13 April, 2012

Branching out - Lal Lal Falls

Yesterday we headed off to investigate a part of the Moorabool which I had not so far seen but which I mentioned in a recent post. I suspect more than one post may be required to cover our adventures, so here is the first.
We started slightly off track with a picnic lunch at Lal Lal Falls which are not currently flowing, but still make interesting viewing.
Lal Lal Falls, April 2012
The falls, which measure about 35m, are not on the Moorabool River, but rather, on Lal Lal Creek which joins the Moorabool West Branch a little downstream of the falls where both flow into Bungal Dam - the major water source for Ballarat and also a part of Geelong's water supply.
The confluence of Lal Lal Creek and the west branch of the Moorabool
River at the head of Bungal Dam

Like much of the Moorabool, this part of the creek runs through a deep gorge. The waterway is being formed by water carving a path through two lava flows which followed the path of an earlier valley. The first flow - between 2 and 5 million years ago - came from a now extinct volcano near Clarke's Hill (20km north) whilst the second flow - as "recent" as 50,000 to 100,000 years ago - came from Mounts Buninyong and Warrenheip.
Lal Lal Falls, April 2012
The very informative noticeboards at the picnic area and along the walking tracks tell me also that the falls are on the move. Over the last 2.5 million years, the effects of water erosion have seen them move 1.5km upstream. As this migration continues, the falls will eventually connect with Lal Lal Swamp which lies on softer, older granite near the township. By this time, the falls will be little more than a series of rapids over which water will flow on its way down the creek bed. A quick look at Google Earth will show the path of erosion so far, with the gorge clearly visible below the falls.
All of this geological activity means that the falls themselves are quite unstable - a fact which was highlighted in 1990 when two students who were abseiling down the falls with a school group died in a rockfall. This and other rockfalls at the falls have been used to calculate the rate at which the falls are migrating. Not surprisingly, they have since been closed to public access.
View of the gorge looking downstream from the falls
Lal Lal Falls is of substantial indigenous significance. Not just to the local Tooloora Baluk clan of the Wathaurong people, but to all the peoples of the Kulin Nation which extends across most of central Victoria. It is here, at Lal Lal Falls they believe that Bunjil, the eagle creator spirit of their people made his home, creating the falls as a place to live before being blown with his family into the sky. From there, he watches over his people and the light from his fire illuminates the planet Jupiter which they call Bunjil. It is from this legend that Bungal Dam takes its name.
A number of local landmarks also bear versions of thir Wathaurong names: Mt Buninyong for example is derived from the word "Puninyong" meaning "big hill like knee" and Warrenheip comes from the word "Warrenyeep" meaning "emu feathers".
Lal Lal Falls looking north. Mt Buninyong can be seen in the background.
The famous artist Eugene von Guerard painted the falls from this aspect in 1853.
In more recent times, Lal Lal Falls were of significance to the early European settlers who came here to picnic and take in the sights. Artists and photographers were also drawn to the views and the area became popular as a meeting place where races were held in the 1870s and 80s. A large grandstand with a seating capacity of 1000 was built for racegoers who travelled to the venue on a branch line built in 1885. A record crowd of 32,000 was recorded in 1937, however its popularity declined rapidly in the face of other regional competition and the last meet was held in 1938.
Today, the falls and surrounds are a quiet picnic area with walking trails and a mixture of remnant vegetation, plantings of pine and various deciduous trees from the 1880s and more recent native replantings. There is also a wide variety of bird and animal life in the surrounding reserve.

1 comment:

  1. This is a cool blog, Jo! My work friends and I have been meaning to go to Lal Lal falls for a day trip for ages. But I found your blog because I am researching the Stony Creek water supply system through the Brisbane Ranges at the moment and your "turning on the waterworks" post came up on google. Anyhow, it's all very interesting! :)