Monday, 11 July 2016

Lane Poole Falls (Boorara-Gardner National Park)

Located in the relatively obscure Boorara-Gardner National Park, this return walk leads to the stunning Lane Poole Falls - the park's crown jewel, and one of the most highly regarded in the South West. Starting at the decommissioned Boorara Tree lookout, the trail passes through Karri and Marri forest recovering from the 2015 Northcliffe Fires, before descending steeply to the falls along the Canterbury River.

Distance: 5.5 km (return)
Gradient: Generally flat and very gently undulating, before descending steeply to the falls
Quality of Path: Clear, broad and straightforward
Quality of Signage: Very informative trailhead. No trail markers, however the trail is fairly easy to follow.
Experience Required: No previous Bushwalking Experience Required
Time: 1.5 Hours
Steps: No formal steps
Best Time to Visit: Mid Winter/Early Spring
Entry Fee: No
Getting There: Access is via Boorara Rd, south of Northcliffe. The turn off for the Boorara Tree and Lane Poole Falls is difficult to locate on a map, however is clearly signed along the road.

Amongst the numerous National Parks that make up the Southern Forests subregion of the South West, Boorara-Gardner is one of the more obscure. Located between Walpole and Northcliffe, the small national park is best known for Lane Poole Falls - a often listed as one of the best in the region - and the retired Boorara Climbing Tree. Having completed the short Mt Frankland Summit and Caldyanup Trails earlier in the morning and wanting to do a bit more exploring, we made the brief detour to Boorara-Gardner National Park on our way to Pemberton so we could complete the walk linking the Boorara Tree and the Falls.

The trailhead is not the easiest location to find on Google Maps as there are conflicting bits of information online, however the turn offs for the Boorara Tree and Lane Poole Falls are well signed along the major roads leading to the park. The trail car park features the Boorara Tree - one of the last lookout trees pegged in the Southern Forests. Unlike the Diamond, Gloucester and Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree, the Boorara Tree has been decommissioned, with the lookout cabin and the first few pegs removed to prevent climbing. Not being able to climb the tree makes this a bit less exciting than its aforementioned siblings, however it still stands as an important historical site.

Near the start of the walk is a cabin described as a 'replica' of the lookout tower that used to be perched on the Boorara Tree. Having climbed all three of the climbing trees before, I knew that the building looked way too be big to be an accurate replica. Sure enough - information within the building explains that the actual lookout was considerably smaller - maybe a quarter of the size.

The cabin features interesting information about the life of the fire lookout workers, and features a replica of the old phones they would have used to ring in information about their observations.

A decal on the cabin's window gives walkers a simulated impression of what it would be like to see the forest canopy from the cabin if it were still above the Boorara Tree. Just outside the cabin, the Lane Poole Falls trailhead is clearly marked with an info panel featuring a map and description of the walk. The walk is fairly flat for much its distance, with a very gentle descending gradient.

Although the Boorara Tree is no longer in use, the threat of bushfire still remains and we visited the park while it was still in its early stages of recovery from the devastating 2015 Northcliffe Fires that burnt through 95,000 hectares. Having walked through a lot of burnt Jarrah forest, it was interesting to see how Karri forest deals with this kind of devastation. With Karri forest's usual dense canopy burnt away, the understorey plants of the forest had come back with a vengeance, creating a density unusual even in the lush Karri forests.

The Karri trees themselves also showed off the renowned resilience of Eucalypt species, with many covered in Epicormic Buds similar to what we encountered when we walked the Dale Rd to Brookton Hwy section of the Bibbulmun Track.

After a fire, Jarrah forest always look significantly blackened for many years. I don't think I've ever walked a section of the Bibbulmun in the Jarrah forests that hasn't featured fire scarred trees, and yet the Karri forests often look a lot less obviously burnt. Walking along the track to the falls, the answer was obvious - Karri's propensity to shed bark in long thick strips means the scarring of fire is often peeled away, leaving only the worst, deepest burns in place.

Some distance into the track is a lookout that also serves as a rest stop and shelter.

The platform overlooks the Canterbury River Valley. According to the old DEC publication Bushwalks in the South-West, there used to be several Granite outcrops visible from this lookout, however the dense understorey has since shrouded any such outcrops from view. Instead, the river valley is dominated by mush of the same recovering Karri forest as seen all along the rest of the walk, albeit from a raised point of view.

From the lookout, the trail's gradient increases in steepness, eventually featuring a handrail alongside the track to help walkers descend. This was not overly difficult terrain, but with Alissa recovering from pulling her back out, we took this descent cautiously given the added stress this would be putting on her already tight back muscles. 

Upon reaching the end of the descent, Lane Poole Falls revealed itself. Having arrived after significant winter rains, the falls were superb, with a sheet of raging water running down the large Granite face. We spent a bit of time here taking photos and enjoying the lovely scene.

The water continues down the Canterbury River - still relatively narrow at this stage of its course, and somewhat minor compared to some of the other great rivers of the South West.

From there, it is a simple return walk back to the start. Overall, I thought this was an enjoyable short walk, with Lane Poole Falls serving as an excellent pay off at the end and the recovering Karri forest providing fascinating if unchanging scenery along the way. As pretty as they are, the falls are admittedly not as spectacular as the easier to get to Beedelup Falls, and if I had to choose to visit one or the other, Beedelup would definitely win out. Likewise, the Boorara Tree not being climbable makes it less of an attraction than any of the three trees closer to Pemberton. Still, the short 5km distance and relatively easy terrain of this walk should be quite achievable by most, and it is well worth a look if driving between Pemberton and Walpole.


  1. Super inspired to try this one one day soon!

    1. Definitely worth visiting while the Winter rains are providing a decent flow of water. I should be good from now until September.