Contradiction Canyon and Rocky Creek. (26/27/28/29th December 2010)


Mount Morgan 1:25000


Paul, Barb, Steve, Dug.

Flowers Old Coach Road.  Pic by dug


Paul and I discussed this walk, to do Contradiction Canyon last year, when we did Ferny Canyon. Later Paul suggested we add Rocky Creek to the Wolgan and then back up the disused railway track to Glow-worm Tunnel for a well rounded bushwalk. That sounded good to me, as I have been thinking of walking all of Rocky Creek. The top section I love traveling, after doing the various canyons that end in Rocky. The Wolgan Valley is always worth the trip in its own right. Deep, wooded valley between tall cliffs, pleasant shady stream running over the sandy creek bed. The ruins of the old abandoned oil shale works another bonus.

Boxing Day

The arrangement is to meet Paul and Barb at the Old Coach Road car park at 12:30. "Whereis web site" indicated that from my place to the car park would take 4hr 19min, so I picked Steve and driving off at 7:30. Pleasant sunny day to drive down. By the time we reached Zig Zag railway it was obvious that we were well ahead of schedule, so we stopped for a soft drink and snack. At the meeting place by 11:45, so still too much time. Certainly enough time to re-sort packs etc. There was only one vehicle there, this must have been there overnight as there are no fresh wheel tracks.

There has been a bit of rain up this way recently, despite the fact that it has been dry in Newcastle. Lots of water on the roads and a couple of soft slippery patches where the road has been repaired recently with the wrong sort of road base (I bet it was cheaper but, and it doesn't cost forestry anything to repair other peoples vehicles). I reminded Steve that it was normal for cars to slip around on the road a bit when I was young and the slipping and sliding we were doing was nothing.

The others arrived right on time and we transferred to Paul's Subaru for the drive to Natural Bridge to start the walk. We had all packed as light as possible, leaving out what we thought we could do without. Steve and I no wet suits, Paul and Barb wetsuits but no sleeping mats (wetsuits make acceptable sleeping mats). Despite this there was too much for my Golite back pack, so I was forced to use my Summit Gear Canyon back pack. I was reluctant to use this because as I said to Paul it is a crippler. Should have brought a different one to carry the spare gear. I guess our packs weighed between 11 and 15kg each, and were bulkier than you would prefer for canyoning. Contradiction reportedly has some narrow sections!

Away walking by 1:30 having had lunch and having filled up on water. We have 10 km of ridge walking along the now abandoned Mt Cameron Trail, without much chance of good surface water and this is a warm day already. From the locked gate near the car park we follow the decayed, rutted, covered in rock fall road, down over Natural Bridge. A narrow saddle, that link this part of the ridge systems. A decided need to watch your step to prevent slipping on the wet rock, or wet clay, or twisting a joint in a hole or stepping on a mobile rock. The remnant fire road takes us down then up onto the hill at this end of the ridges. Then there is a rudimentary walking pad following the vestiges of the heavily overgrown old fire road. I find it pleasant going despite the frequent logs dropped by NPWS to "block" the first couple of kilometres. Those who have acclimatised themselves to air conditions found it a little too hot and humid, out here today. There are a number of puddles along the way, which I'd have to be desperate before I'd try and drink from.

Camp 1, on ridge above Contradiction Canyon Creek.  Pic by dug The general area is made up of a series of interconnecting ridges cut by deep sandstone cliff sided waterways, some are canyons some are a little wider. The area has open tree covered, and the recent plentiful rains have resulted in a reasonably dense under growth, of sandstone type scrub, which tends to be of the somewhat prickly sort.

We wandered on covering the km quite well and enjoying the scenery. Lots of bird life adding movement, colour and sound, many and varied flowering plants in bloom to light our way. We pass the occasional gbung in fruit, which suggests these ridges were part of the old time aboriginal travel routes.

We reach spur that leads nw then north and eventually above the start of the canyon. We had sort of hoped that there would be a vestige trail along this ridge, but that was not to be :-) In fact we did find some reasonably dense scrub in places but not too bad really, we suppose. About 6pm we find the saddle that Paul feels will have water in the side creek. There is a rock formation here that should be suitable to provide camping opportunities. About another hour to the next possible water source. A decision is made to camp here. We pitch tents and flies, then Steve volunteers to seek water, while we collect tinder and wood and light a cooking fire, on a rocky platform where we can sit with a backrest, while we cook and feed.

