Walking from Putty to Rylestone in Wollemi National Park

Jeff Kingston > Bushwalking

There does not seem to be much recent information available about walking from Putty to Rylestone through Wollemi National Park. The best is by Neil Paton: his book "Treks in New South Wales" (1986) has four pages of detailed description, but it is hard to find and now almost 20 years old. I've just completed this walk (June 2005).

Executive Summary

Putty to Rylestone via the fire trails is a great walk for trekking a long distance through wild country, with beautiful views and variety of vegetation, in relative comfort. Transport at each end is a problem, and you have to carry water, which makes it somewhat heavy going and rules it out during the hot weather.

Maps

Land Information Centre 1:25000 Topographic Maps: Putty, Kindarun, Coricudgy, and Olinda. Old but very reliable except for evolving features, such as huts, gates, and secondary trails.

There is also a Wollemi National Park map published by Land and Property Information NSW, 2002, and a map of the Dunn's Swamp tracks in the Dunn's Swamp Visitor Guide brochure published by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. We found errors in both these maps (see below).

Water

The National Parks and Wildlife Service rangers at Mudgee (tel. 02 6372 7199) will tell you that there is no water on this route between the Putty valley and Kelgoola Picnic Area, and that is probably prudent advice. We carried six litres each, which in June was about right for us. However, we did see water. There were some unappetising puddles on the Mellong Range. Then there was a small earth dam beside the track a few kilometres south of Three Ways, at the point where the map shows a spring. The water did not look totally disgusting and was at least a metre deep. Then, walking along below the Kekeelbon Mountains, we crossed two rainforest gullies with running water. The first was labelled "Coachwood Creek" by an old sign on a tree. The second had a small natural waterspout just a couple of metres below the track, at which we could have filled our containers with very good water in no time. Paton and another source speak of water on Mt. Coricudgy, but we did not go there.

Camp sites

The route follows ridges and often crosses gaps, and many of these have suitable spots for camping. In the central section between Three Ways and Coricudgy there are locked gates at each end which not even a trail bike could get round, so it is presumably safe to camp on the track (we did). Camp sites I remember are: several on the Mellong Range; one just south of the dam near Three Ways abovementioned (small, but flat and with fireplace); Three Ways itself (a large flat cleared area but possibly rough underfoot); a good camp site a few metres west of the track junction just west of Mt. Monundilla; one not far past Hanging Rock; and about 100m east of the eastern turnoff to Mt. Coricudgy. The gap at Bare Rock Bluff is very nice, although I don't remember seeing a cleared area there. There were certainly other sites along the way. Plus Kelgoola Picnic Area and Dunn's Swamp.

The route

From Putty take Bakers Road to Baxter's Junction, then go to Three Ways, then left onto the Hunter Main Trail to the vicinity of Mt. Coricudgy, then down to the secondary road, past Inglewood homestead, and on to the bitumen road at Olinda thence Rylestone. Navigation is very easy. The tracks are clear fire trails, the major intersections are all signposted, and at minor turnoffs (a hazard in logged country) it is always clear what the major route is.

The two-wheel drive surface ends at the point where the route (Bakers Road) climbs out of the Putty valley (Putty 793574). The road north from there to Baxter's Junction and Three Ways might be passable for two-wheel drive vehicles in good conditions, but there are some steep slippery sections. Our drop-off was about 1km up that road, which saved us the initial climb out of the valley. There are frequent side roads for logging, and the occasional private lot, but the route to follow is always very clear. Of the two alternative tracks shown dividing at the bottom of the Kindarun map, only the eastern one is used by vehicles now.

We searched for the hut marked at Baxter Junction but did not find it.

Paton reports walking right past the track junction just west of Mt. Monundilla without seeing it. This might be possible going west to east, but east to west one has a magnificent view of Mt. Monundilla to orientate by, then the track takes a very conspicuous left turn, and a rarely used but quite distinct trail branches off. After that we did not navigate very carefully. Devil's Elbow and Hanging Rock are said by Paton to be signposted, but we saw no signs. Both are easy to spot, although we needed hindsight for Devil's Elbow. The Kekeelbons, and the gap at Bare Rock Bluff, are unmissable. There is a very distinctive bridge-like gap at Coricudgy 548633 from which one can see south-west down beyond the mountains for the first time, with cliffs below to the left. Of the small triangle of roads at the eastern Mt. Coricudgy turnoff, only the top two sides of the triangle are now used. Both the eastern and western tracks up Mt. Coricudgy appear to be in use, although we did not go up either.

