23 June 2009 Prairie Dog Creek and the Orroral Valley Photos
Maps: Rendezvous Creek and Corin Dam 1:25000
Getting There

This walk was organised and led by me as an irregular CBC Tuesday walk:

Tuesday 23 June - Prairie Dog Creek and the Orroral Valley - L/M-R,ptX. Striking W from the Granite Tors Walking Track, we'll visit some significant granite tors then head to the source of Prairie Dog Creek. Follow it down across Cotter Hut Road and to its confluence with Sawpit Creek. Stroll down the Orroral Valley and visit a couple of sites of European settlement and use. Around 21km + 700m climb. Maps: Rendezvous Creek and Corin Dam 1:25000. Limit of 8. Leader: John Evans – jevans@pcug.org.au, (h) 6288 7235. Transport: $20 per car. Further details at http://jevans.pcug.org.au.

6 of us met and drove in two cars to the Orroral Tracking Station car park.

Further Information

Civil twilight: 0644 - 1727.


A glorious blue-sky day as soon as we got south of Tharwa, contrasting with a dull and cool day in Canberra. Our first leg took us 2.5km in 40mins up the Granite Tors Walking Track to the U-bend at James Creek. Here we left the track, crossed down and over James Creek and generally contoured to the NW for 0.9km. I was looking for a splendid granite stack seen on 5 Aug 08 when we beat a hasty retreat from snow on the Mt Orroral ridge. Find it we did (see pic 1), the photo not adequately showing the scale of the granite - it is enormous.

From here we headed 1.3km SW back up the hill to the top of Prairie Dog Creek. Some more shapely granite at the 1300m contour, looking like the bow of a submarine as we approached it from below. The contours got a bit close at 1400m, forcing us to pass packs up through one little granite climb. Lots of pea and ti-tree regrowth at the level top leading out onto Prairie Dog Creek which started to shred the knees of those in shorts. We found the familiar top of Prairie Dog Creek (see pic 2) and enjoyed morning tea in the open in the sun.

We next followed the creek down to the Cotter Hut Road, 2.4km in 1hr10mins. A variety of going - narrow flats, granite cascades (sans water) in the short section dropping from 1400m to 1200m. Max, who had previously walked this section of the creek, didn't spoil the joy of sighting one solitary tree fern by telling us it was there. Some water would make this area really hop. We tromped Cotter Hut Road for a few tens of metres and visited site OR18.

North back down to the creek, we soon came across some pleasant creek flats, quite a contrast to the nearby dull Cotter Hut Road. We passed the confluence with Sawpit Creek (at the 1090m contour, as I discovered at lunchtime, rather than down near Smokers Trail as per my walk description), so were now on Sawpit Creek. Again, some patches of quite severe regrowth, with the additional inconvenience of being wet when the leader got it wrong by being on the side which the sun had not yet reached. Slow again, Cotter Hut Road to lunch 2.5km taking 1hr 10mins. Lunch was taken high above the creek which, for the last 500m, had been flowing strongly with a throaty gurgle.

Another bash around the corner and down to join Smokers Trail, which I was quite happy to use paralleling the creek. At the signpost where the Orroral Valley track takes off, we found a handwritten note: "21/6/09 Time 8.30pm [3 names] Heading back to Orroral Tel: [number]". I rang the number when I got home just to confirm that all was well. It was, but the guy said it was very dark at 8.30pm on Sunday night! But an excellent idea to leave the note, particularly if there had been trouble.

Out onto the Orroral Valley I announced that the walk could now begin - I had an excellent party to search for sites to bag. We headed for the location of the first site, a hut foundation, but many of the locations from this particular source are not very accurate. A clue was that it was 150m S of the Booroomba Creek/Orroral River junction, so we headed to that point and worked S. Found a submerged concrete ford (see pic 3). Another clue was that it was on a NNE slope, so we examined all those aspects. A possible came in sight, but it turned out to be 'Gilligans Island' in the Orroral swamp. Most of us passed Swamp 101, some of the holes thigh deep (the only saving grace was the the cold water was soothing balm to the be-shorted party members' smarting knees). Realising that no one would build a hut here, we looked across and saw Ken standing on dry land by a star picket. Yelling determined that there was granite (the remains of chimney) about, so 3 of us re-sat Swamp 101 (2 others were wise enough to stay dry on the E side of the the Orroral River and rejoined us a couple of km later) and joined Ken to bag OR17 - Hut foundation (see pic 4).

Further down the valley we unsuccessfully searched for site OR16 - Old Fishloch Yards. Further S again we visited OR15 - New Fishloch Yards. Nice views up to the Ridge of Stone (see pic 5).

OR14 - Hut foundation had eluded me on previous searches approaching from a different direction, but this time, using the clue '10m south of track', we got a bag (see pic 6). A nearby star picket with number 438 helped a bit! Stopped briefly at OR11 (also SoS in the ACT G4) - Rowleys Orroral Hut site.

With the temperature dropping and the sun dropped (down in the valley) we beat a hasty retreat to the rustic benches by the car park where Eric offered chocolate (as hoped for and much appreciated), Mark sour snakes (unexpected and much appreciated) and Max hot water for a cuppa (love that FBI tradition). Sorry the transport cost was a bit (long way) out.

Thanks Eric, Ken, Mark, Max and John. A day with a bit of variety that everyone seemed to enjoy. Excellent bagging!

Distance: 19.6km  Climb: 700m.  Time: 8.20am - 4.50pm (8hrs 30mins), with 35mins of stops.
Grading: L/R,ptX; H(14)

KMZ file for Google Earth/Maps: Prairie Dog Creek and the Orroral Valley

Click on a thumbnail below to see the full sized picture
1 Nice granite stack
2 Source of Prairie Dog Creek
3 Concrete ford under Orroral River
4 OR17 - Hut site
5 Sentinel Rocks, Trojan Wall and Legoland
6 OR14 - Hut site