A recent on-line chat with a fellow bushwalker led to a discussion about how to get to Crystal Creek Falls. A tributary of McCarrs Creek, Crystal Creek starts just below the Chiltern Track in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. It’s described as “a shallow six metre pool that drops twenty metres down a waterfall into another shallow pool. It contains many smaller rock pools which are home to Freshwater Crayfish” [Pittwater Online News].
The waterfall is not shown on the topographical map, so we agree it’s probably near the confluence of Crystal Creek and McCarrs Creek. The best way to find it is to start downstream near McCarrs Creek Reserve, and walk up the creek (going downstream would mean a fairly tricky descent of the Lower Gledhill Falls). I park the car by the side of McCarrs Creek Road near the bottom, and start walking up the road. McCarrs Creek is still very wide here, and there’s thick vegetation up to the water’s edge.
After a short distance along the road, I manage to find a spot to scramble down to the creek – but realise when I get there that the river bank is pretty waterlogged, and the bush along the creek is very thick. So it’s back up to the road. I’m at the tidal limit of McCarrs Creek, and the location of the Silent Pool: “The sylvan retreat at the limit of tidal water is one mile from Church Point, and is called the Silent Pool on account of the serenity of the spot. It is enclosed by steep hills covered with the vegetation of Kuring-gai Chase on one side. Livistona palms grow here to perfection.”
A bit further and another scramble down to the creek from the road, and it gets a bit easier to follow McCarrs Creek. The creek is now narrower and more rocky, and the vegetation along edge not quite as thick.
Further upstream is a nice cascade, where McCarrs Creek flows over a wide rock platfom into a large pool.
It’s almost pleasant walking now; there’s a few slippery rocks to navigate, patches of dense scrub and fallen logs – but I’m making reasonable progress. I’m also enjoying the fact that while McCarrs Creek Road is less than 100m away as it follows McCarrs Creek, I can’t hear the traffic and it feels a lot more remote than it really is.
Crystal Creek flows into McCarrs Creek through thick ferns and over a series of small cascades. The water looks very clear and clean, although I don’t see any crayfish! And definitely no waterfall here, or between McCarrs Creek and McCarrs Creek Road above me.
I decide to continue a bit further, as McCarrs Creek widens before another small waterfall.
I then reach a deep pool, with massive boulders on one side and thick scrub on the other. Continuing would mean a scramble up and around the rocks, so I decide to to turn back. It looks feasible to continue further upstream, and I’m not the first to make this journey… an article in the Sydney Morning Herald on 20 December 1930 states: “To those who seek adventure and exercise a climb up the rugged, picturesque gully is recommended. Through dense bracken and vines, over logs and boulders and waterfalls, a climb of one hour and twenty minutes will lead to the “Duckhole,” which is a sequestered pond at the confluence of two mountain brooks, the right-hand branch and the mainstream of the upper reaches of the creek.” Maybe the scrub was less thick in the 1930s; I would allow 2-3 hours, and might come back in summer when it would be pleasant to wade up the creek.
On the way back, I scramble back up to McCarrs Creek Road next to drainage ditch, avoiding the last section of the creek.
Before returning to the car, I head up the road, for a last search of the elusive Crystal Creek Falls. I quickly discover that the 20m waterfall, while largely hidden from the road, is just metres from the edge of McCarrs Creek Road. The creek flows over a number of rock tiers, before going under the road and down to McCarrs Creek.
Near the base of the waterfall are a few small rock-cut basin, small cylindrical depressions formed by the water currents over time.
Having completed my quest, it’s a quick walk back down the road to the car.