Kelgoola Picnic Area, the first reliable water after Putty, is at Coricudgy 487608, where the map shows a bridge and "Sawmill Ruins". The picnic area is across the bridge to the right, and is signposted, although the sign might have fallen over completely by the time you read this. Get your water there, not at the bridge. There are farms upstream so we boiled and purified. The Wollemi National Park map published by Land and Property Information NSW, 2002, shows Kelgoola Picnic Area adjacent to Inglewood homestead, which would place it about 3km further west. This is quite wrong.

It is plain sailing from Kelgoola Picnic Area to Rylestone, unless you deviate into Dunn's Swamp. The route goes off the bottom of the Coricudgy map at Inglewood homestead, but you don't need to buy the map it goes onto (Bogee), or the map that actually shows Rylestone (Rylestone), since there is nothing notable about the two 3km stretches you can't see, except that as you approach Rylestone there is a turn for Kandos (don't take it) and just on the edge of town you need to turn right at Rylestone Hospital (or you can catch the bus there instead of in town). We were lucky and got a hitch from Olinda to Rylestone.

The CountryLink bus timetable out of Rylestone is rather eccentric and will probably influence your planning, since the only afternoon departures for Lithgow are on Sundays and Mondays. Rylestone is a peaceful small country town with accommodation and a Heritage Walk (pick up a brochure in the main street). Staying overnight might be nice.

Dunn's Swamp

Dunn's Swamp is a car camping area on the lake created by Kandos Weir. Although a little degraded by heavy use, it's a pleasant spot to rest up and camp within good striking distance of Rylestone. We were there on a fine June Sunday at lunch time and there were several car parties, but we had the place to ourselves by sunset. It costs $3 per person per night. The topographic map shows two access roads, the eastern going to a "Picnic Area" and the western going to Kandos Weir. The Picnic Area and Dunn's Swamp are the same place, and the eastern access road is the one that cars use.

If you are walking between Olinda and Dunn's Swamp you are probably eyeing the western access road as a good short cut. We used it and indeed it is, but there is a lot more to the story, because this track is disused, unsignposted, and hard to find at each end (though easy to follow once you're on it). Furthermore, the map in the Dunn's Swamp Visitor Guide published by the National Parks and Wildlife Service is wrong on several counts. So here is our guide to using this route.

Starting from Dunn's Swamp, take the Weir Walk and follow the signs all the way to Kandos Weir. Then follow the small sign (just a post with a diagram of a walker on it) onto a foot track that quickly takes you down onto a four-wheel drive track that is obviously the service track for the weir. Follow this downstream. After a few hundred metres you will come to Long Cave (a sandstone overhang beside the track), and shortly after that to a NPWS signpost. This (the last signpost you will see) points to Kandos Weir back the way you came, and also left up the hill back to the campground (and you could take a shortcut which would bring you to this spot without passing weir or cave -- we didn't). Instead of going in either of these directions, proceed straight ahead through fairly open ground, following a faint track under a telephone line for about 50 metres. This bears right across a very small dry creek bed. The telephone line then goes up a wide cleared slope, heading west. Look carefully at this slope and you will see a faint ditch crossing it a few metres ahead of you. Turn left along this ditch and you will discover that it is in fact an old vehicle track. Follow it south (quite easy) to the Olinda road, climb over the gate, and turn right for Olinda.

Coming from Olinda, use your orienteering skills to work out where this track should start. Look carefully for a locked farm gate leading to a small area between two fences, with a very faint trace of a track, and beyond that a gully leading up into the low hills beside the road. Climb the gate and follow the faint track for a few metres. The track will become clearer and pass a "Wollemi National Park" sign that is not visible from the road. Follow the track north (quite easy) until you come to the cleared area with the telephone line, then turn right, cross the small dry creek bed, bear left, and you will soon come to the signpost.