Start - Wellington Dam Kiosk
Finish - Honeymoon Pool
Length - 6.3km (One Way)
Grade - Orange
Terrain - Single Track, 4x4 Track
Vertical Climb - 108m
Time - 2-3 Hours
Signed - Yes, Follow the Green Markers
Cost - Fees Apply for Camping
Date Hiked - 14th April 2019
Best Time - All Year Round
Traditional Custodians - Kaniyang People
Directions - Take Coalfields Hwy towards Collie and turn right onto Wellington Dam Rd when you see the signs. Follow this all the way to the Kiosk and park in the car park there. The trail head is located just down the road towards the dam.
The Hike - Ever since visiting Wellington National Park back in December 2017 to hike the Sika Trail, I've been meaning to come back and check out the other two day hikes in the park. With the Jabitj (running water) Trail and Kurliiny Tjenangitj (come and see) Trail still left to do, I only had time for one trail and selected the Jabitj as it's rated the highest out of the three trails and was one I really wanted to explore. After a full weekend of hosting my niece as part of her birthday present, including a trip to Kaarakin for a school holiday wildlife ranger program, I set about driving her back to Funbury on the Sunday. After a lovely roast lunch at my parents place I headed out to Collie and parked at the Kiosk near the Wellington Dam Lookout.
Having not kept very good track of the time, I had arrived a bit later than I'd have liked to in order to get in the 13km return journey and complete the two hour drive back to Fremantle. With some rain forecast for the late afternoon I was hoping to get some sunny shots in before it all arrived to paint this hike in the best light possible. I was the only car in the car park when I arrived, weird for mid-afternoon during the first weekend of school holidays and the kiosk was also just as quiet. Finding my bearings I located the trail head that is a short stroll along the footpath to the west of the kiosk and had a read of the information boards there. Setting off, immediately you are thrown into a world of abundant Jarrah, mature undergrowth and the smells of the forest. Starting at the kiosk end meant it would be mostly downhill all the way to Honeymoon Pool so the first half of my afternoon would be fairly easy. The biggest drop is actually the first 500m or so as you descend from near the dam wall to the Collie River Valley below. Once you cross the road that takes you to the dam wall and down to Honeymoon Pool there's a series of steps taking you down to the pumping station that pumps water up the pipeline leading away from the dam for irrigation purposes.
The dam water itself is no longer fit for drinking due to high salinity and effects of the local mining operations so the area has been opened up for recreational purposes. There are big plans for the Wellington Dam catchment to be developed into a mountain bike and hiking hub and if this trail is anything to go by, it should be spectacular. From the pumping station you follow the pipeline briefly before starting along a single track path that will be home as you wind through the valley. Unlike some river walks (namely the Bibbulmun Track along the Murray River or parts of the Warren River) you are never too far away from the water and there are some great vantage points to take in the fantastic pools and granite features that are found in this area. The first of these happens not long after joining the single track with a wide pool down below the track. As you wind around this pool you get some great views looking back at the dam wall, connecting you with the history of the area and it's kind of a cool spot with the mature Marri and Jarrah trees lining the hill.
As you move along the path you start to see the rolling hills through the tree line and eventually the forest opens up to reveal this glorious vista of forest covered hills and granite platforms. With a dry summer and a relatively dry autumn in the South West, the mosses and undergrowth around the granite were still looking a little brown. Luckily the evergreen nature of the Australian forests meant the majority of the landscape was still green as I made my way down to the river bank on a little side trip where the trail splits. It only goes down to the river so you cannot get lost taking this wrong turn, I just wanted to explore the granite a bit more before joining the main track. Climbing up a minor hill you are greeted by a swath of grass trees with lovely views down to the meandering river. With the sun shining brightly, the water of the river was a dull turquoise colour as you viewed it heading downhill once more. This is a completely different look to the usual brown, tannin stained waters of other rivers in the South West as most of them have not been dammed. Being close to where the water is released from the Wellington Dam (the Collie River here will always have water in it) is the cause of this colouring. I do enjoy the effect and it does look pleasantly different in the photos, especially when contrasted with the bright green of the canopy and the occasional fern.
On the nearby slopes you can see another collection of grass trees rising up to meet the forest and across the river there is an old retaining wall close to the road. One feature of this hike as you look across the river is the presence of cars and people on the other side. The road leading to Honeymoon Pool is on the opposite side and with a few stopping points you might see people wandering the banks of the river. Another good thing about this hike is the patches of undergrowth and forest you go through that help to break up the river views and make it feel like every time you see the river it's for a good reason. As you ascend up the hill through one of these patches an opening provides a view down to the first of the rapids you'll see on the hike. While it would be fun to see them a bit closer, you can appreciate the size and flow of them a bit more from this raised position. As you continue on you come to a fun feature that reminded me of all the power lines you see in the South West, just without the power lines.
