Victoria Reservoir Trail
Start - Masonmill Road, Carmel
Length - 7.3km (Loop)
Rating - Orange
Terrain - Single Track, 4x4 Track
Vertical Climb - 192m
Time - 2-3 hours
Signed - Yes, Occasional Markers
Date Hiked - 26th July 2020
Best Time - Autumn to Spring
Directions - Getting out there is very simple - turn off Roe Highway onto Welshpool Rd and follow it all the way up the hill to its end point at Canning Rd. Turn right onto Canning Rd and soon you will find Mason Mill Rd, a short loop that connects back up to Canning Rd.
The Hike - Victoria Reservoir was one of the early hikes I did for the website and the page always looked a little sad because the photos weren't very good and there weren't many of them. You can check out the old post here if you want to see what it looked like on an overcast day in May 2015. As the website evolved and I've changed the way I approach these posts, I always had plans to come back and re-shoot this one. With this area water and wildflower dependant to get it looking top notch, I had decided to wait until winter or spring to return. With a free slot in my calendar I headed out to the area wanting to capture this trail again plus another of the Shire of Kalamunda walks if time permitted.
Usually I head out at or before first light but I decided to chill at home for a while, enjoy a cooked breakfast and then drive out to the trails. The main reason for this was the bulk of this trail is on the western slopes of the hill and getting there around first light results in some very dark photos. Arriving at the parking area just off Masonmill Rd, there were a fair number of cars here, fantastic to see on such a lovely day. Like my previous visits, I chose to start here as it gets the boring road walking out of the way first (you can do this loop with the Mason & Bird Heritage Trail added on if you start at Hardinge Park). With this being the last trail day I would photograph using my trusty but broken Nikon D5300, I wanted to get some good shots as a final hurrah. It's replacement arrived the following day (a Nikon D7500) and will hopefully serve me well on future adventures. Walking down the road that leads to Victoria Dam, the obvious thing to notice at my time of visit was the recently burnt bush to the right. Choosing to spend my time on the left hand side of the road (which had itself been burnt a years years earlier), I started looking for the little details to photograph while the road and power lines dominated the wider view.
Being the latter half of winter, it was nice to see a good collection of early wildflowers out along with some late season fungi. An interesting little piece of history along here is the "baby grave", the fenced off tombstone of Francis Weston who sadly died a few days after being born in 1876. I'm guessing this area was once private property before the two dams were put in and remarkable that it has been preserved. At the bottom of the road you reach another car park and another set of information boards. I enjoy that this car park is lined with old rusted piping, even if I'm not sure . Duck to the left and you'll find a Water Corp sign pointing you down the Wattle lined path and mercifully into a forested section. I do find it funny that there are Water Corp branded signs for walking trails here given they are the reason we can't access a lot of the great hiking areas east due to an archaic rule. Once into the forest, this trail improves immensely and I remembered how nice it was. With plenty of Grass Trees and a wide canopy, it was just a pleasant place to stroll through. I kept an eye out for more wildflowers and was rewarded with some Hovea, Buttercups and a small pea variety that was covered in bees.
I wasn't moving at a great pace through here and was soon overtaken by a young family. Knowing there was some good views over the dam coming up I let them pass so hopefully they would be finished before I got there. I took the opportunity to slow down even more and search for the details that aren't exactly obvious at first glance. I caught up to the family quickly as they had stopped at a bench seat for a rest so I powered on to the next lookout to get some shots before they arrived. The new Victoria Dam appeared into view and it wasn't long before I was at the rustic wooden lookout overlooking the dam wall. With much sunnier skies to my previous visit, the scene was looking much nicer with a dotting of white clouds being the cherry on top. It's not the prettiest looking dam wall in Perth from this angle but with the turquoise water stretching out to the forest beyond, the overall scene was pleasing to the eye. Joining me at the lookout was a little skink that was too busy sunning itself to scurry off into the cracks and a small yellow robin that was giving me some curious looks as I tried to photograph it.
The family soon arrived so I moved on and let them enjoy the lookout alone. Descending the wooden staircase, it deposits you near the dam wall so I ventured out and had a look from up close. I was fascinated by the depth of colour from the water and with the sun shining it did look appealing for a swim but given this is water catchment, it is not allowed (along with the chance you'll get sucked to the bottom of the dam wall). One thing I enjoy about Victoria Dam is the stepped construction of the dam wall compared with the usual straight concrete that most dams usually sport. Looking down at the shallow pool below reminded me of my old Nintendo Game Boy with the green pool almost a perfect replica of the screen colour and the grey concrete wall substituting in for the rest. Deciding it was time to move on, I headed down the hill on the rarely used road, admiring the trees lining the side of the hill. Arriving at the pumping station, you can see the remnants of the old Victoria Dam on either side of the new building. The more impressive section of the wall is to the left and is home to some information boards and engineering heritage plaques.
