THE SNOWY RIVER, NSW/VIC

From sum­mit to sea, trac­ing this mighty river’s course is a re­ward­ing 4x4 ad­ven­ture.

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents -

Un­like many other iconic Aussie 4x4 treks, this one strad­dles the Great Di­vid­ing Range al­most mid-way be­tween Syd­ney and Mel­bourne. So for many peo­ple, get­ting there takes less than a day. The drive there is on bi­tu­men roads, so there’s no pun­ish­ment over thou­sands of kays of out­back dust and cor­ru­ga­tions just to get there.

But make no mis­take, as with any travel into ar­du­ous ter­rain, trip prepa­ra­tion should be thor­ough and with con­sid­er­a­tion of the con­di­tions. In this part of the coun­try it can snow any day of the year – yes, re­ally – and be­ing clay coun­try, more than a few min­utes of rain can turn tracks to soap, mean­ing you’re go­ing nowhere for a day or three.

SNOWY’S ORI­GIN

Our Snowy River trek be­gins with a visit to Thredbo. Es­tab­lished in the 1950s as a ski re­sort within the Kosciuszko Na­tional Park, Thredbo is a crackin’ lit­tle year-round hol­i­day vil­lage; it’s cer­tainly not a ghost town in sum­mer. It of­fers plenty of ac­com­mo­da­tion and – more our style – has camp­grounds within an easy 10-minute drive.

Thredbo’s Kosciuszko Ex­press Chair­lift pro­vides quick ac­cess from the vil­lage to the Snowy’s Main Range, where you can climb Mount Kosciuszko and be­gin your sum­mit-to-sea ad­ven­ture.

This rel­a­tively easy walk from the chair­lift is around 10km re­turn through some hardy alpine coun­try – some years it’s snow­bound for up to nine months – and al­lows you the op­por­tu­nity to see the high al­ti­tude mead­ows, sphag­num soaks and trick­les of wa­ter that are the ori­gins of the Snowy.

From Thredbo, it’s a 40-minute drive along the Alpine Way to Jind­abyne, but a worth­while ex­tra loop is to ex­plore the area be­tween Jind­abyne and Charlotte Pass. Also a ski re­sort and another kick-off point for hik­ing to Mount Kosciuszko (a 16km round trek up the old sec­tion of Kosciuszko Road now closed to ve­hi­cles) the look­out at Charlotte Pass gives a spec­tac­u­lar view of the Main Range and is a ter­rific place to watch the sun go down.

From the back of the Smiggin Holes re­sort carpark, a 5km dirt road takes you to­ward Mount Blue Cow and Guthega, two snow-ski ar­eas linked to Per­isher and close to Guthega (also known as Mun­yang) power sta­tion. Com­pleted in 1955, this is the first, high­est and small­est of the Snowy Scheme’s power

sta­tions. It’s fed wa­ter from a dam on the Snowy River just below Guthega Ski Re­sort (a short drive from the power sta­tion) and with views of the pipes that feed it, is an eas­ily vis­i­ble ex­am­ple of the in­cred­i­ble en­gi­neer­ing – dams, tun­nels, pipes and power sta­tions – of the Snowy Scheme that was built be­tween 1949 and 1974.

There’s camp­ing on the banks of the Snowy close to the site of Is­land Bend, a Snowy Scheme work­ers’ town in the 1950s. Un­for­tu­nately, the now cleared town site – once also a good place to camp – is now closed to public ac­cess due to as­bestos con­tam­i­na­tion. How­ever, there are al­ter­na­tive sites nearby and camp­ing is also avail­able at the car­a­van park at Saw­pit Creek.

Jind­abyne Dam is the rea­son old Jind­abyne now lies sunken be­neath the wa­ters of the Snowy a cou­ple of kays from the present town. The statue of Strz­elecki, a gift from the peo­ple of Poland to com­mem­o­rate his climb­ing and nam­ing of Mount Kosciuszko, gazes out over the lake.

If you have a bit of time,

you can take another day trip along the Snowy River Way to the graz­ing town of Dal­gety and have a beer at the pub – camp­ing is avail­able right next to the river.

THE RIVER RUNS DEEP

Jind­abyne is your last op­por­tu­nity to top-up tanks and tucker be­fore the ad­ven­ture con­tin­ues. Find the Barry Way out of Jind­abyne and you’ll soon be hug­ging the steep-sided val­ley as this twisty piece of dirt road again drops you to the Snowy.

Of course, grab 4WD in your ve­hi­cle at the end of the bi­tu­men (around half an hour out of town) and it’s a great idea to take a few

min­utes at the look­out near the be­gin­ning of the as­cent to drop tyre pres­sures – with no more bi­tu­men un­til close to the coast, they’ll stay that way for the next few days – and take in more of the re­gion’s com­mand­ing views.

The Snowy reap­pears just after its junc­tion with Ja­cobs River, where there’s a camp­ground. In fact, there are sev­eral camp­sites scat­tered along the banks of the Snowy as far as the bor­der, which you’ll cross (where the Barry Way on the NSW side be­comes the Snowy River Road) just be­fore climb­ing out of the val­ley away from the Snowy and to­ward Vic­to­ria’s higher graz­ing land.

There, you’ll take a sign­posted left turn to­ward Lit­tle River and Mckil­lops Bridge. The Lit­tle River Gorge is the deep­est in Vic­to­ria and the view of the wa­ter – a trickle when we’ve vis­ited – must be pretty good when it’s rag­ing through. From there the road again be­comes steep and nar­row, at first fol­low­ing the gorge, then hug­ging other val­ley sides as it quickly drops to the Snowy. It’s a nar­row, onelane, wind­ing, blind-cor­nered track that re­quires you to keep your eyes open for on­com­ing traf­fic. The blokes who built this road must have had genius, courage and tough­ness in equal parts.

