Nigretta Falls (a lady from the visitor centre in Hamilton pronounced it “NYE-gret-uh”) was pretty much a mandatory stop for us since it was very close to and easily accessible from Wannon Falls. This was where the Wannon River fell some 15-20m or so over an exposed reddish cliff composed of the harder erosion-resistant rhyolitic layer that was indicative of the history of volcanism in the region west of Hamilton in the Southern Grampians Shire. As you can see in the photo above, we happened to see the falls as a single segment though the falls could branch out into multiple segments if the Wannon River would have more significant flow during a rain storm in the Winter months. Under the higher flow conditions, we could understand how some people in the literature might refer to this waterfall as a “Little Niagara Falls“.
Julie and I actually visited this waterfall twice – once in November 2006 and once again in November 2017. On that first visit, the Wannon River really didn’t stand a chance against a combination of a drought that dominated the decade along with water diversion for the extensive agriculture in the region. Thus, we only saw it as a disappointing trickle, where not even an overnight rain storm was able to revive its flow. Our subsequent visit 11 years later followed a couple of days of heavy and unstable thunderstorms piling on to an already more substantial water table from rains earlier in the season. Given these observations, I’d consider this more of a seasonal waterfall despite it being on a river.
For all intents and purposes, we thought of this waterfall as a roadside waterfall. There was a viewing deck right off the nearest car park in the reserve, which yielded a pleasant panorama with a more top down frontal view of the falls. Shortly to the right of the viewing deck, there was a set of steps descending to the opposite edge of the plunge pool, where we were able to get a closer and more imposing look at the falls and its underlying cliffs. Given the amount of brownish foam in the Wannon River, we suspected that the agricultural runoff draining into the river system might have also polluted the watercourse. Thus, it might not be wise to swim here even on a hot day.
Finally, it was worth noting that this waterfall tended to face west. That meant that coming in the morning on a sunny day resulted in us looking right against the sun. So we knew that on a return trip, we had to come back here in the afternoon, when the sun would backlight the falls. This was the case on our November 2017 trip (at least when the storm clouds didn’t block the sun), and it confirmed to us that the best time of day to take photographs was indeed in the mid to late afternoon.
We were able to reach Nigretta Falls from Hamilton by driving west on the Glenelg Highway (B160) for a little over 7km before a sign pointed us to turn right onto the Nigretta Road. Taking that turnoff, we then drove a little over 4km to the signed Wannon-Nigretta Fall Road. Turning left onto this road, we then drove over 3km to another signposted turnoff, then we turned right to go into the reserve. Once in the reserve, we continued another 600m towards the circular car park and viewing deck. Overall, this drive took us about 25 minutes, where most of the time was spent getting past the traffic lights and roundabouts within the city.
Alternately, we could also drive to the Nigretta Falls from the Wannon Falls picnic area (assuming we were visiting Nigretta last instead of first). From the picnic ground, we drove onto Camerons Rd, then headed north for roughly 350m to the Glenelg Highway. Turning right onto the highway, we then turned left onto Wannon-Nigretta Fall Rd (opposite the Morgiana Rd) after about 700m. Then, we followed the Wannon-Nigretta Fall Rd for about 7.5km or so before turning left into the reserve. This alternate route took us on the order of about 15 minutes.
One thing worth noting about the roads in Volcano Country, we encountered a few kangaroos in one morning when we showed up back in November 2006. Having had the misfortune of damaging a rental car from colliding with a kangaroo during a separate Australia trip earlier in the year, believe me when I say you’ll want to go slow and stay alert for them. They seem to have a tendency to cross the road and hop right in front of the car when they panic and aren’t able to control where they hop to in their frantic scramble to escape danger.
For context, Hamilton was about 33km (under 30 minutes drive) west of Dunkeld, about 96km (over an hour drive) south of Halls Gap, 100km (under 90 minutes drive) north of Warrnambool, 294km (about 3.5 hours drive) west of Melbourne, and 128km (90 minutes drive) east of Mount Gambier.
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