Saturday, 4 November 2017

Mokare Heritage Trail (Denmark Foreshore)

A dog and family friendly walk trail in the Shire of Denmark, the Mokare Heritage Trail provides a pleasant and easy going loop along the Denmark River. Taking in lovely views of the riverside environment, the trail offers a good mix of sections with wilder native vegetation and public parklands. Passing the Kwoorabup Community Adventure Park via an optional extension, this is a perfect walk for the whole family

Distance: 5.5 km (dual loops)
Gradient: Very gentle over the entire length
Quality of Path: Purpose built walk trail with hardened surfaces for most of its length.
Quality of Signage: Few and far between; walkers will need to follow the river as a rule of thumb as it is not clearly marked for much of its length. 
Experience Required: No Bushwalking Experience Required
Time: 80 Minutes
Steps: Some minor steps
Best Time to Visit: Autumn-Spring
Entry Fee: No
Getting There: The trailhead is located near the corner of Hollings Rd and Crellin St on the other side of the old rail bridge. From South Coast Hwy, turn south onto Hollings Rd. The car park for the trail is located in a park near the Bibbulmun Track's Denmark trailhead and the Denmark Rivermouth Caravan Park. 

With November having arrived and the peak walking season in Perth having come to its end, Alissa and I decided to head down to Denmark in early November to extend our hiking season just a little bit longer. Given that my foot was still recovering from plantar fasciitis, I had to scale back my ambitions to tackle Mt Magog in the Stirling Range and we instead chose the easy Mokare Heritage Trail along the Denmark foreshore.

Alissa and I had completed this walk many years ago (sadly in the pre-blog days), however Alissa had recently taken her 'dog brother' Elvis for a walk along the trail and had suggested that we should cover it. With Elvis in tow and Alissa's mum Jane joining us, we drove to the car park near the Denmark Rivermouth Caravan Park to make our way to the trailhead.

Confusingly, the trailhead is not located near the car park even though this is a meeting place for a number of trails - namely, the Munda Biddi, Bibbulmun Track, Denmark-Nornalup Heritage Trail and the Wilson Inlet Heritage Trail. To find the trailhead, walkers are required to cross the old railbridge near the rivermouth to get to the other side. This is a lovely start to the walk as the bridge offers nice views across the river and the Wilson Inlet itself.

Once on the other side of the bridge, the Mokare Heritage Trail's trailhead can be found attached to a signpost. From here, the trail runs along the Denmark River via a sealed path.

Something I remembered vividly from when I last did this trail in 2012 was a tall tree along the river that has grown on a perfect angle for people to climb, and I was not disappointed when we stumbled across the tree early on into the walk. I have to admit that I become a bit of a monkey when I see a tree to climb, and I could not resist having a bit of fun getting up into the tree.

Being very close to the river and surrounded by marshy swampland, Alissa, Jane and I kept our eyes open for snakes. In spite of it being a warm day, we did not run into any snakes and we instead had far more pleasant encounters with other dogs going for a walk with their owners. Ever the boisterous little dog, Elvis had fun with a dingo cross puppy as we stopped to have a chat with a Denmark local.

In spite of the sealed paths, the views along this first section of the walk are surprisingly wild since a corridor of native vegetation has been left along the foreshore. This helps give the trail more of a bushwalk feel for a good majority of the walk, and reminded me of the Luke Pen Walk along the Kalgan River in Albany.

Heading closer to the town, the wildness gives way to more development, with the walk trail passing the John Clark Memorial Bandstand. Although the bandstand faces the river and can be seen from the parklands on the other side, I've very rarely seen this bandstand being used - even when there are bands in town. Event planners have probably since realised that the bandstand is a bit too far for audiences to really appreciate from across the river and have opted to set up a temporary stage on the town side instead.

Just beyond the bandstand is the main traffic bridge over the Denmark River. The Mokare Heritage Trail officially crosses over the bridge at this point to walk back to the start along the other side of the river, however when Alissa had done this walk a few months back, she had continued on straight and found that there were a number of interesting sights worth seeing north of the bridge.

