Deep River Walk Trail
Start - Nuyts Car Park, Tinglewood Rd
Length - 4.8km (Loop)
Grade - Orange
Terrain - Single Track, 4x4 Track
Vertical Climb - 207m
Time - 1-2 Hours
Signed - Yes
Date Hiked - 26th September 2020
Best Time - All Year Round
Traditional Custodians - Minang People
Directions - From the centre of Walpole, head west along South Western Hwy until you reach the turnoff for Tinglewood Rd. Turn left and follow this all the way to the car park where you'll find an information board on the western edge of the parking loop.
The Hike - With a full day of exploring Walpole, my camping spot for the night was at the Mt Clare Campsite on the Bibbulmun Track. After walking around the Giant Tingle Tree, the storms had finally arrived that had been promised all day. Driving out to the Mt Clare car park, I made a decision that I wanted to do the Deep River Walk Trail that takes in the section of the Bibbulmun leading past the campsite towards the suspension bridge before looping back up the hill. Figuring I would have enough time before sunset, I start around 4:30pm and made my way into the forest for a trail that I really enjoyed the few times I have visited over the years.
With the darker clouds now set in for the rest of the afternoon, as soon as I stepped into the forest it was going to be hard to get the best photos. Cranking the ISO to pretty uncomfortable levels, I would have to deal in order to get the shutter speed to a point where the photos weren't super blurry. Immediately the joy of being immersed in the forest was a great feeling and this section of the forest near Walpole is something special. The highlight around here are the Tingle trees, a unique and girthy tree that is only found in this part of the world. A bell shaped beauty, the Red Tingles that you'll see along this hike are magnificent to behold and really make this trail one of the best near Walpole. Initially you pick up the Bibbulmun Track waugyls that are accompanied by some other markers that form part of this walk and the short walk to the summit of Mt Clare. Heading along a vehicle track, the sounds of the birds, the smell of the damp forest and the depth of the greenery really hits you and made for a wonderful way to end a great day exploring trails.
Passing one of the iconic Tingles that you'll see on this trail, I remembered it from my first visit out here in the summer of 2016. This one is framed nicely in the forest with a little gap in the undergrowth allowing you to fully appreciate the size of these forest giants. Although I was aware that it could rain at any point and I still had to grab my camping gear and walk into camp after this hike, I was taking my time exploring the fringes of the trail to inspect the different wildflowers and plants. Seeing some old favourites like the purple Hovea, Golden Buttercup and Tassel Flowers, I was happy to finally experience this area in the spring. Reaching the side trip to the summit of Mt Clare, there is a wooden board pointing you into the vegetation and it isn't long before you reach a little granite platform. Here I found some lantern shaped blue flowers that I had not seen in this form before. I think they were at the early stage of flowering and looked pretty cool in the low light. This first section of granite is not the summit, instead you head left and follow that trail all the way to the final bit of granite where the nice views are.
I saw nice views but it takes a bit of wandering around to get the right perspective. On my previous visits the views were a little limited thanks to the cloud cover but this time they were dark enough to provide a really cool contrast to the scene. There was still a calmness to the air with the occasional rumble of thunder in the distance and I really enjoyed standing there taking in the moody scenes of rolling hills in the distance covered in excellent Karri and Tingle forest. Having a bigger zoom on this new lens was really nice here with the ability to get the tallest of the branches in the foreground and the deep forest in the background. It was a nice moment but I was aware that the storm wouldn't hold off forever. Doubling back, I was keen to see if anyone was at the Mt Clare Campsite and I was also looking forward to the run down the hill where I knew I would be immersed in some amazingly damp and green forest. Rounding a corner and seeing the Triple Tingles of the campsite, it brought a big smile to my face as this is one of the best campsites on the whole track.
I was last here in winter of 2019 and it was last day into Walpole on a week long hike. Unfortunately the weather wasn't fantastic and it had started raining before I reached the Deep River suspension bridge and I was soaked through by the time I reached the shelter. Looking forward to an empty campsite, I heard some noise and realised I wasn't alone. Tom, a German hiker doing an E2E had setup camp here and we exchanged pleasantries, talking about his experience so far and my plans for the rest of the afternoon. Telling him I would be back in an hour, I left him to his dinner and headed off into the forest to begin the long descent as you scrub off about 170m of elevation all the way down to the Deep River. Last time I was here it was a little disappointing to see the after effects of a burn with the forest not quite springing into life just yet so I was keen to see if it had recovered. Descending down, I was happy to be nice and dry so I could enjoy the quality through here as it's just a really pleasant place to be. There were some bits that seemed like they still hadn't recovered but on the whole there was much to enjoy thanks to the mix of girthy trees, bright green moss and the occasional fungi hiding in the damp places.
Coming across places I remembered from my previous visits like the walk under the giant fallen tree, the grassy rock garden and another fallen tree that has opened up a little gap in the canopy, this was the best way to end a pretty amazing trail day around Walpole. The further down I got, the darker it got and as I arrived at the bottom of the hill, it started to spit very light rain. Hoping the heavier stuff was still a while off, I crossed Tinglewood Rd and headed down the short spur towards the suspension bridge that takes you across Deep River. This was meant to be my path for the day as this eventually leads to the Nuyts Wilderness Walk but I'll be back one day to do that one in better weather. The bridge is an idyllic little spot along the tannin stained waters of the river and suspension bridges are always good fun to take in the beautiful scenes of a forested river. With the rain starting to pick up, I didn't linger very long here and was soon doubling back to try and beat the storm. I wish I had more time and slightly brighter lighting here as the walk along Tinglewood Rd as you head east, running parallel with the river, is simply magic. Vehicle tracks in the Karri forest always highlight how massive these trees are and allow for a greater appreciation of these giants. Being deep in the valley, the trees here have no issue finding water and some examples tower over the rest of the forest.
Finding a balance between enjoying the walking, photographing the forest and also trying to beat the rain, the decision was taken out of my hands as I neared the turn to head back up the hill. The rain started to get heavier and about 50m up the hill it became apparent that this was no passing shower. This didn't worry me too much as this section was just a vehicle track section leading up the hill and back to the car park so it wasn't a big deal if I didn't have any photos of it. It also gave me the opportunity to try out my new rain jacket that had been purchased a couple of days prior after I lost mine last one on a very wild day on the Cape to Cape. It performed quite well considering the heavy rain and I could do nothing but smile at having the luxury of walking in the middle of a lovely forest through the middle of a stormy shower. I reached the car park again and decided that packing up my gear and walking the 1km to camp wasn't going to ideal so would be a bit naughty and make camp in the rest area. Setting up my tent in the rain, it wasn't too difficult to keep the floor dry and pretty soon I was all setup. As I was doing this I was treated to a pretty spectacular light show as the deep oranges, purples and golds of a stormy sunset washed the canopy above. What a day and what a finish.
Final Thoughts - You can never go wrong with a hike that involves a section of the Bibbulmun, especially when it includes pristine Tingle forest. At 4.8km long, the Deep River Walk Trail is perfect for those wishing to experience this fantastic area without doing a long hike on the Bibbulmun.
While not getting ideal lighting, it was the perfect time to be walking through forest like this and I wouldn't have it any other way. This trail will always hold a special place in my heart and I value every time I return to hike it.
Walpole is lucky to have such expansive wilderness surrounding it and I hope this remains the case until the end of time as it's a great privilege to walk these forests.
Get out there and experience it!
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