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On Walkabout At: The McKenzie Falls & The Jaws of Death

Prior Posting: On the Taipan Walls & Mt. Zero

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After seeing a good portion of the north of the Grampians National Park my wife and I decided it was time to check out what the center of the park had to offer. We woke up early, had some cereal, and proceeded to pack up our camp site. We were the only ones in the campground at this point so the kangaroos were quite sad to see us go.  Our next destination would be the McKenzie Falls & the Jaws of Death in the Central Grampians:

Map of Grampians National Park

To reach the central area of the Grampians we had to drive through the pleasant Wartook Valley, which is filled with grazing sheep and bed and breakfast hotels:

Picture from the Southern Grampians Mountains

Picture from the Grampians National Park

Once at the end of the valley we began to drive up a steep and narrow road that took us into the heart of the Grampians. The central Grampians features many steep rocky peaks and thickly forested hillsides:

Picture from the Grampians National Park

Picture from the Grampians National Park

It is in the central Grampians that the beautiful MacKenzie Falls are located. This waterfall should be on everyone’s shortlist of must see attractions in the Grampians. Reaching the falls requires about a 15-20 minute walk, but it is well worth it. This area of the Grampians was devastated by a massive bushfire in January 2006 that actually destroyed nearly half of the park. Along the trail to MacKenzie Falls it is amazing to see how quickly the forests in Australia can recover from bushfires. All along the forest’s floor new trees are coming to life:

Picture from the Grampians National Park

The gum trees in Australia need fire in order to reproduce and the same is true for the fern trees that occupy the forest’s floor:

Picture from the Grampians National Park

These fern trees only sprout these long stems when they come into contact with fire. These stems are filled with seeds that are spread by the wind and allow the ferns to reproduce. They reproduce quickly because the forest’s floor is already filled with new ferns.

At the end of the trail is a magnificent view of MacKenzie Falls:

Picture from the Grampians National Park

Here is a closer look:

Picture from the Grampians National Park

It is amazing to see this much water in the middle of western Victoria which is being adversely effected by a debilitating decade long drought.

After checking out the waterfall we then headed over to Reed’s Lookout which provides an amazing panoramic view looking towards the southwest of the central Grampians.  These next four pictures show the view looking from left to right from the lookout:

Picture from the Grampians National Park

Picture from the Grampians National Park

Picture from the Grampians National Park

Picture from the Grampians National Park

If you look closely you can see the whole vista was consumed by last year’s bushfires, but just like around MacKenzie Falls, the forest is recovering.  From the lookout there is a trail to a well known lookout known as the Jaws of Death. Along the way there is a fabulous view of Lake Wartook off to the east:

Picture from the Grampians National Park

Additionally, along the way you can see the slow recovery of the forest from last year’s bushfires as well:

Picture from the Grampians National Park

The walk to the lookout takes about 25 minutes to get to, but once again the view from the lookout is worth the effort:

Picture from the Grampians National Park

Here is a picture of the Jaws of Death:

Picture from the Grampians National Park

Before people could sit on the Jaws of Death to take pictures, but currently it is sealed off to allow the bush around the rock formation to recover from the fire. I walked back to the car park and then proceeded to drive up to another lookout across the valley from Reid’s Lookout. This lookout provided an outstanding view of the surrounding plains and the small village of Halls Gap:

Picture from the Grampians National Park

Here is a wider angle view of Halls Gap:

Picture from the Grampians National Park

Here is the view looking towards the right of Halls Gap pictured above:

Picture from the Grampians National Park

Here is the view looking towards the plains which stands in great contrast to the rugged Grampians Mountains:

Picture from the Grampians National Park

I really think the above images best gives viewers an idea of how the different ranges of the Grampians look like waves of rock rising from the surrounding plains.  After we finished checking out the view from the lookout, we then proceeded to head back to the main road that would take us to Halls Gap. Along the way the road runs adjacent to this large, rocky mountain:

Picture from the Grampians National Park

By looking closely at the rock face we could make out the small figures of people climbing up the rock face:

Picture from the Grampians National Park

This rock face is part of what is known as the Wonderland rock formation and is very popular with climbers because it can be so easily accessed from Halls Gap. This mountain is literally on the outskirts of the city and within easy walking distance. I was tempted to try to climb up the mountain, but decided not to because my legs were pretty wore out already from all the bushwalking I had already done in the park. I also figured this gives me an excuse to come back here again as well.

Anyway we continued down the narrow winding road and pulled into Halls Gap.

Picture from the Grampians National Park

Picture from the Grampians National Park

The very first thing we did once we got to Halls Gap was to look for hot food and we found a pizza joint. The pizza like many pizza joints in Australia, really wasn’t all that great (what I would give for a Papa John’ down here) because it was more like a casserole than a pizza:

Eating Pizza at Halls Gap

It beat eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Pringles again, so I really couldn’t complain. The wife and I spent the rest of day checking out the various shops in Halls Gap looking for trinkets to send to friends and family. For being a small town Halls Gap does have a certain charm to it and I was just reading in this month’s Outdoor Australia magazine that Halls Gap was voted as one of the Top Ten Adventure Towns in Australia. I tend to agree because Halls Gap is definitely a great gateway to the scenic Grampians.

Next Posting: The High Point of the Grampians, Mt. William

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