Steve found water and returned in less than 30 mins. Soon after we were boiling a billy for hot drinks and cooking away merrily. A couple of nearby lyre birds were very vocal with indignation at our intrusion into their space. In addition there were lots of other bird calls in this twilight hour. The sky has been clouding over for the past while and becomes quite dark with slight drizzle briefly. Then lightens again just before sunset. About now we had a visit from an owl, flying between nearby trees perching to check us out.

A most pleasant evening, quaffing, monging and magging, before we turn in. Just as we finish dinner the drizzle returns and we head for our shelters to settle for the night.

Paul disapearing down the first abseil.  Pic by dug


A pleasant enough night, cool but not cold, just wet enough to keep our flys damp, but we are fine under them. Next morning is cool and misty but luckily the scrub is still fairly dry. We pack-up, breakfast and are away by 7:10. Before we set off Steve had pointed out that my right shoe sole had started to lift and flap, we decided to try and tape it up with some strapping tape.

This part of the ridge quite easy going, so be reach the point to turn east and down into the creek in about 50 mins. The temporary repairs to my shoe proved just that temporary. Steve handed me the ball of tape which had fallen off the shoe, Oh well hope it holds. The spur down is reasonably ok until we reach a place with an abseil into the creek below. I suppose we would have found a way in by looking around but "hey we got the ropes". Paul rigs and goes first. The two 30m ropes are just long enough. A nice abseil into a fern and tree fern filled creek. We came down very steeply to the start of the abseil, the cliff this side is about 20m high, behind us the cliff is only 3m away and probably 60m high. You can visualise this tall narrow world, with the strange green light that often give such places a special aura.

From above my reading of the terrain suggested to me we were in a side creek, but no, as the others point out, the water flows the right way we want to go. I made another attempt to repair my shoe with some cord but this didn't hold for long either and I soon had it rolled up in my pack again. Pleasant open walking in a reasonably open creek valley, very picturesque, with cliffs, tree ferns and tall trees. We were moving reasonably quickly, when I who is walking last in the team, heard a loud crash ahead. Looking up, my view of the critical place, was blocked by a large boulder beside the creek bed, so I could not see the cause. But I did see a large tree trunk (about 900mm diameter, 10 m long or more) slipping down a cliff face and splitting lengthways into four or more long slabs as it fell. "Is everyone ok", no reply. Hurrying round the rock corner, checking for danger, I saw Barb and Paul moving towards Steve, who is standing in the middle of log jam looking dazed.

Second abseil, down into the canyon. Pic by dug Everything is ok thank goodness. No one is sure exactly what happened, Paul and Barb only saw some of it and Steve can only remember some. It seems Steve was straddling to cross one of the logs in the log jam when it collapsed. The section leaning up the cliff face started to slide down and rolling towards Steve jamming him into another log or rock. Part shoving on his "hard hat" jamming his head hard against a rock/tree. This gave him a lump (a headache developed later). He was also jabbed in the side of the stomach which was sore. (A couple of days later he had pain in the ribs, in the same area but the stomach was ok.) After a short rest Steve felt able to continue, but we all kept an eye on him as we went.

Not far further down the creek system we came to a rock jumble in the centre of the stream. The stream flowed down into a small waterfall/cascade, through a gap between the rocks only just big enough for a person with a pack to fit through. Paul doubled a rope around a convenient branch on a fallen tree and abseiled in. I was last it was quite awkward start and abseil for people of Steve and my bulk. Only about 3-4m down into an underground chamber with a shallow pool leading over an edge to another 2-3m waterfall into a "sump" formed by a rock fall 10m further along. The base of the sump was full of flood debris of interwoven sticks. All the gaps between the boulders were full, with no obvious way on. There was some discussion of climbing the rock pile and abseiling down the other side. But I felt that we should be able to clear a path through the debris and go through gaps between the rock jumble. Paul down first was able to manage this clearing but it was a squeeze for us big uns and we all had to take off packs to get through.

