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GPS coordinates -36.646502 145.026763
|3-4 hours (bushwalking)|
|Alternative Recreational Uses|
|Birdwatching, mountain biking, photographing, picnicking, orienteering and driving (on formed roads only). Prospecting and fossicking require a Miner’s Right.
Motor bikes / 4WDs must be registered, riders / drivers licensed & stay on formed roads.
|Wildflowers in spring and autumn. Muddy tracks in winter. Very hot and dry in summer.|
|The Information Centre is permanently closed.
Signs and trail markers may be damaged Unauthorised and poorly defined tracks and trails exist. Take care not to get lost! No potable water is available.
No pets. Take your rubbish with you.
Grass trees are vulnerable to cinnamon fungus transfer: keep to formed roads and tracks.
|Car parking, public toilets, picnic tables, fire grates, interpretive signs, trail markers and camping|
|Management and Support Groups|
To access the Whroo Historic Area, drive through the Rushworth State Forest via the Rushworth – Nagambie Rd. 7km south of Rushworth Township, turn left into Reedy Creek Rd. The central car park with public toilets is 0.5km from this intersection on the right.
This is often a quiet, empty place of bushland, native flora and fauna. Exploration of the Whroo Historic Trail unearths evidence of a different, busy, crowded and culturally significant past. The open cut of the impressive Balaclava Mine marks one end of the journey. Remnants of Victoria’s gold rush era can be discovered all along the way. Underground storage tanks, mining shafts and tunnels, building rubble and foundations, century old rubbish dumps and gold mining infrastructure comprise an historic treasure trove. Once spring fed Aboriginal rock wells close these historic trail loops.
You can enter the trail loops at any point. However, the sizable central car park with picnic and toilet facilities is probably the most convenient place to start and finish.
Head uphill to the right of the public toilets to join the Balaclava Mine section of the trail. The trail is well-defined, being constructed of a crushed quartz and gravel surface. Be wary, the gravel can slip. There are 2 viewing points into the open cut. Watch out for locked gated tunnels through the hill. The larger was for a tramline. Access into the open cut is now prohibited due to the high risk of rock falls.
After you pass the second viewing point, cross nearby Rushworth – Nagambie Rd to see the original battery dam. If you are lucky, you may see tortoise on the bank. Fish live in this water.
There is great mountain biking below the dam wall. Procced downhill parallel to the road while looking across the road to your left. Cross the road to the first trail on your left to rejoin the Balaclava Mine loop. You will return to the central car park via mullock heaps and the site of the Lewis homestead.
Once back at the central car park, this time head downhill, towards Whroo Cemetery. Keep to the left of the open grassy space you initially traverse. Imagine it humming with the sounds of a 10,000 strong population. Take care, like this space, some walking trails may not be well defined due to variable local conditions. You will arrive at a dirt road. Head along the road to your right to resume the trail on the opposite side, beside Poor Man’s Gully. Observe the mullock heaps of gold mining detritus as you pass by.
You will come to Cemetery Road. Cross here to follow the cemetery driveway into the cemetery itself. There are 400 graves here, many unmarked. Take time to reflect on the timing and causes of death in gold rush Whroo.
The next stop will be the Aboriginal waterholes. Follow the trail behind the cemetery around the base of the nearby low hill to the left of the cemetery. Passing through stands of grass trees, you will come to an intersection. Follow the trail marker on your left pointing up the hill. Cross the next dirt road to the ramp that leads to the waterholes.
Return back down the same trail section to the intersection and turn left to resume the trail. This will now run parallel with Reedy Lake Rd until it reaches Cemetery Rd. Cross to the picnic tables on the corner. To return to the central car park, continue uphill parallel to Reedy Lake Rd. You have completed your trail loops.
- Visit the puddling machine and cyanide vats 300m south of the Balaclava Battery Dam along the Rushworth – Nagambie Rd.
- Follow the track opposite the Balaclava Mine on Reedy Creek Rd up and behind Malakoff Hill. Then travel downhill along Surface Hill Gully for 300m. Turn right to head back towards the central car park.
- Free camping is available at Green’s Camping Ground on Green’s Rd.
Topography and Geology
Of the undulating rises to low hills, Balaclava Hill is the highest point in the Whroo district. It was a very rich mine. During the Silurian period, an intensely heated earth’s crust beneath the gold fields pushed volcanic rocks into extremely-hot salty water. As the water moved closer to the surface and cooled, gold crystallised out with quartz. 600 million years later, this resulted in a 19th century fortune of more than £1,000,000 from quartz bearing gold veins of up to 15cm across. Whroo goldfields are estimated to have produced 40,000 ounces of gold.
Whroo Historic Area comprises 490 hectares within the world’s largest ironbark forest of 24,300 hectares. The forest itself harbours a canopy of red and mugga ironbark, grey box, yellow box, white box and red stringy bark. The mid story contains grass trees, blackwood, golden wattle, spreading wattle, casuarina, melaleuca and dogwood. There are occasional patches of mallee. The understory consists of grevillia, drooping cassinia and bush pea. A ground layer of native grasses, woodland flowers including orchids and bulbous plants completes a unique native bush landscape.
Kangaroos, wallabies, yellow footed antechinus, brush tailed phascogale, squirrel glider, common dunnart, legless lizards, tree goannas and tortoise may be spotted. Particularly, if you choose to camp overnight.
Rushworth State Forest is listed as an eBird Australia hotspot with records of 150 species, including the powerful owl and threatened swift parrot.
