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Thursday, 19 December 2013

FERN BOWER AND THE AMPHITHEATRE TRACK, LEURA BLUE MOUNTAINS NSW AUSTRALIA




The Bridal Veil and Weeping Rock 1960
The walking tracks around Leura Falls and Katoomba Falls were developed independently from the 1880’s. It became clear that a track linking the two via the valley would be a great asset, especially as the Rodriguez Pass at Blackheath and the National Pass at Wentworth Falls were being planned at about the same time. (It is obvious that that the communities of Blackheath, Katoomba and Wentworth Falls were rivals in attracting tourists and their cash.) As it happened, both the Federal and Rodriguez passes were opened in 1900. The National Pass took longer and wasn’t finished until 1907.  
The difficult part in all of these constructions was the route into the valley from the heights above. .                                                                                   

Information board in Fern Bower
 Both tracks required the construction of many stone steps and wooden ladders and must have been exciting places to visit back then. They still are, of course, but without the element of danger involved in scaling a structure built on the spot out of local bush timber.

The original descent from the Amphitheatre Track to the level of the Federal Pass was via the Tunnel Track until this route was destroyed by flood and landslide in 1912. The Fern Bower route was then upgraded to become the main route down to the Pass, which it still is, though the Leura Cascades-Amphitheatre-lower Fern Bower route is a more scenic way to enter the valley, with many views of the cliffs, waterfalls and the valley.


The map in the 1927 edition of the Mountaineer tourist guide shows both tracks to the bottom, but this guidebook was notoriously out-of date, with much of its content dating back to the 1890’s. The track description from the same book includes place names which certainly aren’t signposted today. Below the Bridal Veil fall there are a number of old tracks which are worth exploring. You can follow the old sewer line down to the brink of the second fall (correctly called Leura Falls). Be careful if you do, because a number of lives have been lost here. Back when I was a teenager, I went down the old sewer workers’ ladder which used to be here. Not a good idea, but I made it in one piece.                                    
To the Leura Cascades, Sir?

Another thing to look out for just below the Bridal Veil is the Leura Weeping Rock. Like the Wentworth Falls version, it needs a good water flow to make it weep. When it does, it’s a sight not to be missed.

My You Tube video of this walk may be found here . My Blue Mountains You Tube playlist may be found here . I have three other playlists: gem hunting/mining, Glen Innes and New Zealand. Please comment and subscribe.
Fern Bower steps
Leura Falls from McKillop's Lookout, the Amphitheatre track

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