Start - Off Beardmore Rd
Length - 1km (Loop)
Grade - Green
Terrain - Single Track, 4x4 Track
Vertical Climb - 26m
Time - 30 Mins
Signed - Yes, Occasional Wooden Board
Date Hiked - 26th September 2020
Best Time - Autumn to Late Spring
Traditional Custodians - Minang People
Directions - From the centre of Walpole, head west on South Western Hwy until you see the signs for Fernhook Falls. Turn right onto Beardmore Rd (gravel road) and follow this until you reach Fernhook Falls Campground. The trail starts at the visitor info gazebo.
The Hike - Having a pretty fluid day exploring some spots around Walpole thanks to the weather prediction changing my plans, the next stop was a visit to Fernhook Falls. This is a place I've passed a few times heading out to Mount Frankland but never stopped in to have a good look around. With plenty of time to do whatever took my fancy today, I thought I would rectify this and head out to photograph the falls with my new ND filters I purchased before the trip. The drive out is pleasant with the dirt track of Beardmore Rd making you feel like you're out in the middle of nowhere. Arriving at the campground, there were plenty of people here having a look around thanks to the start of the school holidays this weekend.
Initially I had just planned to visit so I could get some practice in with my new filters so when I arrived, I just grabbed my tripod, camera and filters. When I reached the little gazebo area with all the info boards I realised that there was more to this place than just the falls and a few campsites. I continued on towards the falls, thinking I could decide later on if I wanted to do this up as a proper post for the website (spoiler - I decided to write it up). The paved path leads down to a boardwalk section that I think once had better views of the falls before the vegetation grew a little too tall. You get some fleeting views of the water through the Balgas and Kingias but you know it's there because of the thunderous roar of the rushing water. From the boardwalk it doesn't look like you can get better views of the falls but as you move along, there is an obvious track down to the rocks lining the river. This is where things get interesting as the rocky platforms allow you to explore the various little rapids downstream from the falls and eventually up to a few good spots overlooking the main event. As always, be very careful on the rocks as there is a good chance they will be slippery.
I was kind of hoping by this point in the day that the clouds would have rolled in and provided some even lighting but it was still super sunny. With the main part of the falls being in a north-easterly direction from the best places to shoot from, I wasn't super confident that the shots would be any good. Add in I had only used these filters once at Quinninup Falls, it would involve a lot of trial and error to get the shots I thought I could manage with this setup. One thing I did find out at Quinninup Falls was that if I didn't shield the filter from the light, a halo would appear in the final shot as the light entered the gap between the lens and filter and reeked havoc. Shooting the best angles I could of the lower rapids, the results were okay but not super spectacular. Luckily the clouds started to come over but only in very brief bursts so moving quick, I found some better spots to photograph the main falls as they cascade down from the road bridge. There were a few good spots I could get to with a bit of rock hopping and in the end I was pretty happy with the results given the lighting trouble I had. This spot would be fantastic in the late afternoon and I was half thinking of staying here the night but didn't have phone reception to book (or cash).
With enough shots in the bag and the sun peaking once again, I packed up the camera gear and left the falls behind to explore the walking trail as it continues towards Rowell's Pool. Another section of boardwalk provides a nice vantage point to take in another set of rapids as it feeds into the idyllic and calm waters of Rowell's Pool. It was at this point that I figured that I may as well write this one up as even if you aren't staying at the campsite, it's worth stopping in and doing the 1km loop (plus it gives me a place to put my photos). I ended up returning to the start and properly photographed the little details along the trail that I didn't take when I initially headed down to the falls. Being spring during my visit, the wildflowers were exploding with Flame Peas, Hovea and Yellow Peas just everywhere. I had a quick visit to the rocky platform to take some normal shots of the falls just in case my long exposure shots didn't turn out as expected. On the open linking path between the two boardwalk sections I went for a bit of a wander to see if I could find some orchids and ended up finding a calypso coloured Fairy Orchid that looked very cool. The wildflowers continued to be excellent all the way to Rowell's Pool with a Silky Blue Orchid right on the path near the rapids feeding the pool.
The boardwalk continues all the way to Rowell's Pool and this is a pretty magical spot to stand and admire. The way the froth from the rapids slowly dissipates and then settles into this silky shimmer of white sheen looks amazing and you can see the flow of the water. Add in the beautiful forest on the other side of the river and this spot is super pretty to just stop for a while and take it all in. I imagine it only gets better at sunrise and sunset too. They bill this as a swimming spot and there are stairs leading into the water like at Deep Reach Pool but you'd have to be a brave soul or take a dip on a really hot day for it to be enjoyable given how cold the water gets in the rivers of the South West. Not having my swim gear on and it being a mild day at best, I opted to just admire the water from a distance before moving on and finishing the loop walk as it headed through the campsite. Making sure I didn't disturb any campers, I stuck to the path as it headed back into the forest, past some more pretty wildflowers. I picked a route on the 4x4 tracks that are used to access the various pockets of the campsite and it was a nice way to finish thanks to the quality of the forest. I remember stopping at several points and just reflected on how much I really love the WA forests on a peaceful spring afternoon. We are lucky to have them and spots like this just remind you of that fact.
Final Thoughts - I didn't originally plan on visiting Fernhook Falls when I planned my epic spring road trip but what a fortuitist visit this turned out to be.
It's an unbeatable combination of rapids, river, forest, wildflowers and the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere that make this place so special.
The walk trail is a lovely little activity to link up all the fun sites in the area but part of me wishes there were some more trails around this spot taking advantage of the river and forest.
I think I'd gladly come back here to stay at the campground just to experience this place at sunrise and sunset.
Get out there and experience it!
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