Tom Groggin - Damms (Maguires) Bridge Hike 2013
Tom Groggin - Damms (Maguires) Bridge
After completing the walk along the river from the Murray source to Tom Groggin, upon close scrutiny of the Rooftop’s Corryong-Omeo-Thredbo Adventure Map, we found that the Harrington Track follows the Murray River for about 20 km downstream of Tom Groggin and then firetrails generally follow the river for most of the way to Damms Bridge. Damms Bridge is where the Murray flows out of Koscuiszko National Park into farmland. From this point downstream the Murray River flows through a broad fertile valley used for dairy farming. Damms Bridge is called “Maguires Bridge” on the topographic maps but other maps and road signs refer to it as Damms Bridge.
The Harrington Track is not well publicised but the information boards at each end of the track give some interesting information. The original Harrington Track was constructed by the Victorian Mines Department in 1895 by hand over an 8 month period. It extended 61 km from Towong to Tom Groggin. The track fell into disrepair but was reopended during the First World War and then again during the 1930’s depression. In 1975 and again after the 2003 bushfires work was undertaken to ensure that the present day 20 km track remained open for recreation purposes. An interesting article of a walk along here in 1952 appears at page 30-34 of the Melbourne Bushwalkers Journal, "Walk"
The walk was set for 4-6 October 2013 with the Canberra Bushwalking Club. After several withdrawals we were left with only three walkers - Stephen, Jamie and myself.
Day 1: 4 October 2013
The first day involved driving 5 hours from Canberra via Tom Groggin and Khancoban to Damms Bridge, leaving a car there and then driving 90 minutes back to Tom Groggin picnic area to start the walk at 2:45 pm. Prior permission had been sought and granted to cross Tom Groggin Station which is just as well because Wayne gave us directions on how to get through the electric fences. We crossed the Murray on the suspension bridge and walked through Tom Groggin Station to the start of the Harrington track at the Stony Ck campsite by the river. This section took us 2 hours to cover the 8.5 km of easy walking mostly on firetrails. Stony Ck campsite has a fireplace and a picnic table and is accessible by 4WD vehicles on tracks that are seasonally closed. We had the campsite to ourselves for the night.
Day 2: 5 October 2013
We knew that day 2 was going to be a very long day. The sign at Stony Ck made us realise that we would be walking about 5 km further than originally estimated and that the section of the track that follows the river closely actually contained a number of climbs. Downstream of Stony Ck the Murray flows through the “Murray Gates” as it passes between two large mountains – Hermit Mountain on the Victorian side and Granuaille Mountain on the NSW side. These mountains tower 900 m above the river making the Murray Gates some of the best continuous rapids in southern Australia. From Stony Ck the track climbs steeply over Hermit Mountain giving us good views of the snow-clad Main Range and then descends even more steeply down to the Murray River at Hermit Creek. We had morning tea here after walking for close to 3 hours but it would make a great spot for camping as it is just below a grade 4 rapid. We quickly continued on the “flat” section of the Harrington Track passing Surveyor Ck campsite which is beside a memorial to Jack Riley who died there in 1914 and then had lunch beside the river at Clover Flat. There are many spectacular views of the river from this section of track but often it is from quite a height looking down to the river below.
About an hour after lunch we reached the Bunroy Station end of the Harrington Track. We now needed to go cross-country to reach the Indi River Track but instead of the steep direct route originally proposed we decided to walk about 1 km along Bunroy Rd then cross a paddock and creek to reach the lower end of an overgrown firetrail that goes up the hill for about 700 m to join the Indi River Track. There is a well worn path on this overgrown firetrail but we believe that it is deer, whose calls we heard numerous times, that use it more than humans. Once on the Indi River Track it was an easy 4-5 km to reach the Bunroy Ck campsite beside the Murray River. It took us 9 hours to cover 26 km with a total climb of 1050 m which is a long tiring day with overnight packs.
Day 3: 6 October 2013
The original plan for day 3 was to cross the Murray River, scrub-bash for less than a kilometre to Hoggs Hut and then follow the firetrail for 4 km to the car at Damms Bridge. However, the river was flowing quite swiftly and none of us wanted to enter the 10oC water to see how deep it was on the far side. Also the scrub on the NSW bank looked to be quite thick so the scrub-bash to Hoggs Hut could be slow. The alternative was to head for Bunroy Mountain and follow the firetrail down to the Upper Murray Rd just north of Damms Bridge. Rather than taking the most direct off-track route to Bunroy Mountain we decided to stay on firetrails. To do this from Bunroy Ck campsite we followed Bunroy Ck Track to Bunroy Rd. We then followed Bunroy Rd to Bunroy Gap and then followed Bunroy Gap Track past the intersection with Bunroy Ridge Track to Bunroy Mountain. We were beginning to think that “Bunroy” seems to be a popular name in these parts. From Bunroy Mountain we descended the overgrown Whitseds Track down to the Upper Murray Rd crossing private property on the way (prior permission sought and granted). Upon reaching the road I realise I had completed my "Murray Source to Sea" - 18 years and 6 days. We reached the car at Damms Bridge for an early lunch. This section took us 4 hours to cover 14 km with a 600 m climb.
For the sake of completion and because we had permission, after lunch we walked the 4 km partly over private property to Hoggs Hut. Hoggs Hut is in the national park but it is a locked private hut. It appears that during autumn, when the river level is lower and the water warmer, it would be possible to walk in or along the river the one kilometre from Bunroy Ck campsite. After returning to the car we retrieved the other car from Tom Groggin and were back in Canberra by 8:30pm.
My recommendation to anyone repeating this trip would be to do it over 4 days rather three. That would mean that our second day could be split over two days allowing for more time to appreciate the river. Also, by doing the walk in autumn when the river probably can be crossed safely the final day would be much easier.