Posted on

The Pyrete Range (Lerderderg Gorge)

In recent months I’ve been spending quite a bit of time exploring the Pyrete Range, an isolated block of mountainous bushland on the eastern side of the Gisborne to Bacchus Marsh Road and a fairly recent addition to the Lerderderg State Park. Despite its nearness to the western suburbs of Melbourne (less than 15km) this surprisingly rugged area is little known and has only recently started to attract the interest of bushwalkers. It appears that quite a few mountain bikers use the northeastern end of the park but the rest of the range is very quiet. The main watercourse running through the park is called Pyrites Creek. I’m not sure why the range is spelled Pyrete and not Pyrite but I have a sneaky suspicion that it is a bureaucratic spelling error, committed at some point in the past and which has now stuck. The park is home to the threatened brush-tailed phascogale and there is a large area set aside as a reference zone.

It appears that Parks Victoria have tried to keep the Pyrete Range fairly low key and don’t seem to actively encourage visitors. There are only a few entrances to the park as it is entirely surrounded by private land. Parks Victoria technically don’t allow camping in the range although it seems to me that quite a few people access the lower sections of Pyrites Creek via private property and regularly camp in at least a few locations along its banks (within the park). The odd motorbike track and the remains of a recently built hut overlooking the creek (also within the park) only strengthen my feeling that adjoining landowners view the Pyrete Range as their own little bit of private wilderness.
Currently there is just the one (unofficial) walking circuit within the range and which is definitely one of the most enjoyable daywalks close to the city. I’m fairly certain that Parks Victoria don’t know of the existence of this circuit but because of its growing popularity (even with walking clubs) I have decided to include it in to our forthcoming Daywalks Around Victoria guide. The walk follows old disused 4WD tracks for part of its length but the really enjoyable section of this circuit is along a stretch of Pyrites Creek itself. This wonderful creek is very easy to walk along and is reminiscent of nearby Lerderderg Gorge.

Having walked and waded along the Lerderderg River on many occasions I would have thought that the slippery nature of the Lerderderg’s riverbed would be replicated along Pyrite Creek. No such thing. Pyrite Creek is not in the least bit slippery. Even in the rain or thigh deep water it is an easy walk along the creekbed. I’m not sure if this is because the Lerderderg River’s slippery rocks are due to slime created by the position of Blackwood, old logging operations or simply that the rock is slightly different. All I know is that Lerderderg can be treacherous in the wet and Pyrites Creek is no problem at all. The rest of this circuit walk follows generally well-marked foot trails along a wonderful weaving gully which a local farmer (who appears to use this section of the walk fairly regularly) called Wobbly Gully. Somebody has done a lot of work along this gully to create a good walking trail, although, as I said it appears to have been regularly used for many years. There are a couple of campsites along this section of the walk, which again must have been created by visitors gaining access across the nearby adjoining private land. The total circuit is 13.8km and there is a great picnic spot about half way along its length. It really is an enjoyable experience and is totally different in character to nearby walks in Lerderderg Gorge.

The two photographs were taken along Pyrites Creek immediately after the January 2011 flooding rains. I was curious to see what the creek looked like once the initial flooding had eased. It was simply stunning. The colour of the stones on the creek bed were more reminiscent of Central Australian watercourses than those usually found in Victoria. As the population of Melbourne grows nearby bushland such as the Pyrete Range will come under increasing pressure from not only recreational users such as bushwalkers and mountain bikers but also from much more destructive motorbikes and 4WDs.  I know that funding is always tight but my advice to Parks Victoria is to start planning how best to manage this wonderful park now. The western suburbs are fast approaching and by the time the first houses reach the southern gate…it may just be too late.


26 thoughts on “The Pyrete Range (Lerderderg Gorge)

  1. Very interesting Glenn! I would love to visit soon! When is the new Daywalks Around Victoria due out? I’ll be eagerly awaiting it’s release!

  2. Daywalks Around Victoria has just gone to the printers. It is due on the shelves in the first few days of May.

  3. Great news Glenn! Thanks for getting back to me.

    I wish it was out now though… Would love to do this hike on the weekend (or next weekend)!

