Thursday, May 5, 2016

Jupiter Creek -- a glimpse of Gold Rush South Australia

Jupiter Creek -- the iconic Beatrice chimney, built in 1869
Welcome to Jupiter Creek -- the trail head. Note the green: we usually do this hike in spring!
The Millennium Possum -- aka the Mitsubishi Express -- waits in the car park...
...and who else should be there in the parking lot, but a bearded dragon! These guys are about a foot long, and shy.
Take a moment before you hit the trail, and read the  information board. The gold rush came to South Australia in the 1850s and 1860s, and the drama was on, full-throttle. Today, it's a haunted, haunting place...
The Jupiter Creek hike is fairly easy, and takes you through up to three kilometers (about two miles) of woodland...

...and the trail takes you to sites like the New Phoenix shaft, which you can actually get into. And we did...
A flash shot of the deep interior of the New Phoenix mine shaft. It's cool, deep underground...
Follow the New Phoenix shaft right through the hill, and you come to a barred gate in a shaft of daylight. 
From the top of the New Phoenix shaft, a ladder goes down into the pit -- and you can climb down:
Dave, being Dave, did just that. Kinda "Spellunking" at Jupiter Creek. 
The trail linking the many mines is well marked. Just follow the arrows, and --
You find yourself approaching many different operations, such as the Beatrice Mine, whose chimney is...
well, it's like something out of The Lord of the Rings. Echoes of dwarven folktales, and Moria... 
The Beatrice Chimney, 1869, Jupiter Creek, South Australia.
Take a minute to read a little of the history of the Beatrice Mine
This was, as Aussies say, "hard yakka." Hard work -- and not for humans alone:
One can only speculate about the life of a draught horse in this era, anywhere in the world.
Nor was Jupiter Creek the only goldfield in the state. Driving the Adelaide Hills and Fleurieu Peninsula
today, it's hard to imagine such tranquil landscapes resounding the the ruckus of a gold rush. Dang.
Many claims were made and worked at Jupiter Creek. You get actually get into one or two, but --
Many more are locked and barred, in the interests of public safety. And rightly so --
Parents do have to keep an eye on their more adventurous kids, but the whole area is very well signed,
and dangerous areas are also comprehensively fenced.
Mines apart, there are other reasons to hike Jupiter Creek. If you can get there in September or October, the woods
are a mass of wild flowers, and flowering trees give the valley the "enchanted forest" appeal...

Jupiter Creek in October: "enchanted forest." A sheer joy for photographers.

And in springtime, before the heat of summer has dried the woods right out, don't forget to look down. At your feet
is a pixie garden, or fairy garden, of mosses, ferns, fragile beauty on the scale of the very small.

No Australian wood would be complete without its termite nests. Big ones can be 3-4 feet tall.
Jupiter Creek: keep a look out for bearded dragons!
Driving the Adelaide Hills and Fleurieu Peninsula today, it's impossible to imagine this tranquil landscape reverberating to the clamor, hustle, noise and widescale destruction of a gold rush ... but it happened. Gold was discovered in the early 1860s (some years after the Victorian gold rush), and ambitious men flooded into the area.

The first thing they did was clearcut the hills. Evey tree for about fifty miles was logged, and many regions still show the consequences of erosion. Copper-rich rocks burst right through the scrappy topsoil ... only the forests were holding the ground in place.

Jupiter Creek is a wonderful hike on a warm day. It's three kilometers of secondary-growth woodland, seasonally carpeted with wild flowers. Do it in September or October, if you can; but wait a few days after there's been significant rain, because low-lying parts of the valley flood. Alternatively, be ready to go paddling!

Here's what the Batunga County website says of Jupiter Creek:

The second major diggings in the Echunga area opened up after payable alluvial gold was discovered at Jupiter Creek by Henry Sanders and Thomas Plane in 1868. By September 1868 there were about 1,200 people living at the new diggings and tents and huts were scattered throughout the scrub. A township was established with general stores, butchers and refreshment booths. 

By the end of 1868 though, the alluvial deposits were almost exhausted and the population dwindled to several hundred. During 1869 reef mining was introduced and some small mining companies were established but all had gone into liquidation by 1871. the full story right here: ... or better yet, hike Jupiter Creek and read the information boards. There's a lot to read, and all of it fascinating.

We've been there four or five times, and on a couple of visits Dave went prepared with flashlights and so forth. We went right through the hill, the New Phoenix mine, by torchlight ... three meters underground it's gloriously cool on a hot day. I could see taking shelter from a heatwave there, with a picic basket! In fact, the only thing the Jupiter Creek site does not have is (!) a bathroom. So visitors are always just passing through, on their way to a cafe for coffee after a great little hike. Fortunately there's a fantastic cafe in Mylor, nearby ... we'll take you there soon.

1 comment:

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