Blue Mountains, Australia, History

Info Blue Mountains History Plaza
The Six Foot Track
3 Sisters, Blue Mountains, Australia.
Foot track from Katoomba to Jenolan Caves
World Heritage region 

 

 

The Six Foot Track was planned as a shortcut to Jenolan Caves. At the time, visitors to the caves travelled by train to Mt Victoria or Tarana. In 1879, Tarana became the only town on the railway from which it was possible to take a coach all the way to the caves, a monopoly which it enjoyed for ten years.

Seeing this valuable traffic passing them by, Katoomba moved to establish a bridle trail to the caves. It was hoped that it would later be upgraded to carry horse-drawn coaches. (An upgrade commenced in the 1960's, from Katoomba to the Megalong Valley, turned into a fiasco and  achieved nothing.)

The route was surveyed by William Cooper and party in 1884. Existing tracks were used where possible, including, it is said, brumby (wild horse) trails. The trail, marked by calico strips, was negotiated by various parties during the construction of the bridle track.

The first recorded passage of the completed bridle track from Katoomba to Jenolan was by the governor, Lord Carrington, in September 1887.

Whilst little of the original bridle track remains, the route remains open to walkers as "The Six Foot Track". More information and maps are available from information centres and bushwalking shops.

By the 1930's, lack of maintenance had resulted in the track no longer being suitable for bridle use. Compiling the 1937 military map of the area, Major Clews chose to apply the name Six Foot Track, referring to the original tender specification for a width of six feet. The name is said to have been in oral use, locally, for some years before.

The track was reopened in 1984, following reconstruction work. Much of the route is through World Heritage listed national park. The annual Six Foot Marathon attracts a crowd of entrants, and quickly separates the merely fit from the seriously fit!

 

"The Trip was a Revelation to Me."

'L.S.' 1912

Introduction

A pleasing feature of this newspaper account of 1912 is its description of the Little River. I agree with 'L.S.' that it is one of the highlights of the walk. No trace remains however, of the hut that most of the early travellers mention.

The bridle track from Katoomba to the Jenolan Caves is not very well known, and yet a trip possessing a greater variety of scenery or more possibilities of perfect enjoyment might be searched for in vain. Certainly very few people have any idea of the grandeur of this journey, or the path would not bear such a neglected and desolate appearance. It is a matter for regret that those places which require walking to are not often visited, and thus some of the finest views our country possesses are not seen by the average person. All that is required is a fondness for walking and the ability (if it might be so called) to appreciate the beautiful. With these qualifications a holiday can be enjoyed which will for ever be remembered with infinite pleasure. The distance is about 32 miles, and can be accomplished without difficulty in two days. A tent, a blanket, and sufficient provisions for the journey should be taken.

Down Nellie's Glen

Leaving Katoomba, our path took us through Nellie's Glen, which is not the least of all the Blue Mountain beauty spots, the wealth of ferns here making it a formidable rival of the Leura fern gullies. Some distance down the glen there is a small village, called Megalong. A school, a farm, and one or two huts were all the buildings to be seen. It was not, however, until we had passed this place that our holiday was enjoyed to its fullest extent. We were so near to human life and bustle and hurry, and yet apparently so far away, for during the next two days we did not meet another person. We were alone with Nature at her best, which nowadays is rather an uncommon position. Proceeding from the foot of Nellie's Glen the track winds around the side of a mountain and later on we could hear the gentle murmur of the Cox River, hundreds of feet below, which accompanied us like sweet music until we descended to its banks several miles further on. It is here that the traveller must be careful not to miss the track, as there is no bridge to cross, and in looking for an easy crossing a wrong direction might be taken. The path, all through, is marked by blazed trees, but at this point we followed some blazed trees along the river bank for several miles, finally having to retrace our steps.

After crossing and then leaving this romantic stream, the surroundings become more wild and bushlike; rabbits dart away every few moments from almost under one's feet, an occasional wallaby may be seen, and birds of endless variety greet the walker with joyous song; the laughing jackass, however, finding him a source of amusement, if one might judge by the endless laughter of these strange birds.

Little River

Yet another mountain to climb, and then descending to the Little River our first day's walk is ended. At this place is an old disused hut, evidently built many years ago, and if any objection exists to the open air, shelter may be had inside. Of all the spots I have been in this one appeals to me most. We were hemmed in on every side by high mountains. The air was perfect, and not a sound was to be heard save the ripple of the delightful stream which flowed beside us. Everything was a picture of rest and contentment, and it was not without a pang of regret that we bade farewell to the Little River on the following morning, and commenced the ascent of the fearful Black Range. Fifteen hundred feet rise in the next mile and a half, and yet more to follow; but this is soon forgotten when the summit is reached and four or five miles of level country is in front. How different this is to the rest of our journey. Whereas the rest of the journey consisted of glorious hills and refreshing valleys, now we were walking for miles on the top of a mountain, not a rise to be seen anywhere. The path led us through a regular forest, the trees being remarkably tall and thick. The scent from the bush and the music of the birds rendered this part of our walk most delightful.

Views Exceeded our Imagination

And now we meet the Mount Victoria road; but roads are not for us; it was to escape them that we took this track through the wilderness, so after following the road for a couple of miles we resume the track once more. Five more miles and the world-famed Jenolan Caves will be seen. And what a 'five miles' it is. We had seen all the Blue Mountains scenery, we had seen the best scenery that Sydney and its surroundings can boast, but this was something which exceeded our imagination. Several times during this last portion of our walk we were compelled to stand still with amazement and admiration. Valley after valley stretched out before us in endless succession, as far as the eye could see. The colouring and the various shades in the cliffs and trees being altogether beyond description.

Our first sight of the Caves was through the Carlotta Arch, our track taking us at the back of this. We arrived just in time for the afternoon inspection, and afterwards obtained permission from the caretaker to camp in the grounds. If anyone could disappointed at the two days' walk, the sight of these magnificent caves would make them happy. The guides we found kind and civil, even going out of their way to make us comfortable. The scenery around the Caves is quite worth while making the trip for. The trip was a revelation to me. I saw a greater variety of birds and animals in their natural state than I had ever seen before, and it was certainly the best holiday, and I might add the cheapest, any of us had had before. If I remember rightly, the cost for each was 25s for the week's holiday, which includes 7s 6d for inspection of five caves.


Conversions: At the time of switching to decimal currency (1966), 10 shillings (10s) equalled $1.00.
Therefore 25s equalled $2.50, whilst 7s6d equalled $0.75 in 1966.

Source: From Katoomba to Jenolan Caves: The Six Foot Track 1884 - 1984, Jim Smith, Second Back Row Press Pty Ltd (Katoomba). See our Shopping Plaza for bushwalking and book shops.

See our Bushwalking (hiking) Links

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Six Foot Track, Blue Mountains

 

The Six Foot Track in the vicinity of Binda Cabins,
before the final descent to the Caves.
Various portions of the route are not negotiable by motor vehicle.
Photo Richard Merry. Reproduced from
Australian Bushwalking & Camping Reference Site

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