(This post follows on from the 2 previous ones, so if something in here doesn’t make sense try reading the previous two posts).
Trappers Gap Track
The Mountain Creek Camping Ground where we were camped is accessed via a road from Tawonga that continues beyond the camping ground to the Omeo Highway near Mitta Mitta. Between the camping ground and the Omea Highway the road is called Trappers Gap Track. On Friday we decided that a non-energetic day was in order, and so we decided to go for a drive to Mitta Mitta and explore around there. This meant travelling along Trappers Gap Track. As far as mountain roads go, it’s not a bad road. A little rough and steep in places, with very steep mountain sides above and below the track in quite a few places. But we have been on worse roads (the backwoods ‘road’ through the Wollondilly River valley to reach the Wombeyan Caves, for example). The road climbs steadily and provides some great views of the Bogong ridge. And I am fairly sure that it gets up above the snow line ad when I got out to take some photos it was very cold.
The photos above give the impression that the road is about the same altitude as the road, but I don’t think that would have been the case as a sizable portion of the Bogong ridge is above the treeline (not just above the snowline), and the road still had plenty of trees on both sides of it for it’s whole length to suggest it never gets above the treeline.
Averaging about 30kph, it took us a bit over an hour to travel the 38 km from the Mountain Creek camp ground to Mitta Mitta.
Mitta Mitta is a small town nestled into the steep sided valley where the Mitta Mitta River and Snowy Creek converge. Actually the name Mitta Mitta means “meeting of the waters” in the Aboriginal language. The first settlers are believed to be William Wyse and Charles Ebden who took up cattle grazing leases in the area. Gold was discovered in the 1860s, which brought many more people to the region, as gold finds tended to do back then. The Pioneer Mine was opened in 1861 and was the principle claim, and the site is reputedly the largest open cut gold mine in the southern hemisphere. The mine is so huge that the road goes into the mine for a way, and then there is a 1.5km walk inside the open cut itself.
The Pioneer Mine used hydraulic sluicing methods to extract the gold. This needed a large volume of water which was brought in open channels (water races). These water races were hand cut on the contour to bring water from nearby creeks to the mine site. The water used for the hydraulic sluicing was channeled through iron pipes from the top of the mine to the bottom where it was channeled through a hose with a nozzle. The pressure created by this method was so great that it generated a huge jet of water that was used to hose down earth from the walls of the mine literally washing away the walls of the mine which was then ‘sluiced’ in sluice boxes to separate the gold from clay and loam that held it. Two men were needed to hold the nozzle to direct the water at the mine wall. A nozzle could deliver 18 MegaLitres of water a day. Thats 18,000,000 litres!
Also in the area was the Mammoth Flume, which was built during the 1860s and was 35 metres high and 210 metres long. Made of timber, the flume was constructed to carry water across a creek as part of a 22km water race. The water race is still visible in places but the flume was dismantled in 1908.
Not far from the Pioneer Mine site, beside the river near the edge of Mitta Mitta township, is a historical reserve with a number of static displays related to the history of the town and it’s gold mining past.
The town of Mitta Mitta today is a lot less busy’ than what is was in it’s heyday, but it still has a general store, hotel, caravan park, ambulance and police stations. It still has a number of old buildings around the town…
Not far from Mitta Mitta is the township of Eskdale. The township was first surveyed in 1887 and was named by the first shop owner, James Aitken. A bakery was opened around 1890, and the original hotel was opened in 1897. The discovery of gold in the area and early farming effected the development of the town. Also in the 1890s, Eskdale had it’s own butter factory.
A declining mining industry saw the ascendancy in importance of farming, particularly dairying, as a viable regional pursuit. The area is very suitable for dairying. Farmers brought their milk to be separated at creameries from where the cream was transported to the butter factory. In 1967 the company that run the butter factory was merged into the Murray Goulburn Co-op, and when bulk milk road transport became viable the butter making activity was closed down.
This is not so much a highlight of the holiday (for me at least, as I was still eager to explore), but as everyone else in the family had by this time developed an ailment of some kind I reluctantly heeded the suggestion of the Wife and when we got back to Mountain Creek we packed up the campsite in record time and headed for home.
Thus endeth the holiday!