TAPIN TOPS NATIONAL PARK
Not far from the NSW Pacific Highway is a peerless rainforest experience
Most of this beautiful drive is on graded dirt roads, so it’s not a demanding 4WD destination, but there are many steep side tracks in the State Forest sections that are worth exploring, if you have topographic mapping and a GPS. Other reserves in the locality are Cottan-Bimbang and Biriwal-Bulga National Parks.
Magnificent, tall ferny blackbutt, brushbox, tallow wood and blue gum trees dominate the ridge lines and valleys, and rainforest pockets appear around virtually every corner. Almost half of Tapin Tops NP is old-growth forest and provides a habitat for threatened species, including the parma wallaby, squirrel glider and sphagnum frog.
Wildlife abounds, but is often difficult to see when there’s traffic about. On a quiet side track we came across a spotted-tail quoll that was a tad too fast for the camera to catch.
Driving through this beautiful country is punctuated by views of the surrounding mountains and Blue Knob Lookout is a must-visit roadside stop, offering 360-degree panorama of the surrounding hills.
As with most 4WD touring you need to climb out of your vehicle and walk, to get the best value from a destination. There are two rainforest walks that start from Dingo Tops rest area: a 15-minute short walk, south of the main camping ground; and a 35-minute walk on the northern side.
Potoroo picnic area is located near Little Run Creek on Potoroo Road and the walking track to Potoroo Falls starts just near the wooden-plank ford over the stream. The track is a simple footpath through rainforest, so it’s damp and slippery, with a number of creek crossings that will wet your plimsolls. However, the 600-metre trek is worth it, culminating in a huge swimming hole below Potoroo Falls. You’ll also brush by the largest water-gum in NSW, right on the edge of the track.
Our trek began with a drive to the west, up the Oxley Highway, from the timber town of Wauchope. We turned left towards Byabarra, Comboyne and Elands, before taking the short side trip to Ellenborough Falls. This single-torrent drops off the Bulga Plateau on the eastern side of the Great Dividing Range and is billed enthusiastically by the locals as the second-tallest single-drop waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere. Spectacular as Ellenborough is this dizzying 160-metre water drop must take its place behind Queensland’s Wallaman, NSW’s Wollomombi, Victoria’s Dandongadale and the NT’s Jim Jim Falls, according to Geoscience Australia.
At the top of Ellenborough Falls is a touching plaque, dedicated to a child who fell over the edge.
From Ellenborough our trek led north, for an overnight camp at Maxwells Flat, followed by an early start and a day’s drive along Knodingbul Road and Potoroo Road, before a refuel at Wingham and the freeway run back to Sydney.
The area was traditionally inhabited by the Biripi people and was probably used as a pathway connecting the tablelands with the coastal plains.
Timber harvesting began in the early 1900s and escalated during and after World War II.
Today’s Dingo Tops rest area was previously a forestry work camp and features some historic logging relics: a rusting dobbie - a wheeled wedge used for log skidding - a dilapidated steam traction engine and what’s left of a horse-drawn grader.
NPWS obviously has no interest in preserving these historic tools of trade, so they’re rapidly decaying.
The dead hand of the National Parks and Wildlife Service hasn’t ruined this drive that used to be exclusively through State Forest country, before an 11,000 hectare slab of it was dedicated as Tapin Tops National Park in 2000. The name ‘tapin’ means dingo in the local Aboriginal Kattang language.
However, NPWS’ usual form is clear in the closure of the steep 4WD track up to Rowleys Lookout: it’s now a ‘strenuous 45-minute walk’ from a tiny car park, ruling it out of bounds for many visitors.
It’s important to remember as you punt along this excellent road network that we wouldn’t have it without the early logging enterprises: NPWS is into closing roads, not building them.
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