  4. Hiya, there’s a small group of us who use the Melbourne Daywalks book regularly – most Sundays in fact and keen to hear of new walks so glad to know there’s a new version coming soon. Can we provide you feedback on three of the walks we’ve done where the notes are either not helpful or inaccurate (ie: we got lost :))? The walks are the 3 Creeks walk in the Brisbane Ra, the Welsh Village Walk at Castlemaine and the Mt Ida walk. Let me know if you’ve got the capacity to take feedback and I’ll do the details. We use the book regularly to choose and plan our walks and it has transformed the experience for us and made it possible for us to take on a much wider variety of walks. Thanks heaps.

  5. Hi Liz, I would love to hear back from you about any corrections. Please send any details to updates@osp.com.au. This information will be placed on our Update pages here on our site. Just for your interest, we are going to go down a slightly different path with our walking guides after our next book (Daywalks Around Victoria) which is due out in about 6 weeks or so. It is no secret that book publishing is pretty tough at the moment and things are changing rapidly. We have therefore made the decision to create a new range of walking guides, which will cover more specific regions around Melbourne (and Victoria). Our new guides will be 96 pages and cover 20-25 walks, but with more detailed information, more suggested walk variations, better contour maps, larger photographs and free GPS downloads on our site. The books will also be much cheaper. This will hopefully allow us to put out new updated editions much more regularly than we have done in the past. Our first two guides in this new format are in the process of being researched and created right now. The first guide is called Western Gorges Walks (A Walking Guide to the Brisbane Ranges, Werribee and Lerderderg Gorges). The second guide is called Goldfield Walks (A Walking Guide to the Central Goldfields). Both of these books are due in the shops this coming spring. In fact the three walks you are concerned about will be covered in these two guides.

  6. Glenn. I have had the pleasure of walking in the Pyrete Creek area for the last 35 years. It is a pity you have ‘revealed’ the area to the public as it has always been a place you can walk in and not meet a soul, enjoying a sense of remoteness even though you are only 50km approx from the Melbourne GPO. In reference to the spelling of the creek it is marked on early mining maps and mentioned in goldfield reports as Pyrete Creek, not Pyrites Creek which seems to have appeared on recent maps. It has been interesting watching the vegetation along the creek change over the years. Memories of my first visit is of grassy flats along the creek which provided pleasant walking as opposed to the prickly scrub on the surrounding slopes. A couple of weeks before Ash Wednesday the area was devestated by the Dales Creek fire, resulting in extremely thick regrowth on those lovely grassy flats. This has now mostly died out with the grass coming back. I’m glad the area has been added to the Lerderderg State Park. I hope Parks Victoria try to preserve the Creek the way it is.

  7. Hi Greg. It is really interesting about the spelling of the creek as I always figured it was a bureaucratic error due to a misspelling of the word ‘Pyrete’. You are right. According to early Argus reports (Aug 1873) it was indeed spelled ‘Pyrete’ all along. Parks Victoria officially spell it ‘Pyrites’, and as you say it appears as such on all the modern maps. Very confusing. Maybe I should consider using the original (correct) spelling in future editions? I also agree with your sentiments regarding the fact that more walkers will now be using the park since this walk has been ‘revealed’ in our new book. I too have been walking in this beautiful area for many years. The problem stems from the fact that the Western suburbs are fast approaching and increasing numbers of people are entering the park who are not quite so environmentally minded as most walkers are. The area where the walk is described has recently seen an increase in illegal motorbike use and (of a much more worrisome nature) illegal hunting. The fact that a ‘published’ walking trail is now regularly in use in this once remote corner of the park can (we hope) only help deter those with bikes and guns. If you get the time, please give me a call at Open Spaces as I would like to chat to you regarding your thoughts on using the creeks original name.

  8. Glenn, living and growing up on the southern end of the Pyrete area from the age of 3-18 I had spent ALOT of time exploring the park and enjoying everything it has to offer. One time needing an escape from the world I spent 17 days camped on the banks of the Djerriwarrh dam living off nothing but freshly caught fish and yabbies. Just magic!!!! Not another sole to be seen the entire time. So needless to say this area holds a special place in my heart and I find it a shame that no longer are walkers given access to the lower end of the park. Interestingly the lower end was actually populated with homes before the dam was created and some or most of these are still standing to some extent and are great to explore. If you can get in there!!

