The Leigh begins its journey in the suburbs of Ballarat where it rises as the Yarrowee River in Redan, flowing south through the foothills of the Great Dividing Range where it becomes known as the Leigh River at its confluence with Williamson Creek west of the township of Elaine. From here it flows past Bamganie, through Shelford to Inverleigh where it joins with the Barwon River outside of the township.
Previously I have walked the short section of the river between the township of Inverleigh and its confluence with the Barwon.
|The confluence of the Barwon (right) and Leigh Rivers (left).|
|Leigh River downstream of Inverleigh|
It has been suggested that the first European to visit the region was the escaped convict William Buckley after whom Buckley Falls on the Barwon is named, but this has not been proven.
The Leigh itself appears to have been named by the surveyor J.H. Wedge in 1835 after his Tasmanian property called "Leighlands". By the late 1830s the surrounding land, known as Weatherboard Station, was owned by the Derwent Company.
Our first stop on our walk was Lawson's Tree near the banks of the river. It was under this tree some time between 1836 and 1838 that William Lawson, a blacksmith from Weatherboard Station, erected his first home.
|Lawson's Tree, Inverleigh|
Where the Hamilton Highway now crosses the Leigh was the site of a ford used by the early settlers traveling to and from the Western District and Geelong. The first bridge was built here by the Lawson family but was replaced in the 1870s by the shire council.
|Footings of the old Inverleigh Bridge|
From Lawson's Tree, we made our way to the much newer Federation Bridge built - yes - in 2001 to mark the centenary of Federation.
|Federation Bridge over the Leigh River|
It is a suspension bridge designed for pedestrian traffic and from here one can walk some distance upstream along a dirt path through areas of remnant vegetation, crossing dry creek beds and in our case, surrounded by fluttering butterflies.
|Creek bed along the Leigh River|
Efforts to encourage re-vegetation in the area are also under way, however there is also clear evidence of the early days of European settlement along some parts of the river where peppercorn trees jostle for space with gum trees and blackberries have taken over a small island in the middle of the stream.
|Peppercorns and Eucalypts, Leigh River|
|Channel carved by the Leigh River|
|Hay bale stuck in a tree|