The old Victoria Dam was the first dam to be constructed in WA and despite some bad press thanks to typhoid deaths resulting from the livestock run-off that polluted the catchment area, it was fairly big thing back in the late 1800s. Eventually the dam wall started to degrade and in 1991 the new Victoria Dam was opened a little further upstream. In-between the two dam walls is a lovely grassed picnic area along with a Paperbark lined stream that picks up where Munday Brook started before it got dammed. I ventured off towards the new dam wall so I could marvel at it from down below and it was looking pretty special from this angle. Doubling back to where the trail continues on towards Bickley Reservoir, I noticed a lot of bird activity in the bushes so stopped and got out my long lens. I managed to capture a juvenile Fairy Wren fluttering on the grass and an abundance of Monarch Butterflies were keen for a photo too. Turns out this is a really popular spot for bird photographers in Perth as I saw two separate groups with their very impressive (and super expensive) zoom lenses mounted to their cameras. While changing over my lenses, I accidentally dropped one of my headphone pieces on the ground that was residing in my pocket. I didn't discover this until I was almost finished the hike so this spot I would visit a couple of times today.
There are signs at the old dam wall pointing you in the direction of the new Victoria Dam and Bickley Reservoir so I followed the sign for Bickley Reservoir and continued on my journey. Following the edge of Munday Brook on a wide 4x4 track, this isn't the most interesting section to do when the wildflowers aren't in full bloom but it's a nice enough walk. To start with the trail on the left was burnt from a prescribed burn but the other side was perfectly fine. Given the pumping station is close, this is an asset protection burn that is completely understandable. I had a nice find here with my first Donkey Orchid for the day lurking in a very small patch of unburnt ground on the edge of the trail. Always trying to find the details along my travels, I had good fun searching out Sundews, bees and various other flowers that were hiding away. I passed several groups heading in the other direction along the wide 4x4 track and with no flowers to keep me busy, I used this stretch to make up some time. Every now and then you get a glimpse of Munday Brook below and it made me wish the trail took you on a single track closer to the water. Alas, this is a Shire of Kalamunda walk so it will only take you on existing trails. Eventually you arrive at the old Mason Bird Bridge, the oldest surviving timber bridge in Australia.
Amazingly, it still took car traffic until 1975, although I suspect not many cars passed over it given the road really only goes to the dam. Here I came across a couple of families, one asked for directions on where the trail went next so I was happy to act as tour guide. I would pass this family a couple more times as I retrieved my headphone piece and we had a good laugh at my misfortune. Getting a few shots of the bridge, I left Munday Brook and headed up the hill on the rocky 4x4 track that has some sad history involving accidents carting timber up and down the hill. This begins a long but not overly challenging uphill stretch that leads you back to the start point. The last time I hiked this section for the website it was doing the Kattamordo Heritage Trail but it was a lot wetter on that day. With the sun on my back I happily hiked up the hill, enjoying the changing forest and some suspect wildflowers that I suspect are not native to the area (the yellow and pink ones in the above gallery). There is a nearby farm on the slopes to the left and as you rise, the views start to open up as the valley expands. I remember this section being very enjoyable last time and with open granite stretches on either side, there was a good variety to the scenery. The more I climbed, the better the wildflowers got with both Wattle and Hovea really loving the edges of the track. Hiding in the undergrowth of these bushes were a number of Donkey Orchids, always a delight to see out on a hike.
I could hear the sound of rushing water off to the left and with a few goat tracks leading down to the brook, I followed one down to what I'm assuming used to be a gauging station as round holes don't just appear in natural granite formations like that. It was a bit bright to try long exposure shots without my tripod and ND filters so I did my best holding my camera steady. Another spot further up proved more fruitful as I could rest my camera on the granite and still get a small set of rapids in shot but I didn't spend too much time here as I had another hike planned. Nearing the end of the 4x4 track you come across some unnatural looking pits dug into the hill and these are from the Kaolin Clay Pits that were mined in the 1960s. One had filled with water and reminded me of a very small scale version of Old Barrington Quarry at Ellis Brook. Reaching the turn-off from the 4x4 track onto the single path that takes you back to the car park, the recent burns were inescapable. I remember this little section having a lush feeling but I guess for now it is going to be a little crispy. I managed to find small patch where the fires had missed and some beautiful Blue Squill (Chamaescilla corymbosa) were providing some colour to the blackened scene. Hike over, I dropped my camera in the car and walked back down to the grassed area to retrieve my headphone piece, passing several groups I'd previously seen who thought I was mad for doing two loops of the same circuit.
Final Thoughts – There were some pages on the website that I've always looked at and vowed to get back there for a re-shoot. Victoria Reservoir was one of those trails as my first effort really didn't do the place justice.
While it isn't a blow your socks off hike in terms of wow factor and scenery, it is a pleasant stroll with some cool highlights along the way. Pack a picnic and sit on the grass under the new dam wall and watch the birds race from one branch to another.
Being so close to Perth and the wonderful wine/cider/food area in Pickering Brook and Carmel, this is a great activity to do and follow up with a lunch or wine tasting in the afternoon.
Get out there and experience it!
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