North of the bridge is an old boat launching shed, complete with an old boat winched in place. Owned by the Denmark Boating and Angling Club, this heritage listed structure has been a major landmark along the Denmark River since 1927. While it is no longer in use, there is a less elaborate boat ramp nearby that is still used to launch kayaks and other small watercraft.

After passing the DBAC Boat Shed, a trail can be continued onwards along the river. The riverside vegetation is not as pristine along this stretch of the Denmark River, however the large karri trees and open views make this an idyllic stretch.

As we continued along the trail, we could see an interesting series of sculptures and an octagonal building. Alissa had remembered this from her last time doing this walk, and we decided to go have a closer look.

The sculptures are made of welded metal, and are all whimsical-looking animals such as this exasperated dinosaur trying to ask a question.

Denmark has a reputation as being something of a hippie enclave, and it was no surprise to discover that the octagonal building was some kind of meditation shack with a living green roof. I've seen a number of these before on Grand Designs, however most are made just from grass. This one had a full garden growing on the roof, with some fairly large bushes up there!

Back on the trail, we took a left turn to stay close to the river as the main trail seemed to be heading towards the regional TAFE and high school.

With some tall grasses growing in the area, we decided to tread carefully given the strong possibility of an encounter with snakes, however we were once again in the clear.

After passing through the grassy stretch is another bridge that crosses over the Denmark River. The next bridge is quite some distance further up the river, so this was our cue to cross make our way back to the other side.

On the other side of the river is the Kwoorabup Community Adventure Park. Opened in 2012, the park is an exciting and adventurous modern playground, with plenty of fun activities that will entice children outdoors. I was personally excited by the multiple climbable trees in the park - it is not everyday you get to climb multiple fun trees in one day!

In additional to the playground, the area features a number of picnic tables and shelters as well as some impressive public art such as the above piece entitled 'Illusion' by artist Cindy Poole that commemorates the Denmark Former State Farm/Research Station.

After having a bit of fun at the playground, we were not able to continue along a walk trail so followed the access road west. Towards the end of the access road, the trail picks up again, turning onto a series of boardwalks near the river's bend.

This is a lovely little spot, as there are excellent views of a pool along the river filled with water lillies.

After leaving the boardwalks we were back at the Denmark traffic bridge and the official route of the Mokare Heritage Trail. This is just on the edge of the main part of the Denmark town centre and is thus more manicured as a public park than some of the other sections of the Mokare Trail.

A colourful family of ducks live in the park, and can be often see swimming up and down the river or walking along the river bank.

There is no clear trail at the bridge, however it seemed logical that the best way to continue down the river would be to cross under the traffic bridge rather than going over it.

On the other side of the bridge, a sealed footpath runs alongside the road and it would probably be considered the official trail. We instead chose to continue along the grassed parklands along the river as it provides for a considerably more enjoyable experience than walking past parked cars and the main town bus stops. The parklands in the area are regularly used to put on community events like the Denmark Markets and is a very popular picnic spot with locals and tourists alike. As a child, I remember there being aqua bikes and canoe hire available along this part of the river, however this service has long since been discontinued.

After passing a large playground and the remains of an old tennis court, we returned picked up the official trail as the parkland gave way to more native bush. Interestingly, the route is shared for some distance with the Munda Biddi. With a number of short bridges crossing small tributary streams under the shade of many mature Karri trees, this is a very pleasant stretch of track. 

The nature strip along the river narrows slightly before leading to a small picnic area. From here, it is a few metres to the start of the walk and the completion of the Mokare Heritage Trail.

While the Mokare Heritage Trail is far from the kind of challenging trails I usually prefer, the fact that it is an easy amble through pleasant river scenery makes it an enjoyable experience - especially with the additional loop up to the Kwoorabup Community Adventure Park. The trail's dog friendly nature, relatively short distance, and provision of climbing trees and playgrounds makes this a very family friendly walk, and a perfect way to spend a lovely day in the town of Denmark.

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