  9. Having planned to revisit Lerderderg Gorge, I have found this website and thank you for GPS downloads. The gpx and kmz files are very useful and helpful. In particular, they are of those that show meeting points (ie creek and/or valley junctions).

    1. Thanks for the comment dplus. We’ve had some good feedback about having the GPS downloads avalable. We are hoping to comtinue with this featre in the majority of out new publications.

  10. A nice day and a really nice walk (and not difficult at all). Enjoyed playing with my toy that could tell me on arrival at each waypoint, in particular the entrance to Wobbly Gully which is just about 300 m from Monument Gully grassy area. Yes, it was not easy to find the next waypoint, the Small Stone Wall even though it is so close to the walking trail. Thank you.

  11. Hi Glenn, you get two thumbs up for this one. I find myself gravitating to more remote walks and this one ticked that box nicely considering it’s so close to Melbourne. I really like the low maintenance feel, it reminds me of the state forests where I grew up in central Vic.

    I have one comment regarding your observation about the grip you found in the creek: it was certainly not my experience! I did the walk in some moderate rain in late Feb 2012. The creek had pooled and the bed was otherwise dry except for the stones having been wet by the rain. I’ve done a fair bit of walking on the bed of the Lerderderg and significant stretches of the creek were every bit as slippery if not more. At a couple of points my attempts at walking were so farcical I found myself laughing at my futile attempts to take steps. It was like walking on a pile of wet soap. It turned out to be kind of fun and certainly didn’t detract from the walk at all, I just thought I would let you know considering you made a point of it. Cheers.

    1. That’s really interesting Leuis. I wonder if the slippery nature of the walking is dependant upon how long the area has been without rain. I’ll certainly be advising walkers to take care and use a walking pole (for balance). Thanks for your comments.

  12. I did this walk in a clockwise direction last weekend, and found the track to be quite overgrown and difficult to follow in places. It seems as though the junction discs and orange triangles are only oriented for walking in the anti-clockwise direction. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable walk. The creek was very full, and flowing quickly, with lovely cold, clear water. The wire mesh bridge is quite unusual, and certainly one of the highlights. I didn’t see another soul all day, and the feeling of isolation and remoteness is wonderful, especially when compared with how crowded Lerderderg can get.

    1. Hey Simon. It’s a shame that this walk is getting a bit overgrown. It’s possibly my favorite walk in the Lerderderg region and I can’t figure out why it isn’t visited every weekend by walkers. It’s also such a pity that Parks Victoria don’t have the money to officially recognise the walk (you need money to maintain a walk to a good standard). More than likely once our Western Gorges book is out of print (a while yet I might add) then this walk will again be lost (and see the illegal hunters and trail bike users return as happened in the past). This walk is easily the best of its type close to Melbourne and should be recognised as such. BTW, I wrote up the walk in an anti-clockwise direction as it is easier to locate certain junctions coming from the other direction. Glad you enjoyed the place.

  13. Walked Yankee Creek this week. Very overgrown. Had to push through vegetation for first part of walk along water races. Second part we had to walk down the creek over logs etc washed down. Luckily little water in creek. Brambles everywhere along creek. Very tough walk. I don’t think anyone has been down there for months at least. I think next year will see it impassable…

    1. I’m really sad to hear about this Elwyn, although I’m not surprised. Yankee Creek is another one of those walks which has suffered from under use in recent years. Such a shame as it used to be a wonderful day out. I asked one of the Park Victoria staff about the possibility of doing some trail maintenance on it (most people don’t want to undertake walks if they are not maintained and are overgrown). He said that the ‘powers that be’ are far keener on shutting walking trails than in establishing new ones. Nothing surprising there. Over the years I have watched in despair as more and more walking trails vanish. Parks Victoria are now so short-staffed that they can barely undertake basic land management duties let alone look after walking trails. Sign of the times….

