Sunday, 30 September 2018

Yarrunga Creek Falls, Morton National Park

The Yarrunga Creek hosts nine high waterfalls, including the 81m Fitzroy Fall and the 75m Lady Hordern Falls. We do not know the First People names for the pools of these falls.

Fitzroy Falls

Fitzroy Falls

European settlers originally called the main fall ‘Throsby’s Waterfall’ to honor the explorer Charles Throsby. The fall was visited by the tragic Sir Charles Fitzroy, Governor of New South Wales (1846-51) in 1850. The main fall was renamed in his honor: the 10th Governor of New South Wales, brother of the captain of the Beagle, Robert Fitzroy. An interesting and tragic family. I have often followed in the footsteps of Robert's travelling companion, Charles Darwin as i travel the Blue Mountains, I often stand at Govett's Leap where he gazed into the abyss and instead saw immeasurable time unwind.
We have forgotten about Fitzroy (and his relative Robert Fitzroy (later Governor of New Zealand). Perhaps that name is a way of reminding us of the rough passage to independent statehood of many of the Australian States. Charles Fitzroy was the first ‘Governor-General’  of a number of Australian colonies.

a dramatic vista of the falls and orphaned rocks can be seen early on the East Rim Track

Tracks along the East and West Rims from Fitzroy Falls will take you along the escarpment to view points of the other falls, and eroded and orphaned cliff structures.

rainbow, top of Fitzroy Falls in wind spray, medium flow

rainbow, base of first plunge Fitzroy Falls in reduced flow

A primary rainbow sometimes forms in the wind-blown spray at the top of the Fitzroy waterfall. Here, the rainbow (an optical artifact dependent on the observer's position) can only be seen when the winds blow spray from below the lip of the fall back into the sky (here, back up the river feeding the fall).

A primary rainbow forms in the spray of the Fitzroy waterfall, even if it is a shadow of its normal self (here, despite rain, the catchments of the southern falls are still recovering from a dry winter.) If the sun is high and behind you, and there is sufficient spray of small droplets (here aided by a high drop and a fierce wind), you may see a rainbow as you move in front of the fall.  The rainbow will form only within a very narrow band and within spray. Here, I waited for the wind to disperse the spray and help widen the arc of the rainbow (note that the arc of the rainbow - around the "anti-solar point" -  will change as you move position - with a large fall you may be able to position yourself to capture a wide  arc).

top, Fitzroy Falls

Many falls create their own winds and thick mist. Fitzroy is no exception, but the wind normally blows spray onto all the nearby viewing points.

Pool, top of Fitzroy Falls

View looking from above the second plunge. In the gorge below the main Fitzroy Falls, a lower set of cascades drains the flow into the depths. I particularly like the circular depressions visible from this vantage, perhaps base remnants of older paths of the falls, or perhaps simply weathered by the extreme temperatures. From about 100m (300') above the top of the falls, 2016.

The only way practical way to get to the base of Fitzroy or its lower falls (and a number of other ravine waterfalls in Morton Park) is by abseiling in (special permission would be required - although there are a couple of abseil trainers in the area the vertical distances involve the risk of harness hang syndrome if climbing in the area). The conditions at the base of ravine falls are dire. At the bottom of Fitzroy (and Belmore), a recent abseiling team reported that the wind spray draught at the bottom was tremendous. The team reported chilling towards hypothermia even with wetsuits.

base of first plunge, Fitzroy Falls

View from top, second plunge, Fitzroy Falls

Twin Falls

This is a two chute fall, with the two streams taking slightly different paths down the cliff. Heavy rain has not been enough to merge the two streams as they plunge down a rainforest gully. Accessed via the West Rim walk near to Fitzroy Falls.

Twin Falls in mist

This waterfall falls alongside many small ferns and bushes. It is nice to be able to pick them out, and marvel that they survive in such a precarious situation.

Twin Falls showing hanging fern gardens

In the early morning the path is crossed by lyrebirds, foraging in the mist. And every time I come to this position, i find a different view.

Top of Twin Falls - note viewing areas

I think a good drop of rain is the most important part of preparation :)  I have added a series of images focused on the very bottom of the fall to show each of the steps.

Post processing steps

step 1: RAW data - showing a neutral rendering of the data (this is usually different to what you see through the viewfinder of your camera - color separation is dull
step 2: tone mapping - in this case, tone mapping gives a better approximation of what you can see in the field. Here i have biased tone mapping to develop structures, which helps pick out the detail in the data.
step 3: Dehaze redial filters - removes some of the mist effect, making the image a little more vivid (a closer approximation to a lit scene without mist)
step 4: Light blur (using Define2) - the effect here is very subtle. To my eye, it helps the eye pick out finer detail by removing some of the noise, but that might just be my imagination :)

Grotto Falls 

To get to Grotto Falls you must risk all and climb down the cliff face trusting fifty old stone steps that are showing their age, thoughtfully provided for curious visitors that once came a hundred years ago. Today, only the occasional visitor travels this far.

Grotto Falls

Grotto Falls

This fall and her nine sisters drop 100-200m (300' - 600') to the inaccessible valley below. When you arrive you will find a small grotto held together by ancient trees growing directly from the rock face.

Grotto Falls, ancient trees

 While i was there i thought i could see a manic smile on the right hand tree.  When the trees sharing a cleft with you on the side of a cliff start to smile at you, it is time to climb back up top :)

 I like the way Mark Twain described Australia...
"Australian history is almost always picturesque; indeed, it is so curious and strange, that it is itself the chiefest novelty the country has to offer, and so it pushes the other novelties into second and third place. It does not read like history, but like the most beautiful lies. And all of a fresh new sort, no mouldy old stale ones. It is full of surprises, and adventures, and incongruities, and contradictions, and incredibilities; but they are all true, they all happened."
Mark Twain, Following the Equator, 1895

Grotto Falls, drop

Lady Hordern Falls

The Yarrunga Creek hosts nine high falls, including the two with the largest drops, Fitzroy (90m, rear) and Lady Hordern (75m, foreground).

Many visitors come for Fitzroy, and leave unaware of the others (most can be seen on the West Rim rack). There was once a dangerous track down into the wilderness below, but today the area is inaccessible.
These two falls can only be seen from two remote lookouts on the west rim path: Renown and Starkeys.


The tracks to all the falls start at the entrance to the falls reserve. It is possible to drive to near Twin Falls, but this is not advisable until you have become experienced in the area.

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