There are a number of bushwalks in Dhawaral National Park, including the 15km 10B cycling trail which crosses the park, and the shorter tracks to the stunning Minerva Pool and Jingga Pool. Today’s short Maddens Falls Walk descends from Darkes Forest Road at the southern end of the national park to the impressive Maddens Falls. The parking area on both sides of the road is busy on a Saturday, with both bushwalkers, and people visiting the Glenbernie Orchard (which offers fruitpicking experiences and sells locally made ciders and other products). The wide firetrail (officially called the not-too-inspiring 10Z Management Trail) heads downhill, reaching a gate where a steel walkway continues to descend.
The trail then alternates between dirt and a boardwalk, so even if it’s been raining your feet should stay dry! An informal side-track through the heath leads down to a weir on Maddens Creek, upstream of the falls.
This is one of five weirs constructed on the major creeks within the state conservation: two on Stokes Creek, two on O’Hares Creek and this one on Maddens Creek. Most of the weirs no longer serve any purpose, but the Maddens Creek weir is still used to extract irrigation water for orchards at Darkes Forest. The Dhawaral management plan notes that the “weirs and other barriers further downstream on the Georges River would effectively exclude certain native fish species, such as Australian Bass, from the creeks within the reserves… However, the deep pools created by the weirs may favour Macquarie perch, a species on the list of Australian Threatened Fish”.
Walking a bit further along the main path leads to a sturdy timber and steel platform, which provides a view from near the top of the falls. There’s been a bit of rain over the past week, so there is a decent flow of water – although after a few days of heavy rain it would be even more impressive.
The Maddens Falls Walk ends here – and there’s a pretty significant drop below the lookout platform.
But… it’s possible to walk downstream along the top of the cliffs, until the terrain is a bit less steep and you can scramble down to Maddens Creek. (If you add this off-track section, please consider the walk as being Moderate/Hard rather than Easy, as there’s some rock scrambling and creek crossings involved.)
Following the creek upstream is a bit of an adventure; I found it easiest to cross the creek and continue up the opposite side. There’s no obvious path, and a few sections require some scrambling to find a viable route along the creek. At the base of the falls there’s a wide rock platform, just far enough from the waterfall to avoid getting wet, but close enough to get a great view of the multiple cascading tiers of water.
From here it’s back the same way to the car. I wouldn’t attempt getting to the base of the waterfall after very heavy rain, but otherwise (with caution) it’s worth the effort if you have the time and energy to head off-track.