Friday, 28 September 2018

Plateau Loop Trail (Coalseam Conservation Park)

An excellent loop trail in Coalseam Conservation Park, the Plateau Loop Trail takes walkers through one of Western Australia's finest wildflower parks. Starting by crossing the Irwin River, the trail heads through fields of pink, white and yellow everlastings during the wildflower season. Offering views of the surrounding landscape below, this is one of Australia's best wildflower walks

Distance: 3.2 km ('tadpole' loop - a main loop with a return section)
Gradient: Mix of relatively flat and walking up and down a moderate incline to the plateau
Quality of Path: Relatively clear and well maintained. The track was newly constructed at the time of writing and thus was in excellent condition
Quality of Signage: Excellent and informative trailhead and clear markers throughout  
Experience Required: No Bushwalking Experience Required
Time: 1 Hour
Steps: Some formal steps at the river crossing and at the plateau
Best Time to Visit: Spring
Entry Fee: No
Getting There: The trail starts at the Miners Picnic Area. From Mingenew, take Mingenew-Morawa Rd, then turn left onto Coalseam Rd. Stay on Coalseam Rd for about 27 kilometres before turning right onto Lookout Rd and then take the immediate right to the Miners picnic area and campsite. Trailhead is located in the picnic area.

After a lovely mini-holiday weekend exploring the Grampians in Victoria, Alissa and I returned to Western Australia for our big trip for Spring 2018 - a road trip through the Coral Coast region to Ningaloo Reef. With a particularly wet winter, the wildflower displays were said to be the best Western Australia has had for over a decade, and with news that a new walk trail had been marked Alissa and I decided that it was time that we finally visited Coalseam Conservation Park - one of the best wildflower parks in a state known for having the best wildflower blooms in the country.

Seemingly obscure just a decade ago outside of those in the know, Coalseam Conservation Park has grown more and more famous as a must-see destination in the age of Instagram, and as such the opening of a formal walk trail is a welcome addition to the area that will undoubtedly help in reducing the environmental impacts of its visitors.

The trail starts by crossing the Irwin River. A largely dry creek bed for most of the year, a few puddles of water served as an indication for how wet a winter the Coalseam area had in 2018.

Once on the other side of the river, the track rises up a series of steps. At this point we were already beginning to see a number of wildflowers on either side of the track and gave us only a mild indication of what the walk had in store for us.

An unexciting but historical feature at this stage of the walk is a long abandoned mine shaft just to the right of the trail. This mine shaft was constructed in 1913 as part of the mineral exploration of the area. Coalseam is so named as the area is filled with coal fairly close to the surface, however it proved to be too unprofitable to mine. Thank goodness that this mine never came to be as it would have been tantamount to environmental vandalism given how special this area is.

Passing the remnant mine shaft, Alissa and I were beginning to be surrounded by the carpets of wildflowers that Coalseam is well known for.

A few years ago, Alissa and I had intended to visit Coalseam on our way to Kalbarri but had discovered we were too late in the season to see the wildflowers in bloom. Late September/early October is usually too late to really see the flowers at their best as the pinks and whites have usually started to die away by this point, but the optimal conditions of 2018 meant that there were still some white flowers in bloom even at this late point in the Coalseam season.

The area is filled with a lot of dead looking trees - some of which serve as perfect places to sit for a photo op as above. With all the dry, woody and dead trees in the area, it is not hard to imagine how desolate and lifeless Coalseam must appear for most of the year before the wildflowers fill the area with swathes of beautiful colour.

After passing the photo op tree, Alissa and I were finally surrounded by the dense carpets of everlastings the area is renowned for. While pinks and whites bloom early in the season, the yellows bloom later and create a second round of stunning colour.

As we continued along the track, Alissa and I entered one of the most stunning sections of the entire park. Here we saw an absolutely beautiful mix of yellow, white and pink everlastings in bloom. While Fitzgerald River National Park is still my absolute favourite park for wildflowers in Western Australia due to the insane biodiversity on display, this view of Coalseam would have to rank right up there as one of the greatest wildflower displays Alissa and I have ever seen.

Walking along, Alissa picked up a flower that was blowing around in the middle of the trail for a close up photo, and then returned it back to the ground. While the flowers at Coalseam are so beautiful that I understand the temptation to pick them, the beauty of the area really relies of people doing the right thing and following Leave No Trace principles. If you love the wildflowers of Coalseam Conservation Park, do not pick flowers so future visitors can enjoy the area's natural beauty.

Beyond the section of white, yellow and pink everlastings, the trail heads up towards the loop that circles across the plateau.

At the top of the Plateau, the loop section of the trail begins, and Alissa and I decided to follow the loop in a clockwise direction.

While the wildflowers are initially like the endless carpet of wildflower encountered earlier along the walk, there is a section under taller trees that features a more muted wildflower display. While less colourful, the trees in the section are the healthiest looking of the entire walk, and give the area a different and interesting appearance as a result.

Across the plateau, it was interesting to see some other wildflowers other than everlastings. Mulla Mullas dotted the everlasting fields, giving the area a different character to what we had encountered earlier along the walk.

The trail skirts the plateau's edge, providing good views of the valleys below.

The trail continues to the edge of the escarpment and provides a stunning view of the surrounding landscape. While lacking in the mountainous beauty of the eastern states and Tasmania, the views down from the plateau nevertheless had their own beauty.

After skirting the plateau's edge, the track heads back to complete the loop.

Before reaching the completion of the loop, a short side track leads to a lookout point over the Irwin River.

While a bit dry and desolate compared to other river valleys, this was nevertheless another superb vantage point from which to view the surrounding countryside.

After the lookout point, the loop section of the walk is completed, and Alissa and I simply followed the return section back to to the car park from there.

Having come from the rugged grandeur of the Grampians the previous weekend, I wasn't sure how I would feel about a somewhat short 3.2 kilometre walk in the relatively flat landscape of Western Australia. In spite of being constantly pestered by flies and feeling the heat of the middle of the day, the Plateau Loop Trail featured some of the best wildflower displays of any walk in Western Australia due to the dense carpets of everlastings. This is to say that in spite of a meagre length, the Plateau Loop Trail is arguably one of the best wildflower-centric walks in Australia, and is a must do for anyone with even a passing interesting in flowers and the botanical wonders of this unique state. 


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