Saturday, 15 December 2018

Deep River Walk Trail (Walpole-Nornalup National Park)

A short but enjoyable loop walk in Walpole-Nornalup National Park, the Deep River Walk Trail explores the Tingle and Karri forests of Mt Clare. Taking a gradual climb up to the summit, the trail follows the Bibbulmun Track to the Mt Clare campsite before descending steeply to the suspension bridge at Deep River. Following the road, the trail returns back to the start through more lovely forests

Distance: 4.2 km (loop)
Gradient: Moderate hill climbs and a steep descent to from Mt Clare campsite to Deep River
Quality of Path: Clear and relatively well maintained trails following the Bibbulmun Track, and then wide, well maintained vehicle tracks tothe end
Quality of Signage: Clear trailhead at the car park, and good directional signage until Deepn River. Signage all the vehicles tracks is slightly lacking
Experience Required: Previous Bushwalking Experience Recommended. While most of the walk is concurrent with the Bibbulmun, the road sections are not as clearly marked
Time: 1-2 hours
Steps: Several formal and informal steps
Best Time to Visit: Best from Autumn-Spring, but possible to walk all year round
Entry Fee: No
Getting There: The circuit starts at a car park on Tinglewood Rd. West of Walpole, follow South Western Hwy and turn south onto Tinglewood Rd. Continue on the road until reaching a car park and day use area. Trailhead is located in the day use area. 

Looking back over 2018, it became pretty clear to me that Walpole-Nornalup was our WA national park of choice thanks to our September visit to define the Lower Frankland Circuit and a return visit in November to tackle the Nuyts Wilderness Track. For our final Western Australian walk of 2018, poor weather in the Stirling Range prevented us from doing our intended hike and led to us instead return to Walpole-Nornalup National Park to do the Deep River Walk Trail.

From the main trailhead at the bottom of Mt Clare, the Deep River Trail initially runs concurrently with the Bibbulmun Track as it follows the track up Mt Clare. Alissa and I had done this section of the track in the reverse direction when we completed Long Point to Walpole on the Bibbulmun back in 2017, and we were glad to be taking the slow ascent up this side of Mt Clare rather than the steeper climb on the other side.

Along the ascent the trail passes by a number of the beautiful Tingle trees that make this area so special. While the Tinglea are most often associated with the Valley of the Giants area, there are a number of Tingles along this walk that are just as beautiful and spectacular as the more well known examples seen along the Tree Top Walk.

As the slow, gradual ascent levels out, a side trail leads to the summit of Mt Clare.

I had taken the side trail back in 2017 but decided to check it out again. The side trail is short and easy, and is worthwhile given it short length and easy-going nature.

The actual summit is however a bit of a non-event, as it is marked merely by a stack of fallen branches and nothing resembling an inspiring view.

Back on the main track, it is only a short walk from the Mt Clare side trip to the Mt Clare campsite. This is one of two Bibbulmun Track campsites within the Tingle forest, and it is arguably the better of the two given the three stunning Tingles that grow in the middle of the campsite and the slightly higher elevation.

Stopping briefly, Alissa and I did our regular signing into the green book for DBCA's records, and also to have a read of the red book's most recent entries.

While she got the date wrong (it was December, not August), we received a lovely message from fellow Perth hiker Bonny (of Wild Western Australia and Young Perth Hikers fame), who has stayed at Mt Clare the previous night and knew we were coming through.

After enjoying some of the entries and being pissed off at the unnecessary censorship of finding Red Pen Jase had his entry ripped out (allegedly by Pack Animal because he disagrees with his negative viewpoint), Alissa and I began the descent of Mt Clare.

The descent on this side of the 'mountain' initially begins gently, but soon becomes a steep plunge down to the Deep River. The moss-covered Karris and Tingles along the descent make this a lovely area to walk. The fact we were going downhill rather than up make for a welcome change from our previous visit, where this had been the final steep climb of a three day hike.

Along the descent, an interesting feature is a section of track that goes right under a massive fallen tree.

Closer down to the bottom, the track is flanked by a series of moss-covered granite boulders as the walking becomes ever-so-slightly rugged.

At the bottom of the descent, the track reaches another trailhead identifying that the Deep River Suspension Bridge is straight ahead. At this point, the three trails running concurrently up and over Mt Clare split off in three directions, with the Deep River Walk Trail heading left along the vehicle track.

But first - it would be strange for to walk a trail called the Deep River Walk Trail and not actually visit the Deep River Suspension Bridge, so I continued straight ahead. The trail passes through the car park Alissa and I had used to start the Nuyts Wilderness Track and also passes the main Nuyts Wilderness trailhead and logbook.

One of the four suspension bridges on the Bibbulmun Track (the others being the Bilya Djena Bidi across the Murray River, the one near One Tree Bridge, the lower alternate route at Beedelup Falls), the Deep River bridge is the one we've walked the most, with this being my third time visiting the area after having crossed the bridge as part of the Bibbulmun and then more recently on the Nuyts Wilderness Track.

Returning to the trail junction, Alissa and I followed the vehicle track eastwards along Tinglewood Rd. Having driven down Tinglewood Rd to start the Nuyts Wilderness Track, Alissa and I knew that this road is frequently used by vehicles however this is not immediately obvious. Walkers should take care along this stretch and be aware of vehicles - especially at blind corners.

Keeping an eye out for the turn off, Alissa and I followed Tinglewood Rd until we reached a trail junction that heads uphill into the park. An old Waugal on a metal post indicates that this is obviously used as a Bibbulmun Track diversion at times.

This stretch of track passes by many excellent Tingles as its heads uphill to the car park and makes for very pleasant and enjoyable forest walking.

The trail markings along this stretch of the circuit are unfortunately pretty poor, and at a trail junction there was no indication of whether we needed to go straight or turn left. Luckily we had a pretty good sense of where we should be heading, and continued straight up the hill. This proved to be the right way to go, and it was only a short distance from the junction before Alissa and I were at the car park we had started from.

While not an overly long trail, the Deep River Walk Trail is a decent walk in Walpole-Nornalup National Park that utilises the existing walk trail of the Bibbulmun and roads to create an accessible loop of pleasant forest walking. The spectacular Tingles, the campsite at Mt Clare and the views of Deep River are the trail's highlights, and it is a great way to check out some of the best parts of this stretch of the Bibbulmun. Poor signage along the road could be improved (and an actual constructed walk trail would be better than the mildly dangerous road walking), however this would be an easy walk to recommend for those looking to get a taste of the Tingle and Karri forest outside of the Valley of the Giants.


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