HAUNTED STREAM TRACK, VIC

THE EERIE HAUNTED STREAM TRACK IN VIC­TO­RIA’S SPEC­TAC­U­LAR HIGH COUN­TRY BOASTS ONE OF THE MOST GOOSEBUMP IN­DUC­ING TRAILS.

4 x 4 Australia - - Contest - WORDS AND PHO­TOS ROBERT NOR­MAN

TOBOG­GAN­ING DOWN­HILL FROM THE WEST WAS A BET­TER OP­TION THAN CLIMB­ING SLIP­PERY SLOPES

LO­CATED some 30km south of Omeo in the heart of Vic­to­ria’s scenic High Coun­try, the Haunted Stream Track re­opened late in 2017 af­ter be­ing closed for two years as a re­sult of dam­age caused by ir­re­spon­si­ble driv­ers.

While the eastern end of the Haunted Stream Track runs off the Great Alpine Road near En­say – 60km down the bi­tu­men from Omeo – the scenic route is via Cas­silis through the bush to the track’s western end. When check­ing con­di­tions with the lo­cal of­fice of DELWP (Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­ment, Land, Wa­ter and Plan­ning) be­fore mak­ing this trip, their rec­om­mended op­tion was to en­ter from the western (Daw­son City) end of the track. Part of the re­pairs DELWP had un­der­taken in­volved re­build­ing a short up­hill sec­tion com­pris­ing prin­ci­pally yel­low clay. With a fore­cast for thun­der­storms, the rangers sug­gested that, if it be­came wet, this sec­tion would prob­a­bly only be con­quered with the use of a winch, and so tobog­gan­ing down­hill from the west was per­haps a bet­ter op­tion than try­ing to climb that slip­pery slope from the east.

From Omeo the jour­ney to the Haunted Stream passes the Cas­silis His­tor­i­cal Area, 20km south of Omeo. A busy gold­min­ing cen­tre in the late 1800s, lit­tle re­mains to­day of that ac­tiv­ity, and Cas­silis is just a scat­ter­ing of farms and small ru­ral life­style al­lot­ments. When pass­ing through Cas­silis it’s worth check­ing out the King Cas­silis Mine ru­ins, with its scat­ter­ing of

THE HAUNTED STREAM TRACK TAKES ABOUT 2.5 HOURS AND HAS 54 RIVER CROSS­INGS

relics, in­clud­ing old ve­hi­cle bod­ies and rem­nants of ore-pro­cess­ing ma­chin­ery.

From Cas­silis, the well-made gravel Mt Delu­sion Road winds through the for­est be­fore pick­ing up Brook­vale Road and then An­gora Road, from where Daw­son City Track de­scends steeply to the Haunted Stream in the val­ley be­low. The tracks through are gen­er­ally in ex­cel­lent con­di­tion, be­ing well-main­tained to sup­port the sig­nif­i­cant log­ging ac­tiv­ity un­der­taken in the area.

Daw­son City Track was bull­dozed prior to its re-open­ing, mak­ing what had been a rough and rocky de­scent much less so. Un­doubt­edly, with its large sec­tions of yel­low clay, once it has seen some use and copped some rain it is likely to re­vert to its for­mer self. Even as it is, this track would make for an ‘in­ter­est­ing’ drive af­ter rain­fall.

The Daw­son City Camp­ground is a grassy area large enough to ac­com­mo­date three or four ve­hi­cles. It’s ar­guably bet­ter than the other cou­ple of camp­ing ar­eas along the Haunted Stream, so any­one plan­ning to use it for an overnight stay should get there early or risk miss­ing out. The thick for­est and steep hill­sides that sur­round Daw­son City make it hard to en­vis­age that this was once the site of a town­ship with a pop­u­la­tion of 3000.

