Yerranderie is a silver mining ghost town located near the Kanangra-Boyd national park. At one time the town was home to 2,000 people, until the mining industry collapsed in 1927. Apparently the local station was sinking fence posts when evidence of the ore was seen, sparking the development of the area.
With the construction of the Warragamba Dam in 1959, the quickest route from the east was cut off (there is still a track but it is restricted to the emergency services as it goes through the water catchment), making it a much longer drive. Interesting to compare Sydney, where you can’t access the catchment, to the US where you can water ski on Lake Mead, the main water supply for Las Vegas.
There are various ways to reach Yerranderie. For this trip it was part of the Caves to Caves route between Jenolan Caves in the north and Wombeyan Caves in the south, crossing the Kowmung river along the way. It can be done in either direction; Pippa and I set off from Jenolan.
“Jenolan” is believed to originate from the aboriginal for “high place”. Europeans first came across the caves around 1840, apparently whilst James Whalan was in hot pursuit of a thief. His brother Charles then developed them for tourism. There are eleven show caves available for tourism; although the system is far more extensive, other areas are only suitable for experienced cavers.
The first section also leads to Kanangra Walls, an amazing escarpment along the edge of a deep valley. Essentially a wide gravel road, with a bit of care this would be manageable in a 2wd, but easier in the 110.
From Kanangra Walls the Morong Creek Trail cuts across to join the Kowmung River fire trail. It is narrow and twisty with plenty of mudholes along the way – best avoided on a wet day. The one river crossing is short with a rocky climb out that looks worse than it is; the crossing bottom is firm (stony) so a little momentum is all it needs to get up.
The Kowmung River fire trail winds along before a sharp descent to the river. The river was very low, so the crossing was short and shallow – it is worth checking with Parks and Wildlife before heading out if rain is about. Again a little momentum helps the climb out; we tried a low first crawl the first time but lost traction; low second with a touch more speed made it simple (don’t believe the photo, it’s steeper and more dug out than it looks).
On the other side is Dingle Dell, a great looking camping spot but sadly doesn’t cater for trailers. Here the track splits – left is the main track, straight on is more direct but a lot rougher (and more fun).
Following the trail out ultimately brings you to Gurnang State Forest. From this point you follow Banshea Road until the Oberon-Colong Stock Route to Yerranderie.
Generally the surface was pretty good, mainly dirt with some rocky sections. I never thought we would see bull dust a day’s drive from Sydney, but in places this track was getting there – apparently the grader had been through and left things a bit soft, needing some rain to bed things in.
Yerranderie is a fascinating place, but perhaps not the place to go wandering after dark, too many holes in the ground. Valerie Anne Lhuede bought the town (it took her years, slowly buying shares in the company that owned it), with a view to developing it as a tourist centre and environmental project.
In March 2011 she donated it to Parks and Wildlife, so long as they agreed to keep it open to the public – which is a welcome change from most of the tracks in this area, marked with a sign showing a name and “locked gate”. It does make you wonder what the point is of preserving land if no-one is allowed to get in to see it.
The campsite was lovely, set on a cleared area among the trees. There are hot showers, toilets and a basic camp kitchen. Firewood is provided with firepits dotted around and plenty of space for everyone. Resident are is a family of kangaroos, with an oh so cute joey. Less cute was the possum growling away in the dark.
Sunday being Mother’s Day meant an early start to get home for Pippa to give her present, but not before some tea and toast over the fire, fantastic. You could spend days looking around Yerranderie, definitely one for a return trip.
The scenic drive out is via Range Fire Trail then Wombeyan Caves Road, emerging near Mittagong. It is probably not the fastest though, especially on a wet day like this one. Range Fire Trail is pretty rough in places, threading through the trees.
After Wombeyan the road is narrow and perched above a sheer drop with plenty of blind bends to manage – beautiful views but not a quick drive. It is probably quicker to go back to Gurnang State Forest and pick up the Taralga road.
We did the drive in 2 days, really it should be a 3, or even better 4, day trip to give enough time to slow down and explore the sights.