Mulligans Hut Campground, Gilbraltar Range National Park
Mulligans Hut campground has a spacious bush camping area with flushing toilets and cold showers. Very civilised!
This campground is in Gibraltar Range National Park, along the Gwydir Highway between Glen Innes and Grafton NSW. You can do lots of walks from here.
We chose the Needles Walk. A series of hot January days had made us quite lazy and lethargic. We spent a couple of days lazing around our campsite, occasionally dragging our bones down to the pristine waters of Little Dandahra Creek to cool off.
By day three, we decided it was high time for some exercise!
After talking to a couple of fellow campers, the Needles Walk sounded like a good way to see some of the surrounding bush with minimum exertion. I told you we were feeling lazy…
So next morning we were off and into it.
A Different World
The campground is set in typical Aussie bush… dry eucalypt forest with coarse scrub under the trees. Setting off from the campground, you drop down to the creek and cross a small bridge. Then you start ascending a gentle slope.
The dry bush surrounds you at first. Then you start to climb into a magnificent rainforest. We certainly weren’t expecting this.
The track gets steeper as it follows an old logging track. Then it abruptly swings left, straight up the steep slope. A short, sharp climb spits you out on top of a ridge. Pretty soon the dry scrubby bush returns and you follow this ridgeline for a while. Big granite rocks start to appear, until the track abruptly ends at a large outcrop of granite.
The view is fantastic. You’re actually high up on a steep ridge looking down into a deep valley. Looking eastwards down the valley, the land opens into green farming country of the Mann River valley in the distance.
And off to your right, there they are… the Needles. Two vertical slabs of granite pointing straight up to the sky. They look spectacular, towering over the surrounding trees.
We stayed there for a while to soak in the view.
Way down at the bottom of the valley we could just make out the creek in amongst the trees. This is wild country. I can understand why William Mulligan thought this would be an ideal site for a hydro-electric plant. More on this soon.
After a while we headed back towards the campground.
The highlight for us was the rainforest, protected by the steep southern side of the ridge. I imagine this place would be freezing cold in winter, with no sun penetrating onto the forest floor. In summer though, it’s a magical place.
Pretty soon we had walked out of the rainforest, re-crossed the creek and were walking past a replica of Mulligans Hut to the campground. And speaking of Mulligan…
A Grand Plan
William Mulligan was a mining engineer. In the 1920s, he decided this area would be the ideal place to construct a hydro-electric scheme. He was pretty serious about the venture. Of course, it could have had something to do with the fact they had a copper mining lease down over the escarpment to the east.
Anyway he figured that by damming Little Dandahra Creek and Dandahra Creek to the south, he could build pipelines which would send the water 600 metres down over the escarpment and through a generator. Mulligan and his partners built a small concrete weir on each creek (which are still there) to measure the flow rate.
Fortunately for us, his timing was wrong. In 1942 Mulligan and his partners applied for Government funding to re-open their copper mine. This was knocked back, partly because independent geologists weren’t confident it was profitable. And of course World War II was raging, so the Government of the time decided they had other priorities.
In the early 1950s, the lease expired. So both the mine and the hydro-electric scheme faded into obscurity.
Had this scheme gone ahead, we’d be looking at a totally different landscape. There was one benefit though… that weir makes a brilliant spa!
Playing In The Creek
Just downstream of the walk-bridge is a large pool. The tannin-coloured water is dark and just a little bit forbidding at first. Once you glide in though, the cool water is magnificent. Mixed with oils from the ti-tree, you feel like you’re in a giant bath filled with bath oils.
And just above the large pool is the tiny concrete weir mentioned earlier. This makes an ideal bush spa, with the water tumbling over the weir onto your shoulders.
Above the weir, the creek dances and weaves between the rocks. We couldn’t resist the opportunity to wade and clamber upstream, resting occasionally in fast-flowing channels between two rocks and letting the water wash over us. We had a lot of fun mucking around in the creek… an ideal way to keep cool in the searing summer heat.
We didn’t want to leave Mulligans Hut campground. Even though the campground is quite large and was quite full, everyone was friendly and respectful of each other’s privacy. Most campsites are surprisingly private and well set out.
We’ll return to take on the remaining walks and just soak in the peace and quiet. Gibraltar Range National Park is an excellent place to unwind and appreciate the Aussie bush.
Mulligans Hut campground is on Gumbainggir Country.
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Any errors or omissions are mine alone.