Date: 15/10/2023
Trip leader: Bruce Stafford
Party: Aria, Badour, Cosmo, Jessica, Ming Suet (Olivia), Selyn, Yang

Royal National Park: Uloola Falls and Karloo Pool tracks, Sunday 15/10/2023.

The walk started on a nice day with everyone meeting me at Central Station for the 45 minute train trip to Loftus. As mentioned in the walk description, the plan was to take a tram from here to the Royal National Park entrance to save a 45 minute walk along Rawson Road (which is strictly speaking a dirt fire trail). The prior Wednesday I had dropped in to the tram people on my way to do an exploratory walk at Otford and Stanwell Park, and advised them of this plan; no one seemed to have an issue with it. Unfortunately, on arrival at the tram terminus, the person selling tickets abruptly told me that they were not selling single ride tickets to the Park entrance this day, as it was a “special museum day”. I advised him that I had been told otherwise on Wednesday, but he just bruskly (or brusquely?) repeated that they were only selling museum entry tickets (at $20 or $15 concession) and can I get the queue moving (our group made up half of the “queue” at the time). 🙁 So we gave it a miss. This meant crossing the very busy Princes Highway there where there are no designated pedestrian crossings; just have to go up to the traffic lights and cross between the cars when they have to stop on red. Then we went along a winding short bush track for about 400 metres to Rawson Road, and follow it for 3 km to the Park entrance. This dirt “road”, actually a fire trail, is also used by bike riders and joggers, and we saw a few. So off we went for a 3km HIKE along this fire trail, which took about 45 minutes from Loftus.


At the Park entrance however, the bushwalk started as we went along and down into the valley of the Hacking River along the “Honeymoon Track” to Audley Weir. Strangely, we didn’t see any walking bushes. At the bottom of the Honeymoon Track the sign states the estimated time from there back up to the Park Entrance is “20 minutes”. That’s the time going downhill, but going uphill needs an extra 10-15 minutes! It’s quite steep.

Crossing Audley Weir (salt water on the left and fresh water on the right) we continued to Audley Picnic Grounds and a brief toilet stop, before heading off along another one km HIKE along a road to Wattle Forest, where a track to Uloola Falls starts. (It is also possible to access the Uloola Falls track via the Engadine Track and Robertson Roundabout, although that way is longer). At Wattle Forest we came across a family of two adult ducks and their brood of ducklings crossing the pavement (see photos). They are Pacific Black Ducks (Anas superciliosa) and these ducklings would have been hatched at the end of August. They are a native species. Also a white cocky (officially: “sulphur-crested cockatoo (Cacatua galerita)), was there too posing for us.

From Wattle Forest the track climbs steadily and fairly steeply with rough sections here anmd there as it passes over rock shelves. There is little shade on this section so we were glad that we had a cool breeze along the way. Near the top it starts to level out until it reaches its junction with Uloola Falls Track coming south from Robertson Roundabout. We had a water break here and someone noted the estimated time to reach Uloola Falls according to the NPWS sign; it stated “1 hour 40 minutes”. As it was now 12.15pm they were concerned that they would not have lunch until almost 2pm. I assured them that it wouldn’t take that long, I estimated (on past experience) that it would take us an hour to reach Uloola Falls (in fact it took us 50 minutes).

Uloola Falls Track in heathland.

The Uloola Falls Track (that we were now “officially” on) has only a few short steep sections but is mainly level as it passes through heathland with some wildflowers. It crosses several large rock platforms including one called Whale Rock because that is what it looks like. Because it is in thick heathland and not woodland it does not get a breeze asnd so can get rather warm on this section. It seems to go on and on until it starts to noticably veer right and to descend through a more wooded area along a rough track. Eventually it comes out at a clearing at the junction with the fire trail from Waterfall. There is a NPWS “dunny” (pit toilet, not a “bathroom”) about 150m away. We went across the little creek which feeds Uloola Falls, and settled down for lunch. There were a few other walkers there as well. It’s not possible to get a good view of the Falls from the top of them, but they were not running well anyway, so we didn’t bother trying to get down further for a look.

After the lunch break we set off along the track to Karloo Pool (now called the “Karloo Pools walking Track”). This track is uneven at places at the start but levels out after a while. What was noticed was how dry the track was compared with its soggy nature during periods of frequent rain. Along the way there is a large rock platform where a view of the Sydney CBD can be seen. Soon after that, the track started dropping down into the valley of Kangaroo Creek where Karloo Pool is located. It is quite rough in places, especially as we neared the Pool.

A welcome cool paddle at Karloo Pool (photo by Budour).

At Karloo Pool, no one decided on a swim but people paddled their feet in the nice cool water, a pleasant respite form the walking on rough tracks. We saw a tadpole in the water, and also an iridescent blue Dragonfly (which is not a dragon that flies). We spent a comfortable half hour at the Pool before heading off on the last section of track to Heathcote. I had expected this section to be in a lot better condition than it was, as some track repairs were supposed to have been done on it in recent months. I couldn’t see any evidence of improvements, and the track is still as rough as it ever has been. It is a one hour walk to the end of the track at Heathcote houses in either direction. The track is very eroded, being loved to death by the many walkers accessing Karloo Pool from Heathcote. It does have some moderately steep sections. Someone mentioned that although I had described the walk as “easy/medium”, they found it hard, and I must admit that I thought that improvements would have made that final section easier than it was.

Track from Karloo Pol to Heathcote photo by Yang).

We arrived at Heathcote Station and us lazybones took the lift up to the overhead bridge. As we were crossing over, a steam train unexpectedly appeared running directly below us, and Olivia was fast enough to get some unusual pics of it. The on the platform we found that the toilets were closed (they have been open on previous weekend visits here). And the drink vending machine was being refilled too, so no luck there. We had a wait of about 15 minutes for the train back to Central, with some getting off at Sydenham and Redfern. At Central, Budour stopped by the “Eternity Cafe” to buy me a cake for my birthday, which was the previous week; thank you very much, Budour! 😁

It was unfortunate that we were not able to use the tram at Loftus, and looks like the take-away message is that the tram can’t be relied upon as transport from Loftus to the National Park entrance (or return). I would have thought that the ticket seller would have been happy to accept 8 x $4 fares, “money for jam” as the saying goes; But no, he rigidly stuck to his ruling. (There was nothing on the Museum’s website about that restriction on that day, by the way).

Some other disappointments: two “no-shows” and no word from either as to why they didn’t come. A few did drop out for illness or study requirements, whittling the number down to the 8 members that came. Also disappointed that we didn’t see any walking bushes. Still, the members that came all worked well together on the walk.

And the first photo? It is of Venus in the morning sky some time after sunrise that day. In fact, Venus is bright enough to been seen at any time of day if you know exectly where to find it.

Photos are below; they are not all in chronological order. The first 23 are mine, then the 4 photos of the steam train at Heathcote are by Olivia, followed by 11 by Yang Zhou, and the last 12 by Budou (unfortunately a video of a white cocky by Budour couldn’t be uploaded here).

Bruce Stafford.