in runners but walking boots are by far the best policy, especially after rains. You will find wildflowers and ferns along the way. Some of the best fern gullies I have seen are located in the district. The loop is a 5km, 1.5 hour return walk and requires a moderate level of fitness.
Follow the signs for cliff top views of the Mitchell River
The 18km Mitchell River Walking Track is best completed in 2 days or a day for fitter, distance walkers, and commences at the Angusvale camp area to the north. South of the Den is Weir Lane and Old Weir Track, which runs to the remnants of a Glenaladale Weir- which was constructed around 1892-1893.
For those who wish to camp nearby, Billy Goat Bend Camp area near the cliff top walk over the Mitchell River Gorge, is a lovely little area for a few small groups. It has picnic tables and is a peaceful spot. You will need to be more self sufficient here, there are no other amenities. The cliff top lookout over the gorge and rock pools is spectacular. Just try not to sleep walk too much. To find Billy Goat Bend from the Den of Nargun, return along Wallers road for about a 1.5 to 2 kilometres and turn right on Park Road, turn right about 3 kilometres further and follow to the end (this is Goat Bend Road).
Another option if you want to mix with other campers and families, is the Echo Bend camp area, which is a well run camp ground with all amenities and a kiosk. The grounds are lush and green most of the year and there is plenty of room for the kids to run and roam safely. The proprietors are Julie and Geoff Webb, and can be contacted by email; firstname.lastname@example.org or phone; 03 5157 6317. The camp area address is 345 Dunbars Rd, Glenaladale, 3862. To find the National Park, turn off after Stratford or if coming from the Lakes, head north through Lindenow after Barirnsdale.
The full list of facilities include powered sites, onsite vans, a picnic area, and playground, barbeque facilities, refreshments in the Bark Hut kiosk. Other activities that are available in the area include white water rafting expeditions, and horse trail rides. The Mitchell River is well known for white water kayaking too. Onsite vans cost $60.00 per night for 2 adults in 6 berth vans and it is $8.00 for extra adults and $6.00 per child under 15. Powered sites are $28.00 per night for 2 adults, and $8.00 per extra adult-and $4.00 per child under 15. Children under 5 are free and for groups of 10 or more, there is a flat rate of $8.00 per head per night. Laundry services are free.
Indigenous culturally significant places in Gippsland
Other activities around the area include trail rides, white water rafting and Indigenous Cultural Tours.
Coonawarra Trail Rides is run by Ron and Anne Rees, and they run short and longer trail rides, over night trail rides and programs to develop horsemanship. Trail rides start at $45.00 for a minimum of 2 people for 1 hour-and range upward to $310 for catered half day/overnight tours. Contact Ron and Anne for specific horsemanship training requirements. There is a well-fitted-out hut on the property and accommodation can be arranged or is part of the overnight catered rides. You will find all details here.
Gippsland Kayak Tours cover the Gippsland Lakes and the Gippsland rivers too. There regular lake tours range in price from $45.00 per person (for flat water on the Mitchell near the lakes) to $150.00 per person, and contact them for whitewater tour prices. See there website for more information.
Learn about the Bataluk Cultural Trail and enquire about Indigenous cultural tours. There were a number of Indigenous communities living throughout Gippsland and the tours will teach you about their harmonious ways, sacred sites and way of life. It certainly adds more fascination to such a beautiful region. When will you spend some time in the east?