Near the bot­tom of the

val­ley there’s a track lead­ing to Lit­tle River camp­site, close to its junc­tion with the Snowy. Fur­ther on, just be­fore the bridge that shares its name, is Mckil­lops Camp­ground, where there are fire­places, drop dun­nies and a few ar­eas to set up a camper trailer.

You will be able to cross the bridge and take a one-minute walk from the carpark to loll around in the Snowy (like we did) and won­der at what the spring­time floods would have been like be­fore the river was dammed up­stream at Jind­abyne 50 years ago.

IN LOW TO GET HIGH

Un­til it was re­cently dam­aged by heavy rain and closed – pos­si­bly per­ma­nently, ac­cord­ing to one lo­cal we chat­ted to – the Ded­dick Track be­gan its steep climb up the moun­tains al­most ad­ja­cent to the bridge. Since the land­slip, ac­cess to this track is via Colling Road and then Bowen Trail. From here you’ll be in low-range al­most im­me­di­ately. And, over the course of the day, you will as­cend the peaks and drop back into val­leys sev­eral times ex­plor­ing the stark ter­rain of quin­tes­sen­tial Snowy River coun­try.

Due to bush­fires open­ing up the land­scape in re­cent years, the views from the ridgetops are spec­tac­u­lar and it’s pos­si­ble to see far fur­ther than when the bush was thick. Fire is an eons-old cycli­cal char­ac­ter­is­tic of the Aussie bush, but the un­for­tu­nate amount of weeds we saw – in many places taller than our ve­hi­cles – isn’t.

A day’s tour­ing, much of it in low-range, through this ter­rain should have you fin­ish your day close to Moun­tain Creek, a trib­u­tary to the Snowy (like all wa­ter­courses around here!) and a great lit­tle place to camp. The banks of the creek of­fer a few flat but tight grassy ar­eas to roll out a swag, set up a tent or pop open a roof-top­per. If it’s warm, you can again wash off the dust by lan­guish­ing belly-deep on the peb­bly creek bot­tom with a cold drink, as we did. Iron­i­cally, you won’t see much of the Snowy it­self on this part of the trek as its course runs through gorges in­ac­ces­si­ble to ve­hi­cles.

CLIMB­ING THE STAIRS

We set up at Moun­tain Creek early and re­laxed for an ex­tra hour or two in the af­ter­noon, as we knew we weren’t far from Mount Joan Stair­case. This is a no­to­ri­ously steep sec­tion of track that climbs about 500m al­ti­tude in just a few kays.

We had been fore­warned by on-com­ing trav­ellers of the steep­ness of this sec­tion of track and that there were a few loose sec­tions dot­ted with bro­ken rock. Sure enough, it’s a track that leaves lit­tle room for er­ror. Rather than one

Mount Joan Stair­case is a no­to­ri­ously steep sec­tion of track that climbs 500m in just a few kays. It’s a track that leaves lit­tle room for er­ror

pun­ish­ing run, it can be driven in stages, as there are sev­eral flat ar­eas be­tween the steep sec­tions where you can prop or wait for on­com­ing traf­fic to pass. Track­side signs sug­gest you ra­dio for on­com­ing traf­fic be­fore you com­mit to the climb. It’s good ad­vice.

Once Mount Joan has been climbed, you’ll hit gen­eral forestry tracks for about 15km un­til the end of the Ded­dick Track. From here on, you’ll be driv­ing on bet­ter-es­tab­lished Yalmy Road as you grad­u­ally lose el­e­va­tion through equally stun­ning coun­try.

There’s another op­por­tu­nity to splash in the Snowy at Jack­son Cross­ing. We didn’t stay, but there’s good Snowy-side camp­ing in this area, too; the river banks are wide, but the ap­proach track was quite over-grown when we vis­ited. Cross­ing the river here can get you out to the Buchan Road.

Our camp­ground for the evening was at the site ad­ja­cent to Ray­mond Creek Falls. With its an­cient Kim­ber­ley-like blood-red rock, it’s a worth­while walk and there’s a rock pool.

Con­tin­u­ing south, the Gar­net Track me­an­ders through for­est from Ray­mond Falls, grad­u­ally drop­ping to more open coun­try to­ward the coast. There’s Snowy-side camp­ing avail­able at Wood Point, around 20 min­utes from Or­bost.

The Snowy meets the sea at Marlo, not far from Or­bost, and a beer at Marlo Ho­tel is a great fin­ish to the Snowy River’s mighty 351km course.

WORDS AND PHO­TOS GLENN TOR­RENS

Bush­fires have opened up the views in re­cent years.

GT’S Hilux, Mazda BT-50 and Colorado LS were up to the task.

Ray­mond Falls is a good place for a dip near the south­ern end of the trek.

The source of the Snowy is high up on the flanks of Mt Kosciusko, Aus­tralia’s high­est peak.

There’s plenty of val­ley-to-peak ter­rain on this trek.

The Snowy me­an­ders through sheep coun­try near Dal­gety, NSW.

Noth­ing likes river cross­ings more than GT’S cus­tom Hilux.

The Snowy has been choked by al­lu­vial sand de­posits.

Mckil­lops Bridge in Vic­to­ria has sur­vived the el­e­ments.

High Coun­try road clo­sures can af­fect trek plans.

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