The Haunted Stream Track takes about two-and-a-half hours to com­plete and has 54 river cross­ings, where small trout can reg­u­larly be seen skit­ter­ing through the shal­low, crys­tal-clear wa­ter. Many of the wa­ter cross­ings have steep en­try and exit points, with clear­ance-chal­leng­ing rocks thrown in for good mea­sure. Pot­holes and deep wheel ruts also con­tribute to the slow go­ing. Any­one with a shiny, new 4x4 should ex­pect a few scratches by the end of the jour­ney, given thick bush en­croaches on the nar­row track in places.

Other min­ing towns sprang up along

the river, but, like Daw­son City, apart from the rust­ing re­mains of an old ore crusher along­side the track at Dog­town and a dry stone wall at Stir­ling, there is lit­tle ob­vi­ous ev­i­dence of the area’s his­tory. How­ever, walk into the sur­round­ing bush (with care given to the nu­mer­ous un­marked dig­gings through­out the area) and the rem­nants of wa­ter races and other min­ing ac­tiv­ity can read­ily be seen. Down a short side track near Stir­ling, the site of the Vic­to­ria Mine makes for an in­ter­est­ing stop.

The last leg of the jour­ney from Stir­ling to the high­way sees the nar­row track cut into the steep hill­side, high above the river be­low. With lim­ited op­por­tu­nity for ap­proach­ing ve­hi­cles to pass, this would be a ma­noeu­vre best avoided if at all pos­si­ble. The track even­tu­ally leaves the State For­est and passes through pri­vate farm­land, be­fore ex­it­ing onto the high­way.

DELWP’S warn­ing about the clay sec­tion near Stir­ling proved to be un­nec­es­sary, as the storms stayed away. How­ever, it and an­other nearby steep, slip­pery ap­proach to the river would cer­tainly present chal­lenges af­ter sig­nif­i­cant rain. That said, the Haunted Stream is prob­a­bly not a place to be in the wet. A sig­nif­i­cant black earth sec­tion near Dog­town was al­ready deeply rut­ted, even though the track had only been open for a cou­ple of weeks. It would seem quite likely that, with­out due care and re­spon­si­bil­ity ex­hib­ited by users of the track, it may soon be­come, once again, im­pass­able and closed to the pub­lic – per­haps per­ma­nently next time.

A few years ago we took a Tvan Camper on this very same trip, so it’s pos­si­ble (but

not nec­es­sar­ily rec­om­mended) to tow a camper along the Haunted Stream. The track is nar­row with lim­ited op­por­tu­ni­ties for over­tak­ing, but, in the com­pany of oth­ers, with an ap­pro­pri­ate 4x4 and an ex­pe­ri­enced driver, in dry con­di­tions, tow­ing a small off-road camper would not be an im­pos­si­ble task.

The quick­est route from Mel­bourne to the Haunted Stream is via the A1 to Bairns­dale and then north on the Great Alpine Road. The more scenic route is via Mt Hotham, where stun­ning panoramic views of blue moun­tain ranges stretch­ing into the dis­tance make it easy to un­der­stand why this part of Vic­to­ria is called the High Coun­try.

The Haunted Stream of­fers a mildly chal­leng­ing 4x4 drive, great scenery and se­cluded camp­ing along a trout-filled stream. It’s a great des­ti­na­tion for the en­tire fam­ily and, be­ing in the State For­est, the furry, four-footed fam­ily mem­bers of the ca­nine per­sua­sion can come along as well.

THE MORE SCENIC ROUTE FROM MEL­BOURNE IS VIA MT HOTHAM, WITH STUN­NING MOUN­TAIN VIEWS

Daw­son City camp­ing area is only large enough for a few ve­hi­cles.

Stone foun­da­tions at Stir­ling are all that re­main of this once thriv­ing gold town.

Be­ing a State For­est, the Haunted Stream is ca­nine friendly.

Panoramic views of the High Coun­try, from Mount Hotham.

Fi­nally... day­light. Part of the Vic­to­ria Mine at Stir­ling.

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