Wilhelmina Falls

June 20th, 2017 | C. J. Dennis, Photos, Toolangi C. J. Dennis Poetry Festival

Last Sunday I decided to do a bit of exploring in C. J. Dennis country – the Murrindindee Scenic Reserve in the forests north of Toolangi. On a previous walk in the area I had seen a sign to Wilhelmina Falls, but had not managed to get there. This time I decided to try again.

I followed the Boroondara Track, which started down by the river and wound its way up steeply through thick forest. After a few false turns and blind alleys (I’ve never been particularly good at map reading…) I eventually found them. The falls and the surrounding scenery, I have to say, were far more spectacular than I had expected. I just assumed that, because the hills are not high enough to take you above the tree-line, the views would remain extremely limited.

What I had not counted on, however, was an extraordinary wide, high, steep face of bare rock on the eastern face of the range that allowed absolutely fabulous views of the adjacent hills and valleys. The amount of water tumbling down one part of this rock face was not particularly large, but the rock itself was quite incredible. To cap it off, as I gazed into the rich blue of the sky above the falls, a wedge-tailed eagle made its leisurely way across my field of view from right to left.

Mountain view 1

I am not certain, but I am fairly sure that what we are looking at here is the western face of Mt. St. Leonard.

Falls 2

Almost as spectacular as the rock face itself is the track – especially the viewing platforms and steel steps and hand rails that have been secured to it. How were these constructed? Presumably the workers were in harnesses, attached to ropes. It would not have been easy!

Steps 1

Steps 2

Steps 3

Viewing platform

There are also indications that this is not the first track to be built on this rock. Note these pale blue squares embedded into concrete. Presumably they were the attachment points for an earlier hand rail.

Old track

This discovery has completely changed my perspective of the area. I now see the landscape as far more dramatic than I had ever imagined. I found myself drifting back in time, imagining what the landscape must have been like a couple of hundred years ago.

I wonder, too, if C. J. Dennis ever stood on this rock face, and admired the falls and surrounding scenery. He never wrote anything about it, but I like to think he did.

Lastly, I ask myself, who was Wilhelmina?

10 Responses to “Wilhelmina Falls”

  1. Val Wallace says:

    Thanks for sharing Stephen

  2. Barry Watts says:

    Hi Stephen, I’m delighted to read of your visit to the Falls. It’s many, many years since I was thee – pre-guide-chains etc.(My father took me there first as a child, and I’m 80 now!) There used to be saw mill up there which was powered by the stream water, and known as the Falls Mill.
    Somewhere, I have a photograph of the Woodburne school picnic with kids and parents visiting the Falls on a school day out(kids from Murrundindi went to school at Wooburne, and shared a teacher two days a week with Glenburn – think of that!). The old school school is now a Bed & Breakfast place. Thanks for stirring these memories. Barry

  3. Don Butcher says:

    Thanks Steve,

    Yes it is a surprising waterfall. Pretty sure that it couldn’t be St Leonard, it would be too far south. Possibly see Tanglefoot – that would be a better chance. And it would be the north east face you would be looking for.

    I have been there a couple times after 09 fires, it is starting to heal. Would have loved to visit before the fires. And before 39 fires also.

    Fantastic to hear that story Barry! Our forest has many stories almost forgotten – a water powered mill, i think Warburton way had similar mills?
    Don Butcher

    • Stephen says:

      OK. Thanks. Sure is an amazing view. Part of the reason I thought that is that you can see cleared land just beyond it. Maybe Tanglefoot, as you say.

  4. Hi Stephen
    Many thanks for sharing these great photos and interesting story. It’s certainly a different landscape from the Singing Garden!
    Your “who was Wilhelmina” comment piqued my curiosity so I went “googling”, and discovered on the 360cities.net website that the falls were named by the Keppel family, local innkeepers. Apart from the locality of Keppel Ridge, I couldn’t find anything else, and a search on “Wilhelmina Keppel” yielded nothing. Very intriguing!!
    Regards, Shelley

  5. Stephen says:

    A little further research reveals that in the vicinity of nearby Marysville there is Keppel Falls, the Keppel Lookout, and Keppels Hut – not to mention Keppels Hut Creek. The plot thickens! (There also references to the Keppel brothers.)

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