Setting up an anchor for this short abseil was interesting and Paul need to tie knots into a tape to make "friends" to keep the tape sling in place under load. A nice narrow, dim, canyon passage carving and polishing through the sandstone rock, in such a way as to bring out the natural colours, red, black, gold, tan. Behind us a short cavern. Ahead opening out to light above but still narrow. The passage ahead kept narrow between tall cliffs each side. Rock carved and smoothed by eons of water sculpturing the stones surface into lovely smooth shapes. Third Abseil, looking for a safe anchor.  Pic by dug The way ahead continued thus, for a while, with a couple of awkward short abseils and scrambles, before widening out to that interesting look you get in some canyons. Rough boulder covered bed with the odd boulder jamb to negotiate. The walls of the cliff tall straight and smooth, no easy way up and out anywhere, except ahead. The vegetation of ferns, tree ferns, and tall straight coachwood or sassafras trees. Trees need to be tall and straight to chase the light, mostly. Sometimes a tree grows vertically to an overhang above then bends almost horizontal to clear the stone, then vertical again.

I find some of the scrambling round the rock jumbles "challenging". I had thought we had passed all the abseils but wrong. We find a couple of abseils, with quite awkward starts and rope recoveries. These abseils are through small waterfalls, into deep pools, requiring short swims, so we all get wet through. Steve and I are tending to shiver a bit by now not having wet suits. I have merino wool top and longjohns under clothes so am not too bad overall.

Then on through more boulder jams to the junction of a creek coming in from our right, shortly after there is the T junction with Rocky Creek. Time about 12:30. It has taken us longer than I would have expected, but then there have been some challenging sections to slow us down. All very picturesque walking, rock hopping and wading, but slowing.

Lunch was eaten half an hour or so down Rocky Creek, in a convenient warm spot. The sky was only partly cloudy so we did get some sunshine. The going in Rocky Creek was variable, many easy parts in open leaf littered forest, some thickets of dense scrub. Many scree slopes to sidle along, some boulder scrambling, through, round, over, across, up, down, any way to keep going on.

This valley is wider than Contradiction Canyon Creek, as you would expect. In places we have a relatively flat bank beside the stream, then scree slope up to the cliffs. In others a steep rocky slope from creek to cliff. Often big boulders jammed in a jumble atop each other make progress slower. Once or twice the cliffs come down to the water, but luckily we can get past dry on the other side. All these land forms are growing the usual watercourse vegetation, I love to walk through.

About 5pm we were at the wide open place where Heart Attack Canyon Creek joins. As expected the undergrowth was fairly thick and we needed to stay close to the watercourse to gain much progress. At a little after 6 pm we were standing on a sand bank big enough for our party to camp and the decision was made to camp for the night. It is overcast and we do get the occasional spit of drizzle, hope it doesn't rain heavily and cause the river to rise :-)

Camp day 2, Rocky Creek.  pic by dug A good place to camp, it proved with enough space for three shelters and a fire. A comfortable seat, a well set-up cooking fire, soon had us at ease, eating good meals and rehydrating on repeated cups of tea, coffee, or milo. A most pleasant evening into night.


The occasional spit of drizzle but nothing eventuated and a pleasant night overall. Unfortunately Steve's bruised ribs had become sorer during the night and he found it hard to sleep. Up early we soon packed up and had breakfast. I had another attempt to repair my shoe sole. It had been catching during the scrub bashing yesterday. This time I made two holes through the sole and tied back to the laces before wrapping around the shoe a few times.

Away about 7:15, the going similar to last night although I expect/hope the way forward will be easier once we pass the next constriction in the creek system. Still and overcast day giving us pleasant temperatures for walking. The going does get better so that we can make quicker progress. We find a couple of good camping spots after an hour's walking so it seems we made the best choice in stopping when we did last night.

We passed a good looking camping spot at the creek junction where Sure Fire Canyon Creek joins (note:- for next time). Still very picturesque walking. Tall cliffs line the creeks, beautiful tall tree forest, babbling creek beside us, lovely birds singing as they flit around us. Very rugged area but good to purge the sole.

The way was easier from here and we kept on the southern bank all the way. From Deans Creek to the Wolgan River we kept up as high as possible on the southern slope of the valley, following contours, avoiding the denser scrub and cutting off a bit of the walk. Bit scrubby in places but still fairly easy going. We reached the Wolgan Valley fire trail about 11:30 and walked another half hour before stopping for lunch, by the tack admiring the cliffs and enjoying the tinkle of the nearby river.

