Located in Sydney’s north-west between Pennant Hills and North Rocks, Bidjigal Reserve is home to the only waterfall in the Hills Shire. So after a few days of rain, I head out to explore this small urban bushland reserve. It’s named after the Bidjigal people, whose traditional lands were the western, north-western, south-eastern, and southern areas of Sydney – although the exact area they inhabited is unclear. There are many marked and unmarked track through Bidjigal Reserve and the adjoining Richard Webb Reserve, which I’m combining to form a loop. I’m starting at the end of Heidi Place at the eastern end of the park.
The Murri-yanna Track goes all the way from Heidi Place in West Pennant Hills to Whitbread Place in North Rocks, following Darling Mills Creek most of the way. While it passes some sections of rainforest and riverflat areas, it also traverses parts of the Bidjigal Reserve which are most affected by weed invasion and the impacts from urban development. Signposted with red track markers, the wide trail descends gently along Darling Mills Creek and past sandstone overhangs high above the trail.
The track crosses Blue Gum Creek (which flows into Darling Mills Creek) over a bridge and shortly afterwards reaches Darling Mills Falls, a small waterfall where the creek cascades over a series of boulders. The description of “spectacular” in the brochure is perhaps a little overstated, but after two or three days of rain they falls are quite picturesque.
The Murri-Yanna Track continues along Darling Mills Creek, which is one of the two main tributaries of the Upper Parramatta River. The creek is named after a watermill that was constructed a short distance from its confluence with Toongabbie Creek. Although considered “mainly in natural condition”, the creek which was once used as a water supply is now fairly polluted from urban run-off.
After about 1.3km (from Heidi Place) the firetrail reaches a junction with a track up to Blacks Road to the north, and Mills Drive to the south. I continue along Darling Mills Creek.
Murri-Yanna Track / Burraga Walk
The track is now called both the Murri-Yanna Track (red marker) and Burraga Walk (yellow marker) – “burraga” being the Darug name for the bandicoot (unfortunately, bandicoots have not been sighted in the reserve since the mid 1970s).
Following the creek very closely, the Murri-Yanna Track / Burraga Walk passes some sheltered rainforest gullies and a community of Coachwood trees, which are a popular roosting tree for the Powerful Owls which live in the reserve.
There is one creek crossing, with stepping stones providing access Darling Mills Creek.
Soon after this crossing is an enormous rock overhang: it’s a local landmark known locally as the Aboriginal Cave, as the shelter was apparently described in times of early European occupation. It’s said that that Pemulwuy, a Bidjigal leader who was noted for his resistance to the European colonization of Australia, used the area as a base to mount attacks on neighbouring homesteads.
Soon after the shelter, there’s another junction: the Murri-Yanna Track continues southwards along Darling Mills Creek, while the Burraga Walk follows Excelsior Creek.
This is the nicest part of the loop walk, with the track closely following the creek, which it crosses a few times. The first crossing is above a weir at the confluence of Darling Mills Creek and Excelsior Creek, where large stepping stones provide a safe path across the fast-flowing creek.
The next crossing of Excelsior Creek is across some rougher stones, but even after a few days of rain it’s not a problem getting across.
Christmas Bush Creek (a side creek) is crossed over a timber bridge.
The Burraga Walk is never far from the creek, and passes a small cascade where Excelsior Creek has carved a deep channel through the sandstone.
The track then passes a very long section of stepping stones along the top of a low weir or dam wall; a number of signs warn against walking here after heavy rain. Forming part of a stormwater impoundment area, the creek is designed to flood and water levels can rise quickly in heavy or consistent rain.
The track climbs above Excelsior Creek, and crosses Sawmill Creek over a timber bridge, near some low sandstone caves.
This is the furthest point of the Burraga Walk, the track drops back down to Excelsior Creek, which it crosses one last time before looping back on the opposite side of the creek. for a very short section, the Burraga Walk overlaps with the shorter Platypus track loop (blue marker).
The track climbs fairly steeply up from the creek, with the forest quickly changing to open eucalpyt forest, before reaching a clared section behind a row of houses. (You can start the Burraga Walk here, at the corner of Sanctuary Point Rd and Highs Rd.)
The track soon re-enters Bidjigal Reserve, with the narrow Bald Hill Track (which is part of the Burraga Walk) cutting through thick heath. The vegetation here is described as being typical of what would have been growing here before the land was cleared for farms.
The trail soon reaches another trailhead at the end of Black Road, with the next section called the Blacks Road Track. This is another nice section of the bushwalk, as the track descends along Bellbird Creek. The trail passes a few small cascades and sections of rainforest.
Bellbird Creek flows into Darling Mills Creek, where the Blacks Road Track crosses a very shallow section of Darling Mills Creek to rejoin the Murri-yanna Track and complete the Burraga Walk loop.
From here I return the same way along the Murri-yanna Track, to complete a very enjoyable afternoon walk.
Best bushwalks in the Bidjigal Reserve
There are three main trails through the Bidjigal Reserve – and a few minor trails. The Waterfall Walk described here combines the Burraga Walk with the section of the Murri-yanna Track which passes the Darling Mills Falls. You could lengthen it by adding the Platypus Track, which means you’ve covered most of the official trails.
2.1km Loop (1 hour). Blue markers
A shorter version of the Burraga Walk, the Platypus Track follows Excelsior Creek through a shaded valley, before returning through eucalypt and turpentine forest. It passes what was a popular swimming hole until the 1970s.
Platypus Track Overview and Map [PDF]
4.6km Loop (2.5 hours). Yellow markers
Arguably the best bushwalk in Bidjigal Reserve, this loop walk follows Darling Mills Creek, Excelsior Creek and Bellbird Creek. The varied walk includes sections of semi-rainforest and closed Coachwood forest, as well as some heathland and open woodland. It can be accessed from multiple trailheads.
Burraga Walk Overview and Map [PDF]
8km one way (4 hours). Red markers
The longest track in the Bidjigal Reserve, the Murri-yanna Track is the least appealing. It follows Darling Mills Creek from the Richard Webb Reserve in West Pennant Hills to the Speers Road Reserve in North Rocks, passing the the Darling Mills Falls. It’s almost entirely a wide firetrail through parts of the reserve that are close to development and most impacted by weed invasion.