Sunday, 21 August 2016

Bibbulmun Track (WA) - Harris Dam to Collie


A sectional day walk on the Bibbulmun Track, this 18.4 km trek leads walkers from Harris Dam's beautiful picnic area, through Jarrah forest and into the historic town of Collie via a spur trail. With a generally easy gradient over its entire length and the chance of seeing wildflowers from late Winter through to Spring, this is a pleasant if not exactly spectacular section of the Bibbulmun Track. 



Distance: 18.4 km (one way)
Gradient: Fairly easy walking, with a gentle gradient and only minor ascents and descents over its entire length. 
Quality of Path: Very clear and well maintained
Quality of Signage: Largely well signed, with the Waugal providing very clear directional information.
Experience Required: No Bushwalking Experience Required, however while easy, be prepared for over 18 kilometres of walking.
Time: 4 Hours
Steps: No steps
Best Time to Visit: Winter-Spring
Entry Fee: No
Getting There: Access to Harris Dam via Harris River Rd. A car park and picnic area located at the end of the road. Collie is accessibly via Coalfields Hwy. 



It's been over two months since Alissa and I were last on the Bibbulmun Track! While Alissa's back was slowly recovering, walks in the region of a day on the Track had been out of the question. With Alissa now feeling a lot better, we decided to make the most of our day trip to Margaret River by staying overnight at Collie and completing one of the Dwelling to Collie sections of the track. After breakfast and checking out from the Colliefields Hotel, Alissa and I headed off to Harris Dam to recommence our sectional End to End of the Bibbulmun Track.

Harris Dam is supposedly the least impressive of the many dams in the area, however Alissa and I found the artificial lake and the picnic area adjacent to the dam to be very idyllic. The stillness of the water was almost glass-like, providing an almost perfect reflection. If this is the least pretty of Collie's dams, then we're in for a real treat as we continue our way down to Balingup over a series of overnight hikes later this year.


After walking through the picnic area, the Bibbulmun commences just behind the toilet block, heading into the characteristic Jarrah forests of the Northern Half of the Track.


Presumably due to the abundance of water near the dam, the Jarrah forests of the Harris Dam area feature mature, healthy and relatively large trees. The lushness, lovely mild weather and gentle gradients made for very pleasant walking.


Regular walkers of the Darling Range section of the Bibbulmun Track will know that the track passes under or near massive powerlines at several key locations. These powerlines connect Perth to the coalfields of the Collie area, and it was unsurprising to find the Bibbulmun cross under three sets of powerlines from Harris Dam to Collie.


The pleasant forest walking continued after the first set of powerlines, although the forest became less dense and lush - a trend that would continue for much of the walk. The lower density and the obviously blackened trunks suggested that a controlled burn had been through here recently - something of a necessity in these very fire prone parts. A strong positive of this section was how well maintained the trail was - even though there were numerous criss-crossing trails, it was very easy to follow.


There were however occasional pockets of lushness, with the track crossing a swampy section along a boardwalk. After slipping on duck boards on the Luke Pen Walk, I've become a bit scared of falling and injuring my hand again. These were thankfully not very slippery, and were crossed without event.


A second set of powerlines signalled another minor shift in the vegetation, with more wildflowers being visible between here and the next set of powerlines.


Although fairly small, the purple coloured pea flowers could be seen at various locations along the track, with the above being one of the most spectacular.


Yellow wattle was common along the entire walk, but again was at its greatest density in this section. We could literally smell the flowers as we walk through.


The Bibbulmun seems to be a bit outnumbered by cycle trails in the area, with section of the Munda Biddi intersecting with the Track. One amusingly titled trail in the area is the Dead Cats Trail, and Alissa and I wondered were that name even came from!


Several track join the Bibbulmun briefly as the track crosses a bridge over an ephemeral stream.


Being late Winter, the stream was flowing, creating a lovely scenic highlight in what was otherwise a fairly samey section of track.



Shortly after passing under the third and final set of powerlines, Bibbulmun crosses Mornington Road - another alternative vehicle access point.


Beyond Mornington Road, the Bibbulmun skirts the edge of a private property on an old vehicle track. This road is littered with deep puddles that take up almost all the road - its the kind of puddle I'd love to drive my car through to give it that authentic off road driving look!


Only 1.4 kilometres later, the track crosses yet another road. In fact, the old chunky early 2000s guidebooks features five track notes in a row that read either 'cross vehicle track' or cross another vehicle track'! In this section of the walk, flame peas and other flowers not seen earlier along the walk became more prevalent.


If you weren't sick of crossing powerlines, roads and vehicle tracks, the next crossing is a bit more novel - a railway line!


After the railway line, the Bibbulmun skirts the border of two rural properties for 300 metres before crossing Colliefields Highway - the main road heading to Collie.


Most of the rest of the track is in Westralia Conservation Park. The area was fairly unremarkable Jarrah forest that seemed to go on for a lot longer than we expected; crossing Colliefields Hwy made us think we were on the home stretch, but it is really another 5.9 kilometres from Colliefield Hwy to town!


One remarkable thing that happened in Westralia Conservation Park happened by accident. Alissa, always observing the micro while I'm looking at the macro, noticed movement in the sand where my foot had just landed, and a clearly stunned scorpion crawled its way out with pincers ready! The last time I saw a scorpion in the wild was a kid, so this was quite an amazing sight.


We were getting a bit tired of walking in Westralia Conservation Park when we finally came upon a junction in the track. Unlike many other track towns, the Bibbulmun does not run directly into Collie, and instead is connected by a spur trail.


The spur eventually leaves the Conservation Park at the outskirts of town, following alongside Colliefields Hwy into town.


This walk into town is paved and fairly direct - lacking the meandering quality of the walk into Pemberton from the Gloucester Tree, or the long trudge into Denmark after Mt Hallowell.

As with many mining towns, Collie's main street is lined with beautiful older houses and buildings with some lovely examples of early 20th century architecture. 


The Bibbulmun Track official terminates at the Collie Visitor Centre, with one of the Track Town trailheads located in the car park. With our other car parked at our accommodation, Alissa and I continued on down the road to the Colliefields Hotel.


The Colliefields Hotel is geared towards hikers, providing clean, affordable rooms with additional discounts for Bibbulmun Track members and a pick up/drop off service we shall definitely make use of in the future. The cafe is excellent too - their monstrous works burger was the perfect reward after a decent day's walk. 

Few mention the area around Collie as being one of the highlights of the Bibbulmun Track, and I didn't expect very much as a result. This section was definitely less spectacular than the Kalamunda National Park and Monadnocks Conservation Park sections of the Bibbulmun close to Perth, and Jarrah forest never has the immersive quality common to the dense Karri and Tingle forests further down the track. Nevertheless, most of the day's walking was fairly pleasant, with Harris Dam and the underrated town of Collie itself being highlights. Given the easiness of the terrain, this would be a perfect section for those living in the area to give the Bibbulmun Track a go.

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