Camp day 3, Zobals Gully.  Pic by dug Of course as we have moved along the valley has become wider and seemingly deeper, with tall cliffs either side and lovely forest to admire. Once on the track we can make better time and still have the opportunity to look about and admire the ever changing view. We note the narrow deep slashes of creeks high in the cliff faces, that mark the exits of various other canyons. Twilight, Fire Fly, Looking Glass, Star Light, Devils Pinch, Pipe Line, Nightmare (what a strange name for a beautiful place!!). We pass the derelict, decaying hut of an old small land holding. The paddocks are now returning to forest.

About 3:00 we enter amongst the ruins of the oil-shale works that was mostly abandoned in the late 1930s. Although the oil from the Glenn Davis works was pumped here across the ridge for transport by the railway line until 1949. In 1949 the government of the day decided that they could no longer justify making petrol and kerosene at a cost of 2 pounds a gallon while it only earned 20 shillings at the bowser. There was a long strike with miners locking themselves in the mines to try and keep the enterprise going. These mining and refinery ruins are well worth seeing still.

The whole area is generally well wooded now but it's not until you realise the trees are mostly only 40 - 60 years old that you realise what a desolate horrible place it would have been during the working life. No trees, bare rocky slopes, air of the valley full of foul stinking industrial fumes. Stinking hot in summer, the deep valley between cliffs with no shade and little breeze, or freezing cold in winter, for similar reasons. Aren't we lucky that such fumes and stripping of vegetation don't occur now? (Except perhaps the new high density housing estates, or more out of the way places in the bush!).

Steve and Paul crossed the river at the Newnes ford to buy food and drink at the usedtobe pub, now a store/milk bar. Barb and I continued walking along the long abandoned railway perway towards Zobals Gully, a flat place that I had camped at 20 years ago while canyoning. This area is flat because it was used as a shunting, repair yard in the past. There are still bits of steal about to remind us of that past. Cliffs by Old Coach Road.  Pic by dug Because it is flat and well grassed it shows signs of grazing, you know what I mean - stinging nettles and prickly scotch thistles in abundance. The gully only has a small catchment but was flowing well with good water, after the recent rain.

A good place to set up the flies or tent and set a cooking fire beside handy logs to sit on. A lovely place now to walk through and camp. Lots of birds and the occasional roo or wombat. Overall a great place to go to sleep and then awaken. I must admit that the shoes were crippling my feet by now and the pack crippling my back, especially walking along the relatively smooth track along the old railway line. Oh well only one thing to do - keep going and throw out the shoes and pack when I get home so I'm not tempted to use either again!


A beaut night and a warm sunny morning (although in shadow from the cliffs early on). We took our time packing up and heading off this morning. We headed off about 8:30, easy walking up the gentle 4 degree railway slope. Beautiful scenery, birds singing, Wolgan gurgling along. I have walked here several times and always love it. At the old Coach Road we turn up off the railway, and follow the road. It may be steeper but it is very beautiful going as it does through the fascinating "Pagoda" country. There have been a couple of recent rock falls so the road is blocked to vehicle traffic at the moment. We all drink at the small waterfall on the rivulet by the road. Back at the cars by 11:30 we do our car shuffle back to Natural Bridge, wash up and are on the way home by 1:30

Thank you, Paul, Barb, Steve, a great canyon and a magic walk. Doubly enjoyable for me because I did very little navigation, none of the set-up, only checking what someone else had put in place, for a change.  It is a pleasure to share this experience with you all. Till next time. Copyright Dug Floyd December 2010.


Boot Repair.  Pic by dug

First shoe repair to try and keep the sole on. Didn't last 20 mins. Pic by dug.

First camp site morning 2.  Pic by dyg

Camp site morning of day2. Bit misty to be going canyoning. Pic by dug.

Open ridge walking on second morning, in the mist.  Pic by dug

Paul and Barb on the open ridge walking in the mist. Pic by dug.

On the ridge day 2.  Pic by dug.

Flowers on the ridge day 2. Pic by dug.

Nearing the Contradiction creek from the ridge.  Pic by dug.

Cliffs and flowers and trees and mist, Contradiction Creek. Pic by dug.

