About Waterfall Gully
The Waterfall Gully was a resilient series of waterfalls close to the Adelaide CBD (central business district or city centre) beneath the Mount Lofty Summit. In fact, of the waterfalls in South Australia that we visited during our drought-stricken trip in late November 2006, this was the only excursion where the waterflow was not either trickling or completely dry. When Julie and I came back here 11 years later, the waterfalls still retained its shape and waterflow despite the decade-long drought no longer being an issue. The photo you see at the top of this page reflects the state of the First Falls on that more recent trip. That first waterfall was probably on the order of 25-30m in height.
Given these observations, it would appear that the Waterfall Gully had year-round flow as apparently the Mt Lofty Ranges had an extensive enough of a drainage to sustain First Creek all year long. Since South Australia was said to be the driest state in Australia, the reliable flow of this creek made its existence all the more miraculous. In fact, it has been said that this was one of Adelaide’s water catchments for its municipal water supply.
As the first paragraph hinted at, there was indeed more than one waterfall within the Waterfall Gully. While the First Falls was the largest of the lot, there was said to be about 6 (maybe 7) waterfalls along the First Creek drainage beneath the northwest-facing slopes of Mount Lofty. I’ve only been able to spot just three of these falls, and only the first two were reasonably accessible to see and get close to. That said, apparently all of the remaining waterfalls could be more or less seen on the nearly 4km uphill track linking the first waterfall with the Mt Lofty Summit (around 7.8km round trip or 2-3 hours return), but I was only able to make it up to the Chinaman’s Hut Ruin about a quarter of the way to the end. Therefore, the description of the excursion below will only cover this limited scope.
From the fairly spacious car park (see directions below, we walked towards the end of the car park beneath the Utopia Restaurant or Cafe. In addition to steps leading up to the cafe as well as going up the slope towards the top of the First Falls and beyond, there were a couple of other shorter tracks alongside First Creek. On the left side of the creek was a paved path leading just under 200m to the main lookout across from the plunge pool at base of the First Falls. On the right side of the creek (just on the other side of a bridge over First Creek), a parallel path took me towards a more angled look at the First Falls. A closure sign behind the angled lookout meant that I couldn’t continue further up this path so I backtracked towards the aforementioned main lookout.
While a visit to the First Falls by itself would be pretty satisfying, I continued up a sloping track towards a junction (where the left path went back to the Utopia Cafe and the right path kept going up). Continuing the ascent on the right, I then went past a gate as the path eventually led to a cliff hugging section right at the top of the First Falls. Signs on that gate indicated that it would be closed when catastrophic fire conditions were present. I’m sure they also close this gate when the gorge would be subject to flooding under severe rain storms.
After getting past the top of the First Falls, the track flattened out then bridged First Creek before following along the creek’s right bank. Eventually after about 800m from the car park (roughly 400m beyond the top of the First Falls), I reached a signed junction with the Second Falls clearly in sight up ahead. The Mt Lofty Summit hike continued steeply uphill to the right of the junction. Keeping straight ahead led me to the lookout and short path right to the base of the Second Falls, which was probably on the order of 10m tall or less. For most people, this would be the turnaround point for a short leisurely stroll taking in the two best waterfalls in the Waterfall Gully. That would make this excursion 1.6km round trip taking roughly an hour or less depending on how much time you wish to spend lingering around each waterfall.
I actually continued up the Mt Lofty Track just to see what the next waterfall was like. Almost immediately, I realized that the track climbed very steeply (especially compared to the much easier track up to this point). This sweat-inducing climb would persist for the next 300m or so before the track gradually flattened out as it had climbed well above the gorge carved out by the First Creek. After roughly 400m from the track junction near Second Falls, I managed to hear and spot the Third Falls, but unlike the first two waterfalls, there was no signage, and the view was a fairly unsatisfactory glimpse through overgrowth way down into the gorge where that Third Falls could barely be spotted. To my knowledge, there was no official nor safe access to get closer.
I managed to continue hiking for the next 200m or so towards a four-way intersection. To the left of this intersection was the Chinaman’s Hut Ruin. Keeping straight at this junction was the continuation of the Mt Lofty Track. To the right of this intersection was the track to Eagle on the Hill. After going the 30m to the left to the Chinaman’s Hut Ruin, which was basically some organized foundational rocks and bricks in a clearing in the forest, I turned around and headed back the way I came. So by the time I returned to the car park, I wound up hiking around 2.6km round trip requiring a little over an hour.
From the Adelaide CBD, we’ll describe the driving directions from Victoria Square in the heart of the city centre.
Heading east on Wakefield Rd for about 2km, we’d then enter the roundabout and take the third exit onto Kensington Rd. We’d then follow Kensington Rd for the next 3.3km towards the intersection with Glynburn Rd. We’d then turn right onto Glynburn Rd and follow it for about 1.6km to a roundabout where the first exit on the left was for Waterfall Terrace.
Taking that first exit, we’d then drive for roughly 100m before turning right onto Waterfall Gully Rd. We then followed Waterfall Gully Rd for about the last 4km before the road ended at the car parks for both the waterfalls as well as the Utopia Cafe. Overall, this drive took us on the order of 30 minutes even with all the traffic lights, roundabouts, and weekend traffic in the city.
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