The Nguraililam-wurrung aboriginal people used ironbark forest timber to fashion canoes, hunting implements and construct shelters. Ironbark blossom made a sweet beverage. The name “Whroo” is said to come for the word meaning lips. This was a reference to the aboriginal watering holes in the area.
Gold was discovered in Rushworth in 1853. In 1854, a gold nugget was discovered in grass at Balaclava Hill by John Lewis and James Nickinson. The consequent goldrush lasted much of the decade, recurrently bringing thousands to try their luck. Gold mining began with alluvial diggings, proceeding to open cut methods as alluvial returns diminished. By 1860, a population of just 450 remained. The Balaclava Hill Mine continued to be productive until it was shut down in the 1870s due to water management problems. However, shafts have been mined since. The last active shaft was filled by the Mines Department in the 1960s.
In its time, the Whroo township accommodated a Mechanic’s Institute, a state school, a post office, a savings bank, a free library, 2 churches, 3 ore crushing mills, 3 hotels and a cordial factory. 139 buildings were still present in 1871.
Rumour has it Ned Kelly and his gang visited the area. Prior to anticipated trouble with the local constabulary, it is said a cache of Kelly gold was stashed in the area and never found again …..
Whroo cemetery reflects the undiscriminating difficulties of life in a harsh environment, where neither age, nationality, culture nor religion provided protection. Chinese miners make up 15% of those buried. They were a significant part of the community as miners, for operating puddling machines and growing market gardens.
However, by the 1920s ironbark timber cutting was the principal remaining industry. By 1933 the population had fallen to just 52. By 1955, Whroo was a ghost town.
In case of emergency
Melville’s Lookout Track
Distance, Grading and Cautions
|3 – 4 hours bushwalking|
|Alternative Recreational Uses|
|This is a good location for multi recreational use: bushwalking, mountain bikes, orienteering, rogaining and driving (on formed roads only)
Horse riding, motor bikes and 4WDs are only permitted on formed roads.
|Wildflowers in autumn and spring. Muddy tracks in winter. Very hot and dry in summer.|
|Grass trees are vulnerable to cinnamon fungus transfer: keep to formed roads and tracks.
Unauthorised tracks exist. Take care not to get lost!
No pets or firearms. No drones without a permit.
Rough ground, snakes, falling limbs, no potable water.
|Picnic tables and fire grates at the Lookout|
|Management and Support Groups|
Embark from and return to the carpark (of sorts) on the corner of Mt Black Quarry Rd and Heathcote Nagambie Rd., Wirrate.
The main part of the track comprises Mt Black Quarry Rd. This is a dirt vehicle track with very little traffic. Take care, loose stones can make the track slippery. The track rises gently for 3.6km, where it arrives at the base of a steep, rough foot trail that ascends directly to the Lookout (at 4.2km). This foot trail then joins the dirt vehicle track on the opposite side of the summit. This dirt vehicle track loops back to the base of the hill. If the initial steep foot trail ascent looks too daunting, keep walking along the road approximately 100 metres until you get to the Melville’s Lookout 2km directional sign pointing left. Follow this track up and back down for a less demanding walk.
To the right of the Melville’s Lookout sign you will see remains of the old Goulburn Weir quarry site. Rocks from this location were cut to build the Goulburn River Weir wall at Nagambie in 1890. This area invites exploring. Kids will love it for all the climbing and hiding places. It makes for excellent mountain biking as well.
- For a shorter walk, you can comfortably 2WD drive in on Mt Black Quarry Rd to the base of the Melville’s Lookout.
- A 4WD can take you all the way to the Lookout on the summit vehicle track, 2km from the Melville’s Lookout directional sign.
- Walking 800 metres further along Mt Black Quarry Rd brings you to a walking track on the right going up to the Mt Black summit.
- The nearest camping is permitted at Spring Creek or Dargile Camping and Picnic Grounds or the Whroo free camping area.
Topography and Geology
The National Park is composed of forested hills and gullies. The sand stone ridge lines are a result of folds in the earth’s crust. Look out for fossilised sea shells from the ancient sea bed.
This park comprises Victoria’s largest remaining box – ironbark forest, consisting of open woodland including ironbark, grey and yellow box and stringy bark. The understory features blackwood, gold dust wattle, silver wattle and drooping cassinia. Grass trees are numerous. Green rock fern is a common ground plant in milder months.
Wildflowers include grassland wood sorrel, shiny everlastings, tall bluebells and Nodding Greenhood orchids, with many more according to the season. Rare spider orchids may be also found.
Eastern Grey kangaroos and goannas may be encountered.
Threatened species you may be lucky enough to see are the tuan and swift parrot
White winged choughs love the ground layer and white throated tree creepers are commonly seen running up midstory trunks. Red and little wattle birds and parrots particularly enjoy the canopy when eucalypts are in flower. And, of course, cockatoos abound. If you keep your wits about you, there are plenty more birds to be seen.
Damage from 4WD and motorbikes is not as bad as elsewhere, but sadly some clowns will always take pleasure in littering and tearing such places up.
March flies can be a problem in Autumn.
Dargile (formerly Heathcote – Graytown) National Park.
Melville’s Lookout: Captain (Francis) Melville was a notorious goldrush era bushranger. After being transported to Australia at age 15 for housebreaking, he escaped Port Arthur to live with local aborigines for a year. He came to Victoria in 1851. Within a short time he had formed the Mt Macedon Gang that robbed travellers heading to and from the goldfields.