Having enjoyed a bird’s eye view of the Murrumbidgee River and the surrounding hills and countryside from Shepherd’s Lookout and the Molonglo River Track as I made my way down from the Lookout to the Molonglo River it was time for a gentler, though in part undulating, walk at river level.
After a short stop to admire the riverside and have a bite to eat in the shade of the trees by the river I crossed the Molonglo via a charming little footbridge.
If you have a look at my Molonglo River Track (Crossing) – By Way of Shepherd’s Lookout review you can see a few more pictures of the crossing area including one of a pelican which glided by as I enjoyed my bite to eat. My observant reader will notice that I have re-used one picture here from that review. Likewise the very last picture in this review is a repeat.
While today this crossing is used primarily by hikers it has actually been used by Aboriginal people for over 40,000 years – often making their way to bogan moth feasts in the mountains. The river itself, as well as the Murrumbidgee River, provided local Aboriginals with sustenance in the form of fish, yabbies and water foul in addition to the odd platypus. You are much more likely to encounter a grey kangaroo than a platypus nowadays though today I was out of luck on both counts.
Having crossed the river I was now on the 3.5 kms Uriarra Loop walk – about a third of the way into the circular walk had I started it at one of the more common starting points, all in the vicinity of Uriarra Crossing.
The Uriarra Loop Walk is one of a number of walks within the Murrumbidgee River Corridor, a conservation area running along the 66 kms of the 1600 kms Murrumbidgee River which pass through the Australian Capital Territory.
Moving off in an anti-clockwise direction (to my right with the river behind me) necessitated an initial short (around 20 metres) clamber up a rather uneven path. Having done this the path pretty much levelled out with only few inclines or declines until I left the Uriarra East Picnic Area to return to the Molonglo Crossing, about two thirds of the way or just over 2 kms from my start point.
Being now a few metres above the river I had a really great view back down onto the Molonglo, a short distance from its merging with the Murrumbidgee, and the crossing I had just used. Lifting my eyes from the river I could also see Shepherd’s Lookout at the top of the ridge I had just come down. I quickly put the fact that I would have to later climb up this ridge again, to get back to where I had left my car, to the back of my mind and soldiered on.
Looking behind me I had a nice view of the Molonglo River upstream from the crossing. I would be able to enjoy this view again at the end of the Loop Walk.
After a few hundred metres walking in a northerly direction through scrub type vegetation, slightly inland from the Molonglo River, the path veered off in a westwards direction and from here on in, to the Uriarra East Picnic Area, followed the Murrumbidgee River, hugging it very closely for much of the way. Also, as might be expected, the track now became more sandy and thus softer under foot.
There were loads of easy access points to the Murrumbidgee along the walk but I had to watch my step lest I tread on a snake – not a pleasurable experience – though, it being winter the chances of an encounter were much reduced.
By this stage I had noticed an abundance of what look like pine trees along the river – in addition to those I had taken shelter from the sun under at the crossing. While they may look like pines, have what look like pine cones and are often referred to as Australian Pines they are, in fact, She-oaks – a hardwood member of the Casuarinaceae family. The She-oak, which can be in either tree or shrub format, is native to Australia, the Indian subcontinent, southeast Asia, and islands of the western Pacific Ocean. Here they play an important role in stabilising the river bank.
Another interesting feature of she-oaks is that they come in a male and female variety. When the male ‘flowers’, in autumn/winter, they become a reddish brown colour giving the appearance that they are dying. Not being a botanist I am not sure if my picture below depicts a flowering or dying male! I more suspect the latter if it is a She-oak at all.
Not long after passing the colourful rocky outcrop depicted above the toilet block and other facilities of the Swamp Creek Recreation Area came into view. I had now arrived at the extensive recreational area around Uriarra Crossing. There are three park/picnic areas here – Swamp Creek, Uriarra West and Uriarra East.
When I reached the Uriarra Road, at the river crossing, I veered away from the Loop Walk path, crossing the bridge and then heading right to have a look at the Swamp Creek Recreation Area on the other (north) side of the river. Swamp Creek is the smallest of the picnic areas offering toilets, wood fired bbqs (bring your own wood – collection from the local area is prohibited), seats and easy access to the river via a sandy beach. A nice spot for a picnic.
Wanting to get back to the Loop Walk I decided not to have a look at the Uriarra West Picnic area to-day. I crossed back over the bridge and having done so immediately turned right to rejoin the Loop Walk. In fact, as I had to scramble across a few rocks here I may not have been on the trail for the first few metres. In any event, I was soon back on the flat trail which took me along the river bank to Uriarra East Picnic Area. I was particularly impressed with this area and if returning to the Uriarra Crossing area for a picnic would choose it over the other two areas though all three have similar facilities.
The next section of the trail was a rather boring ascent up to the Uriarra Road via the link road from the picnic area. The only thing of interest along this section, which thankfully only takes about ten minutes, was a flock of sheep grazing on the hillside.
On reaching the Uriarra Road I crossed it and a fence, via a set of steps, before starting on a fairly rapid descent taking me back down to the Molonglo River Crossing where I had started my walk a couple of hours earlier.
From here I retraced by steps along the Molonglo River Track back up to Shepherd’s Lookout and my car. Overall a wonderful four hours or so of deliberately slow walking on a beautiful Canberra early winter’s day.
Option 1 – Combine with the Uriarra Loop Walk with the Molonglo River Track (Crossing) – By Way of Shepherd’s Lookout walk and start at Shepherd’s lookout car park on Stockdill Drive (about half an hours drive from Canberra city centre)
Option 2 – Start at one of the three picnic areas at Uriarra Crossing – 40 minutes drive from Canberra City Centre.