24 May, 2014

Branching out - Dolly's Creek

In contrast to the big company mines in the Steiglitz area, gold digging further up the Moorabool Valley was less lucrative and was centred on working alluvial drifts rather than quartz reefs. This was certainly true of the diggings at places such as Morrison's, Dolly's Creek, Tea Tree Creek and Mount Doran.

Worked ground at Dolly's Creek
The Morrison's diggings took place initially on the west bank of the Moorabool River where miners followed leads under the more geologically-recent flows of basalt, extracting auriferous gravels which were then worked using sluicing boxes and puddling machines to extract the gold.
Miners using a sluice
Nearby Dolly's Creek - a tributary of the west branch of the Moorabool River which ran into the river above what is now the township of Morrison's - was also worked in this fashion by the late 1850s.

workings at Dolly's Creek

The diggings at Dolly's Creek were known as a "Poor man's field". Yields provided a steady wage for hard work but no great riches. As a consequence, Dolly's Creek attracted Chinese miners who by the 1860s were the dominant workforce in the area.  Opium cans found at the Dolly's Creek diggings attest to their presence.
Quartz-containing rock, Dolly's Creek
Even today, there is interest in Dolly's Creek and any gold which might still be there, with recreational prospectors still working the creek bed and surrounds on a regular basis. During my wander along the section of the creek near Forest Road - which is currently completely dry with the exception of a few puddles - there was evidence of recent working.
Looking along the watercourse with a hole indicating signs of modern prospecting
 Then as now, access to water was a big issue in the area. Enough so that claims were abandoned sometimes not for lack of gold, but rather for lack of water to wash the soil to extract the gold. To this end, in the early 1860s a dam was built on Lal Lal Creek about a mile and a half above the falls of the same name. Water from the dam was then carried via a channel some 5 feet wide and 2 feet deep to the diggings. The channel was operated by the Moorabool Waterworks Company (aka the Lal Lal Waterworks Company) and initially carried water only as far as Dolly's Creek, where it entered a holding dam before being diverted into several smaller races, directing water to where it was most needed. By 1863 the channel had been extended to reach the diggings at Morrison's and Tea Tree Creek as well.
Dolly's Creek
To reach the diggings, it was necessary for the channel to cross the Ballarat-Geelong Railway line (built 1862) first at Lal Lal and then again near Mt Doran to the south. It was also necessary to tunnel through about 300m of rock to the south of Lal Lal township, to complete the project.  Remains of the channel may still be seen in the vicinity of Lal Lal today but according to one source, whilst the tunnel still stands, both ends have collapsed preventing access.
At this stage, I have not investigated the channel and have only spent a small amount of time at Dolly's Creek, but am keen to take another trip to see what I can discover.

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