  14. I’ve only just discovered this website, so sorry for the late news.
    We did the Yankee Creek walk last June, and found it quite difficult too.
    The top section of the water race was completely overgrown or covered with fallen timber, and we spent ages trying to figure out if we needed to back track or keep going to find where we were supposed to cross the creek. Thanks to the great map in “melbournes western gorges” we decided to cross the creek and keep walking West where we came across Old Blackwood Road (we had obviously gone way too far) and were later able to regain the western part of the walk.
    It’s a shame the “powers that be” are so short sighted.
    Glen, I must say “congratulations” for the excellent work on producing the above mentioned book.
    I have lived all my life in the area, and although I have walked a lot of this country before, have really enjoyed revisiting, and discovering new areas by being inspired by your book.
    We’ve recently done 8 of the 20 walks, and plan on ticking them all off in the next year or so.
    Maps, and history…Great!
    Well done!
    Darren and Tatiana

  15. Thank you Darren and Tatiana. I’m really pleased you are using and enjoying my book ‘Melbourne’s Western Gorges’. Over the years I’ve come to love this area too and I firmly believe that it should one day be amalgamated into a Western Gorges National Park. This would mean incorporating the Brisbane Ranges National Park with Werribee Gorge State Park and Lerderderg State Park (including the Pyrete). This would hopefully result in better management policies and help to preserve a region which is currently under enormous pressure from encroaching suburbs and human / introduced animal intervention. As it is most Melbournian’s have never heard of Werribee Gorge (fewer know of Lerderderg Gorge or the Pyrete) and those that do know of the gorge have no idea that it is almost half privately owned and has an almost complete lack of a functioning management plan to take it into the future. The Western Gorges region should be one of Melbourne’s treasures, a place that we should care for and maintain for our future generations. Unfortunately that’s not happening right now…

  16. Hi Glenn,

    Thanks for the wonderful guides you create I refer to them often.

    Your comment regarding the Pyrite Creek running through the Pyrete Range grabbed my attention and I actually suggested this be fixed with Vicmap/ Vicnames.

    This is the response I got:

    This is a crown land reserve and council is not the naming authority here. Historically, it appears Pyrite Creek was spelled Pyrete Creek, so it appears the name Pyrete Range is spelled correctly.
    9/09/2014 11:36:02 AM
    Written By: Local Government Authority
    (Moorabool Shire)

    I then jumped online to research this myself and found the said spelling in the Victorian State Library archives here:

    http://search.slv.vic.gov.au/primo_library/libweb/action/display.do?tabs=detailsTab&ct=display&fn=search&doc=SLV_VOYAGER1825365&indx=4&recIds=SLV_VOYAGER1825365&recIdxs=3&elementId=3&renderMode=poppedOut&displayMode=full&frbrVersion=&dscnt=0&frbg=&scp.scps=scope%3A%28SLV_VOYAGER%29%2Cscope%3A%28SLV_DIGITOOL%29%2Cscope%3A%28SLVPRIMO%29&tab=default_tab&dstmp=1410248342680&vl(10247183UI0)=any&srt=rank&mode=Basic&dum=true&tb=t&vl(1UIStartWith0)=contains&vl(23192025UI1)=all_items&vl(freeText0)=coimadai&vid=MAIN

    Hope this is of interest.

    Regards

    Travis Easton

  17. Hi Glenn,

    I’ve just come accross this site whilst browsing and I read your comment from May 30, 2011.
    Regarding your comment on “illegal hunting”, correct me if I’m wrong, but this is a State Forest and hunting is perfectly legal.

    Thanks.

    1. Sorry Elyas, this area is encompassed by the Lerderderg State Park and hunting is therefore not allowed.

  18. Sorry Glenn, hunting IS allowed in Pyrite State Forest.
    Just called the DEPI and got the all clear

    1. Hi Russ, I think you are confusing the Pyrite State Forest with the Lerderderg State Park. The post above and walking described are within the Lerderderg State Park (Pyrete Range) and recreational hunting is not allowed within State Parks.

  19. Incredibly late entry to the discussion, but I can confirm that in all state parks, hunting is not permitted. You are able to hunt small game in State Forests at all times

  20. Hi Glen.
    Great write up. We have only just discovered the beauty of the Pyrete range. A group of us from Melton and the Marsh do regular trail runs out there, including the river, Antinomy mine and Drapers Lodge and the climb up to Mt Sugarloaf. I visit the range weekly and am always finding new sneaky trails to explore.
    From single trails to 4wd tracks it’s a perfect Ultra Mara training ground with plenty of vert if needed, and 10 minutes from home, love the place

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *