23 December 2005 Mt McDonald Photos
Map: Cotter Dam 8627-2N Second Edition 1:25000
Getting There

Trapped by the busy-ness of Christmas celebration, family commitments and my wife's part time job, I just had to get out!  As well, it would be good to sus this area out for an after church walk one Sunday.  A quick contact with my good mate Max S yielded excellent company.  We left Canberra at 7am and drove to the far side of the Cotter Bridge over the Murrumbidgee, first left into the camping area and left again to as close as to the western side of the bridge as possible.


We left the car at 7.20am and wandered down the reserve road and under the bridge.  It was a hazy morning, but a total fire ban had been declared and the Government wanted people out of the nature reserves and forests by 11am.  With 37ºC the forecast maximum, we didn't want to be walking much past 11 either!

We immediately saw new track signage advertising the Stony Creek Skyline Track and a 3.5km round trip to Moore Hill.  A lot of work has been done to beautify the Cotter Reserve in order to attract people back, including the clearing and benching of the track we headed along and up.  We passed several grass trees along the way, with fine views back and down to the bridge and pumping station with the Bullen Range in the back.  The area is aptly named, being dry and stony.  We paused briefly at a lookout with bench, then headed further along the track to cross the Brindabella Road.  We'd ambled a whole 1.3km in 25 minutes to this point.

The track contoured around in a NNW direction above the road, but after another 470m we turned off it up the hill to the right, heading for Mt McDonald.  A further 1.4km up bare, burnt out and cleared forest area, including some forestry tracks, brought us to Mt McDonald with its trig point and fire spotter's tower.  Some replanting has been done in parts of the area, with varying degrees of success.  We reached our objective at 8.35am and spent 10 minutes taking in the not often seen view to the north.

We next headed W for 100m through the only regenerating bush in the area to a forestry track, which we followed to the NW then SW.  As the view towards the Cotter Dam opened up, we continued cross country (well, cross furrow - it must have been a big 'dozer to rip those furrows) to the SW till we struck another forestry road.  With time slipping away and the consideration of brownie points from our wives if we arrived back early, we followed the road to the SE, leaving it at a point where we thought we could get down closer to see the dam wall.

We propped above the Cotter Dam at 9.40am, took a little water and sustenance, then followed the conveniently located trails and tracks nearly back to where we'd originally left the Stony Creek Skyline Track.  The dust on the road showed a snake's track for at least 300m and we vaguely wondered whether we were going its way or not.  We turned right into the bush and within tens of metres, picked up the newly benched track.

This took us south, paralleling the Brindabella Road, then SW to the Cotter River on the eastern bank of the river opposite the end of the picnic area.  Signage indicated that we were beside a (burnt out) Trout Hatchery.  We had a quick look to check that the track up the opposite side of the river to the Cotter Dam wall was still wired off and closed.

We followed the track down beside the river, then turning left up a signed track to Moore Hill and the Cotter Camping Area.  We crossed the Brindabella Road and were back at the car by 10.10am.

A gentle wander to clear the suburban cobwebs.  The benched track would be eminently suited to a beginners/widely varied social walking group and, although dry and stony, the grass trees and views are worthwhile.

Distance: 7.8km   Climb: 300m.  Time: 7.20am - 10.10pm (call it 3 hours) with 15 minutes of breaks.

1 Cotter Pumping Station and Cotter Bridge over Murrumbidgee River with Bullen Range at back
2 Grass trees and lookout
3 Cotter Dam, Pierces Creek, Sugarloaf and Mt Tidbinbilla