I’ve been meaning to do this walk for almost a year, but was waiting for the right opportunity – a day that wasn’t too hot and a relatively early start. The bushwalk starts at the Cowan railway station, and initially follows one of the popular sections of the Great North Walk along the Jerusalem Bay Track.
The track crosses the M1 motorway and immediately starts to descend a gully along Yatala Creek (also caled Jerusalem Creek on some maps). I take a brief detour off the main track to look at an Aboriginal engraving site, which features the composite figure of seal with a man’s face and arms.
Near the bottom of the gully, the track crosses Yatala Creek, which has a decent flow of water after a few days of rain.
Just below the track is a shallow cave, over which the creek cascades into a small pool.
It’s very pleasant walking through semi-rainforest, with the shaded track passing some rock overhangs as is continues to descend.
At the bottom of the gully is Jerusalem Bay (one of the bays off Cowan Creek). The track follows the northern side of the bay before reaching an informal lookout, where a palm tree frames a view down Cowan Creek.
There’s some interesting history here: the palm tree was planted in 1921 by Mrs Rhodes (below, left), and is one of the few signs remaining of the settlement at Jerusalem Bay. George Rhodes and his wife Agnes settled here in 1895, building a house and establishing a successful boat hiring business (Jerusalem Bay being a popular weekend destination). The original house burnt down in 1937, and a new house was built by George (on the same site). Afer the death of Agnes Rhodes in 1939, George continued the boatshed business until 1945 when he sold the business. The house and wharf were demolished by NPWS around 1949.
The Jerusalem Bay Track, which is part of the Great North Walk, follows the route of the road that Rhodes built to bring visitors down from Cowan.
The Jerusalem Bay Track then continues around another small inlet and across a small creek, before it starts climbing up to the next ridge.
It’s a short but steep climb up, with the track much less shaded than the section down from Cowan.
I’m glad to finally reach the junction with the track to Taffy Rock, which is “hidden” behind a sign pointing back to Jerusalem Bay, and ahead to Brooklyn Dam. From here, I’m not sure what to expect…
While the trail is not shown on most maps, there’s a pretty clear track that follows the top of the ridge. Occasional gaps in the trees yield some nice views over Cowan Creek.
The Taffys Rock track passes two old trig stations: TS1531 COLE is still in pretty good condition, with a well-constructed cairn of stone. There’s no view from the trig site, but a bit further on there’s a glimpse of the Hawkesbury River in the distance, before the track drops to a saddle along the ridge.
The track then climbs up to a large, tesselated dome-shaped rock, which has a few informal names including Mackerel Rock and Top of the World. From the top you get a good view of Cowan Creek, and the various branches of Taffys Gully to Taffys Rock. (I meet a couple of bushwalkes here – the only people I see along this track.)
A little further along the ridge there’s a second trig station, TS1940 EDWARDS. Also surrounded by trees and scrub, there’s no view from here – but there are some nice views again just after the trig station cairn.
The track descends again before crossing a wide rock platform. There are several Aboriginal engravings here, including two large whales and a kangaroo or wallaby (there are over 20 Aboriginal sites around the ridge, most hidden and protected by the thick scrub). In the distance is my destination, Taffys Rock (the long rock along the ridge).
The very last section of track is a little overgrown – although the track is still very obvious – and I’m soon standing at the edge of Taffys Rock.
The enormous rock platform is named after Taffy Townson, a member of the Rucksack Walking Club of NSW, who died from a snakebite while walking the Overland Track in Tasmania in 1948. This was one of her favourite places, and a memorial plaque was erected on what is now known as Taffys Rock. Scattered around the rock are 44 mundoes, or Aboriginal engravings of footprints.
To the south is Cowan Creek, with glimpses of the water and some of the coastal settlements.
The more impressive and panoramic view is to the east, where you can see from the Pacific Ocean and mouth of the Hawkesbury River, all the way up Cowan Creek.
In the distance is Lion Island, and behind it Box Head (Bouddi National Park).
After exploring the views and having a short break, it’s time to head back as it’s getting late in the day. While I’m retracing my steps, I can’t help make a few more photo stops: the afternoon light makes the views more photogenic than the journey out!
With the light fading, I reach the Jerusalem Bay Palm Tree just before it gets dark, completing the walk along Jerusalem Bay Track back up to Cowan station by torch-light.
It’s been a most enjoyable but exhausting day: while it was a pleasant surprise to have a bushealing track the entire way along the Taffys Rock Ridge, there was a lot acents and descents and a few side-trips along the way!
0.0km Cowan Station 2.4km Jerusalem Bay 3.5km Turn onto Taffys Rock Track (unmarked) 4.8km Cole Trig Station 5.8km Mackerel Rock / Top of the World 6.3km Edwards Trig Station 7.1km Aboriginal engraving site 8.4km Taffys Rock 13.2km Jerusalem Bay 15.6km Cowan station