Nice walking in the mist.  Just turned east and starting down to the creek system.  Pic by dug

Nice walking in the mist, just turned east to go down to the creek. Pic by dug.

Down to the creek morning 2, in the mist.  Pic by dug

Going down the steeper slope towards the creek. Note the tall cliff on the other side of the creek. Pic by dug.

Paul belaying first abseil Contradiction Creek.  Pic by dug.

Paul belaying first abseil in Contradiction Creek. Pic by dug.

Start of abseil into Contradiction Creek.  Pic by dug.

Abseil into Contradiction Creek, flowing 20m down there. Pic by dug.

Tree ferns in Contradiction Creek, below first abseil.  Pic by dug

Tree ferns in Contradiction Creek below first abseil. Paul belaying Barb. Pic by dug.

Steve First abseil Contradiction Ck.  Pic by dug

Steve, first abseil into Contradiction Creek, 20m up. Pic by dug.

Steve first abseil Contradiction Creek.  Pic by dug.

Steve, first abseil into Contradiction Creek. Pic by dug.

Steve first abseil into Contradiction Creek.  Pic by dug.

Steve, first abseil into Contradiction Creek. Pic by dug.

Contradiction Creek.  Pic by dug.

Contradiction Canyon Creek. Pic by dug.

Contradiction Creek.  Pic by dug

Easy walking in Contradiction Canyon Creek. Pic by dug.

Start of second abseil. Pic by dug.

Steve readying to go down hole between the boulders to start the canyon section. Pic by dug.

Steve down the hole.  Pic by dug

Steve approaching the 2nd abseil, down the hole between the rocks. Pic by dug.

Barb checking Steves ready to abseil.  Pic by dug.

Barb checking Steve is ready to abseil. Pic by dug.

Inside the second abseil.  Into a dark chamber.  Pic by dug

Inside the second abseil. A small waterfall into dark chamber. Pic by dug.

Looking out from underground chamber at second abseil.  Pic by dug.

Looking out from underground chamber from 2nd abseil. Pic by dug.

The underground passage, past 2nd abseil.  Pic by dug.

The underground passage past the second abseil. Pic by dug.

The underground passage of the second abseil.  Pic by dug.

Dark narrow underground passage after the 2nd abseil. Pic by dug.

Sump with blockage by sticks.  Pic by dug.

A sump cause by a rock fall. Exit through bottom blocked by flood debris until cleared by Paul. Pic by dug.

Open section past first constriction.  Pic by dug.

Open section past the first constriction. Vertical smooth cliffs. Pic by dug.

Contradiction Canyon Creek.  Pic by dug.

Contradiction Canyon Creek. Pic by dug.

Fourth abseil, down into a swimming pool.  Pic by dug.

Fourth abseil down to a swimming pool. Pic by dug.

Contradiction Canyon.  Pic by dug.

Contradiction Canyon. Pic by dug.

Contradiction Canyon.  pic by dug.

Boulder jam in Contradiction Canyon. Pic by dug.

Contradiction Canyon. pic by dug.

Contradiction Canyon. Pic by dug.

Wolgan Ruin.  Pic by Monika 2009

Ruin of small holding hut along Wolgan River flats. Pic by Monika 2009.

Zobals Gulley camp.  Just tent flies and open air. Pic by dug

Zobals Gulley camp site. Just flies over the sleeping bag. Pic by dug.

Zobals Gulley beside the Wolgan river.  Big cliffs everywhere.  Pic by dug.

Zobals Gulley by the Wolgan River. My fly, Steves tent. Big cliffs everywhere. Pic by dug.

Steve on Old Coach Road. Pic by dug.

Steve on the Old Coach Road. Pic by dug.

Old Coach Road. Pic by dug.

Old Coach Road. Pic by dug.

Pagodas nar Glow-worm Tunnel.  Pic by dug.

Pagodas near the Glow-worm Tunnel. Pic by dug.

Pagodas fromr old Coach Road.  Pic by dug

Pagodas from Old Coach Road. Pic by dug.

Pagodas from the Old Coach Road.  Pic by dug.

Wolgan Valley through the gap of Glow-worm Tunnel. Pic by dug.

Cliffs from Old Coach Road.  Pic by dug.

Cliffs near Glow-worm Tunnel from the Old Coach Road. Pic by dug.