A natural granite "flow" appears on the opposite side that stretches from the river all the way to the top of the hill and was quite amazing to see when you realised that it was a natural occurrence and not the result of land clearing. Continuing up and down the hills you enter another thick section of undergrowth that feels much more like the Karri "tunnels" you get on the Donnelly River to Pemberton section of the Bibbulmun Track. Another bend in the river provides wonderful views back at the rapids you saw earlier and the rolling hills. A recently fallen tree blocked the track somewhat and judging by the yellow tape, I assume it may be dealt with soon. The thicker forest was a welcome relief as I hadn't been on a proper hike through the forest that wasn't a maintenance trip was in Tasmania on the Tarn Shelf Circuit almost five months earlier. It was around this point that I spotted a very thick Yarri tree with a sizable buttress near the base and a few large banksias that were in bloom with beautiful yellow flowers.
While autumn is not the best time to hike this trail due to the lack of wildflowers this area is famous for, I don't think I would have finished before dark with so many wildflowers and orchids to photograph. After another brief dalliance with a quiet stretch of the river you are back in the lush forest where a fallen giant provides a nice photo feature. Two more fallen trees make for great obstacles (not sure they are earmarked for removal as the track around them is well formed) as you reach one of my favourite places along the trail. An open granite platform leading to the edge of the river that forms a wide V shape at this point. The result is a very pleasant area with views up and down the river for you to enjoy. On my way back to the car I heard a few red tail cockatoos and watched as they soared above and eventually settled in the canopy of a nearby tree. I spent a while here just photographing the river, forest and granite, just admiring the beauty of the scene in front of me.
Dragging myself away from the nice area it was back into the forest where you soon come across the meeting of three trails. A couple of metal poles with various trail markers can be found on the side of the trail indicating that this is where the Jabitj, Kurliiny Tjenangitj and Munda Biddi all meet. I wasn't expecting any Munda Biddi riders at this time of day but listened out for them just in case. The Kurliiny Tjenangitj is a loop that starts and finishes off the Jabitj but given my time constraints I thought I'd better save that for a later trip. Meandering along the river bank there is a boardwalk/staircase into the water on the other side that looked pretty cool if you wanted to have a quiet swim and avoid the crowds at Honeymoon Pool. After another small hill you reach the only series of rapids on the trail that you can get up close to. An exposed section of the river is broken up into an upper and lower vantage point with the upper area reminding me of the Cascades down near Pemberton because you could walk right out on the flat granite platform next to the river. Given the bright sunshine I didn't stay here long and vowed to spend more time on the return journey to get some handheld long exposure shots of the rapids. Heading back into the forest there is a toilet block that took me by surprise but after seeing a few more signs from the old CALM days, I deduced that this must have been a drive in campsite that has since been closed.
I originally thought it may have been an old Bibbulmun Track campsite from when it was aligned through Wellington National Park but as I joined a wide 4x4 track with road signs I shifted my thinking to it being an old recreational campsite. The wider track meant the height of the forest could be appreciated a bit better as you make your way down to the bridge where car traffic crosses the river on its way to Honeymoon Pool. I can't say I found the bridge to be particularly charming so crossed the road quickly and made my way on the lovely single track that would become home until reaching the finish. This final stretch has a much better connection to the river as you are right next to it the whole time and the undergrowth to the right feels like it is pushing you towards the water. Given how close it is to the popular campsite at Honeymoon Pool, the trail is well trodden and there is even an old rope swing attached to a tree that is leaning into the river. Just when I thought this hike couldn't get any better I reached a boardwalk section overlooking a series of granite boulders in the river with views back down to the bridge.
With the late afternoon sun providing some nice lighting and a few white fluffy clouds in the sky, the combination of green forest and blue skies reflected on the river was sublime. I spent a fair amount of time trying to capture this moment and just taking it all in because I wasn't sure when I'd get the chance to be back (hopefully this year). A large fallen tree showcased the bright colours of the loamy soils typical of this area and soon I could hear the sounds of families around the outer tent sites of Honeymoon Pool. Initially I thought it might be somewhat empty being a Sunday afternoon but then I remembered that school holidays had started and sure enough the place was fairly busy. Luckily for me the best part of Honeymoon Pool, the boardwalk and staircases leading into the river, were completely empty sans a few ducks. Given how full the campsite was and the time of day I thought at least one person would be enjoying the tranquil scenes by the river but I had the whole place to myself. After photographing like crazy while it was all clear, I eventually settled down on one of the staircases to enjoy a couple of hot cross buns and a drink.
Having never stayed at Honeymoon Pool but this being my third visit, I can understand why people love coming here for the weekend. Lovely forest, a nice river to swim in and a very idyllic surrounding to enjoy. I think my next visit to tackle the Kurliiny Tjenangitj will involve an overnight stay. With no one joining me on the deck I had more fun taking photos before eventually deciding to leave. The return journey was just as enjoyable, even with the vastly increased pace to make it home at a decent hour. I did manage to get some long exposure shots of the rapids before the weather arrived, providing welcome relief from the humid afternoon heat. I enjoyed spotting a gardening glove attached to a stick that had me thinking that Dumbledore wanted a word with me a la Fantastic Beasts II but it didn't start moving to my great sadness. Towards the end it really started to pour down and I finished in much different conditions to when I started with the car park turning into a river as I changed under the cover of my X-Trail's boot. Another great hike in the bag and I might have to rethink my 7 Best Day Hikes in the South West list at the end of the year.