Monday, 22 October 2018

Valley of the Waters, near the town of Wentworth Falls, Blue Mountains, NSW

While the descent into the Valley of the Waters is challenging (and, in wet or icy conditions, dangerous), those who take the hike are never the same. It is said that those who survive live longer, smile harder and speak slower. 

base, Empress Falls

The Valley of the Water Trail is near the town of Wentworth FallsIt is well signposted from the Conservation Hut which is a brisk walk from the Wentworth Falls Railway Station. 

The trail down the valley follows a single stream segmented into a number of drops which in modern times have been given colonial names: Empress, Sylvia, Lodore, Flat Rock. While typical of ravine falls off the coastal escarpments, each fall is a little different. The steep trail features a number of lookouts and demanding sandstone steps and steel ladders, that will first take you to the base of the waterfalls. 

The round trip may take some hours. Part of the trail was closed in late 2017 and remains closed October 2018 (check local authorities for reopening details) due to a fatal rock fall. At that time, access was only available to the base of Empress Falls. 

Empress Falls

Empress Falls, with canyon behind

This waterfall starts in a deep canyon. For a moment, the water becomes still, before starting its plunge down cascades to this first waterfall. The final stage is a 30m (90’) drop, besides a curtain of a rock wall and ferns. 
Empress Falls, base

Empress is a favorite for abseilers meet the Valley of the Waters Trail at this point via the canyon above the fall (abseilling to this point requires experience, wetsuits and full gear, with a couple of cold swims including the pool at the bottom). Walkers will only get a glimpse of the canyon, as they traverse the ravine by steel ladder and old steps.

Empress Falls. base

young abseiller about to scale the final drop, Empress Falls

Empress Falls

Sylvia Falls

Below Empress Falls, the creek becomes a steep cascade in the rainforest before reaching the top of Sylvia Falls. The top of Sylvia Falls slowly resolves into noisy chutes and fans.

Sylvia Falls

The track taking you alongside that fall is like a great winding ballroom staircase which has seen better days. The track seems to be slowly losing its grip on the mountain side and seems in need of repair.

Sylvia Falls

The top layers of the steps in this waterfall (and the lower ones) are a yellow/orange color, which can become very bright depending on the time of day and processing chosen.
This waterfall is a good subject for ‘face-on’ long exposure shots which give the fall water a silky appearance (as a bonus, you may capture a standing ‘whirlpool’ in the pool below - and if one is not there naturally, don’t be tempted to stir one up, as there is a long drop just below the pool). Remember that long exposure shots can suffer wind blur, water reflection artifacts and loss of distant detail. 

Lodore Falls

Lodore Falls is found below Empress and Sylvia Falls (but is sometimes mistaken for the higher Sylvia Falls). Like a couple of other Australian waterfalls, it was named after an old Cumbrian Fall near Borrowdale.

Lodore Falls

The path down to this fall has been undercut by storms, and some of the safety rails swept away. 
This smaller waterfall falls through a garden of ferns into a shallow rock pool. At the bottom of the waterfall is a bright boulder. The rock faces of the boulder are a fun subject, and I have spent a little time trying different angles (a little difficult because of the chasm immediately behind this pool).

Lodore Falls

The bright boulder has a lovely patterned surface. I wondered if it had been gradually rolling from further up the cliff, but looking again more closely, 

Lodore Falls

I think it has only fallen a couple of feet, and that the bright part of the rock was once the stream surface. 

Flat Rock Falls

A wild fall deep in the Valley of the Waters, these waterfalls cascade down layers of rust-colored flat rocks (similar to the fallen rock at Lodore).

upper Flat Rock Falls, obscured by forest

The loop trail plunges down alongside this stepped waterfall (the ochre parts are flat, the black vertical). 

Flat Rock Falls

These waterfalls are obscured by trees along the path, but when the sunlight hits the water, the waterfalls light up like a stained glass window. 

Valley of the Waters
Valley of the Waters, Empress Canyon


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Bob ORourke said...

Great Spot! Images hold some of the magic.Reading photography tips.

Peter Quinton said...

Thanks Bob :) It is fun to look over the edge every so often.