While enjoying the amazing views down onto the Murrumbidgee River and the surrounding countryside from Shepherd’s Lookout I noticed a formed track running along the northern back of the river, terminating at an almost 90 degree bend in the river. A quick check confirmed that this was an official walking track – Giorgio’s Sandwash Track.
The formed gravel path starts about 800 metres from the Swamp Creek recreation area at Uriarra crossing, a picnic area – well three distinct picnic areas at the river crossing – especially popular with Canberrans at the weekend and on pubic holidays. My initial thought was to leave my car at the picnic area but I decided to drive the short distance to the walk’s starting point as the road is narrow and winding here and, while not busy, vehicles that do use it tend to travel rather fast. In retrospect my decision was also correct for another reason – the starting point is actually much higher up from the river than I had expected so I saved myself some hill climbing along a rather boring road. From the track-head I had a lovely view back down to the picnic area, by the river
while looking forwards in the direction I would walk, I could see across the former Retalick rural lease, one of the earliest European farms in the area.
Prior to the arrival of Europeans local Aboriginals – the Ngunnawal people – lived in this area for thousands of years, as evidenced by the hundreds of stone tools found in the locality. In addition to water the nearby river provided the Aboriginals and early European settlers with food – fish (including the now endangered Macquarie Perch and Murray Cod), yabbies and water fowl.
Sheep were almost certainly reared in this area with the arrival of Europeans. Of late, wild deer have been making an appearance here though I didn’t see any on my walk. This may have been due to a cull which took place a couple of weeks earlier. The deer are removed due to the potential damage they can do to the fragile riverbank.
Moving on, the walk is about 4.6 kms return and is pretty much all downhill to the bend on the river and then, obviously, all uphill on the return. I actually much prefer things to be the other way round.
Initially, I thought it rather a shame that I could not walk along this side of the river from the picnic area, remaining at river level, but had I been able to do that I would have missed some delightful views down onto the river.
Park literature speaks of an abundance of birds in the scrub along this part of the river.
It may have been the time of year or the time of day that I visited but I didn’t see, nor hear, a single bird much less the colourful, and colourfully named, Rainbow Bee-eater Merops Ornatus which I refer to here only because I actually saw several of them very recently on one of my Canberra walks but for the life of me I cannot remember which one. The picture of the Rainbow Bee-eater alongside is courtesy of abc.net.au.
The only wildlife I saw was on the walk was a wombat on the way back to the parking area.
Perhaps the reason this walk stays back from the river a bit is because the river is prone to flooding, as evidenced by the drift wood I saw reaching back at least fifty metres from the river. It was pleasing to see that the debris was not strewn with plastic and other human waste.
After about forty five minutes of satisfying walking, and having resisted the temptation to veer off on a rather rough looking track to my left, in search of the point where the Murrumbidgee leaves the Australian Capital Territory and crosses into New South Wales ( an adventure for another day!), I arrived at Giorgio’s Sandwash on the bend of the river.
I spent a bit of time wandering along the river (upstream) at this point. Had I brought a picnic there were so many secluded and beautiful spots I could have enjoyed it along the peaceful and soothing river as it gently made its way to the sea, thousands of kilometres from here.
Looking up to the top of the cliff on the other side of the river I could see Shepard’s Lookout in the distance.
While the river was gently flowing when I visited this is not always the case and at times it can be somewhat more turbulent. When it is it scours the base of the cliff on the other side while sand and stones are deposited by the gentler flowing north side, thus building the sandwash.
Until the early 1980s a mining business operated here harvesting the sand deposited by the river. While I didn’t come across any discarded mining equipment, as one often does in quarries and at mining sites in Australia, I did encounter a large pile of stones about fifty metres back from the river that would have been discarded by the mining operation – to the left in the picture below.
Having had a good look around it was time to return via the same track that I had used to come in. Total walk time was about an hour and a half at a fairly pace.
I have written seperate entries on two walks on the other side of the Murrumbidgee from this walk.
Molonglo River Track (Crossing) – By Way of Shepherd’s Lookout
Uriarra Loop Walk
Either or both of these could be combined with this walk. Doing all three could take the most of a day, depending on stops.
Location of start of this walk: 800 m from Uriarra Crossing on the Fairlight Road.
By way of note: The Murrumbidgee, one of Australia’s longest and most important rivers, begins its 1600 kms journey to Balranald (where the Murray takes it down to the sea, south of Adelaide) in the alpine climes of Kosciuszko National Park, about 150 kms to the south west of Canberra. Sixty-six kilometres of its length traverses the ACT. Within the ACT there are numerous walking and other recreational opportunities along its length and over a number of reviews I plan to document the walks along or close to the river which are currently marked. For further details on the river and a map of the ACT section of the river refer to my separate review Molonglo River Track (Crossing) – By Way of Shepherd’s Lookout – linked above.