ON A CLEAR DAY
Unforgettable views are just the start at Power’s Lookout.
Unforgettable views are just the start at Powers Lookout.
HIGH up in the tree line above Tolmie, a granite outcrop known as Power’s Lookout provides one of the most spectacular views in the Alpine region. Power’s Lookout Scenic Reserve is a perfect destination to take a break from touring the wineries and gastronomic delights of the nearby King Valley, or if en-route to the popular tourist town of Mansfield.
A walking track with a series of steep ladders provides the opportunity to climb to a viewing point at the most northern point of this rocky outcrop. The reserve is mostly mixed eucalypt forest with narrow-leaf peppermint and broad-leaf peppermint the predominant species. They can be identified by their slightly rough, grey bark and as their names suggest, by the width of their leaves. When crushed, the leaves smell of eucalyptus mixed with peppermint.
Another common eucalypt is Red Stringybark. This species has rough grey stringy bark. The understorey species include Silver Wattle, Blackwood Wattle, Hazel Pomaderris, Dogwood, Tussock Grass and various herbs. The rocky outcrops support species such as Common Fringe Myrtle and Burgeon. The reserve is accessed off the Mansfield-whitfield Road between Whitfield and Tolmie and it’s just over a one hour drive from Wangaratta. For Chris Clarke, Parks Victoria ranger team leader, there is something for everyone at Power’s Lookout.
“At this time of year you can see incredible wildflowers, birdlife - you can even catch a glimpse of wedge-tailed eagles in flight,” he said.
“There are two viewing platforms to provide a safe view, including one near the carpark, which also has wheelchair access, and another one around 150m along a stone walkway where you go up and down a bit to a stone rock pedestal. You can also find extensive information about the area on panels at the site.”
Parks Victoria acknowledges the Aboriginal Traditional Owners of Victoria - including its parks and reserves, and through their cultural traditions, the Taungurung identify the Power’s Lookout reserve as their Traditional Country.
But Power’s Lookout could also be called a bushranger’s lasting legacy. It’s named after Henry ‘Harry’ Power, the most notorious bushranger in the colony before Ned Kelly. In fact it has long been rumoured that Ned Kelly was first inspired by Power’s bushranging life when he was apprenticed to the older man as an impressionable teenager. The Irishman was sent to the colonies for stealing a pair of shoes but didn’t seem to learn his lesson and after being pardoned he continued to spend time in and out of jail - apparently trying to ‘toe the line of the law’ but often finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.
As a middle aged man, he earnt himself the nickname of the Gentleman Bushranger claiming to have robbed 600 coaches on the road from Mansfield in one year. He was a household name at the ripe old age of 50 and met a number of Ned Kelly’s uncles in jail, and through them met Ellen Kelly - nee Quinn.
The Quinns owned a large property in the King Valley, and agreed to let Power build his base camp on the escarpment high up in the hills, letting him overlook the valley below. It is said the only access to the lookout was across a small bridge on the Quinns’ property, a peacock always on guard to alert those nearby that strangers were near. The lookout would be both Power’s strength, and ultimately his downfall.
The hidden location, with its expansive views, meant he was able to disappear at will, safe from surprises. However, a 500 pound bounty on Power’s head saw him betrayed by the very family who had offered him sanctuary. James Quinn, Ned Kelly’s grandfather, claimed the reward and led police to his hideout.
Power was once again in prison, sentenced to 15 years, but still charming despite the weathering of years and outdoor life. With his health failing, he was championed by a group of Melbourne women who petitioned, and successfully achieved, his release. Power was released from jail in 1885 and worked as a private gardener, leading an honest life for six years until he drowned in the Murray River at Swan Hill in 1891.
Today, Power’s Lookout is all that remains of the man that was as quick to steal your heart as he was your valuables.