LOCATED some 30km south of Omeo in the heart of Victoria’s scenic High Country, the Haunted Stream Track reopened late in 2017 after being closed for two years as a result of damage caused by irresponsible drivers.
While the eastern end of the Haunted Stream Track runs off the Great Alpine Road near Ensay – 60km down the bitumen from Omeo – the scenic route is via Cassilis through the bush to the track’s western end. When checking conditions with the local office of DELWP (Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning) before making this trip, their recommended option was to enter from the western (Dawson City) end of the track. Part of the repairs DELWP had undertaken involved rebuilding a short uphill section comprising principally yellow clay. With a forecast for thunderstorms, the rangers suggested that, if it became wet, this section would probably only be conquered with the use of a winch, and so tobogganing downhill from the west was perhaps a better option than trying to climb that slippery slope from the east.
From Omeo the journey to the Haunted Stream passes the Cassilis Historical Area, 20km south of Omeo. A busy goldmining centre in the late 1800s, little remains today of that activity, and Cassilis is just a scattering of farms and small rural lifestyle allotments. When passing through Cassilis it’s worth checking out the King Cassilis Mine ruins, with its scattering of relics, including old vehicle bodies and remnants of ore-processing machinery.
From Cassilis, the well-made gravel Mt Delusion Road winds through the forest before picking up Brookvale Road and then Angora Road, from where Dawson City Track descends steeply to the Haunted Stream in the valley below. The tracks through are generally in excellent condition, being well-maintained to support the significant logging activity undertaken in the area.
Dawson City Track was bulldozed prior to its re-opening, making what had been a rough and rocky descent much less so. Undoubtedly, with its large sections of yellow clay, once it has seen some use and copped some rain it is likely to revert to its former self. Even as it is, this track would make for an ‘interesting’ drive after rainfall.
ANYONE planning to drive the Haunted Stream Track who doesn’t want to bush camp should certainly consider the Omeo Caravan Park and campground as a base. The Park offers numerous powered and unpowered grassy sites scattered along the Livingstone Creek in the shade of tall poplar trees.
The Dawson City Campground is a grassy area large enough to accommodate three or four vehicles. It’s arguably better than the other couple of camping areas along the Haunted Stream, so anyone planning to use it for an overnight stay should get there early or risk missing out. The thick forest and steep hillsides that surround Dawson City make it hard to envisage that this was once the site of a township with a population of 3000.
The Haunted Stream Track takes about two-and-a-half hours to complete and has 54 river crossings, where small trout can regularly be seen skittering through the shallow, crystal-clear water. Many of the water crossings have steep entry and exit points, with clearance-challenging rocks thrown in for good measure. Potholes and deep wheel ruts also contribute to the slow going. Anyone with a shiny, new 4x4 should expect a few scratches by the end of the journey, given thick bush encroaches on the narrow track in places.
Other mining towns sprang up along the river, but, like Dawson City, apart from the rusting remains of an old ore crusher alongside the track at Dogtown and a dry stone wall at Stirling, there is little obvious evidence of the area’s history. However, walk into the surrounding bush (with care given to the numerous unmarked diggings throughout the area) and the remnants of water races and other mining activity can readily be seen. Down a short side track near Stirling, the site of the Victoria Mine makes for an interesting stop.
The last leg of the journey from Stirling to the highway sees the narrow track cut into the steep hillside, high above the river below. With limited opportunity for approaching vehicles to pass, this would be a manoeuvre best avoided if at all possible. The track eventually leaves the State Forest and passes through private farmland, before exiting onto the highway.
DELWP’s warning about the clay section near Stirling proved to be unnecessary, as the storms stayed away. However, it and another nearby steep, slippery approach to the river would certainly present challenges after significant rain. That said, the Haunted Stream is probably not a place to be in the wet. A significant black earth section near Dogtown was already deeply rutted, even though the track had only been open for a couple of weeks. It would seem quite likely that, without due care and responsibility exhibited by users of the track, it may soon become, once again, impassable and closed to the public – perhaps permanently next time.
A few years ago we took a Tvan Camper on this very same trip, so it’s possible (but not necessarily recommended) to tow a camper along the Haunted Stream. The track is narrow with limited opportunities for overtaking, but, in the company of others, with an appropriate 4x4 and an experienced driver, in dry conditions, towing a small off-road camper would not be an impossible task.
The quickest route from Melbourne to the Haunted Stream is via the A1 to Bairnsdale and then north on the Great Alpine Road. The more scenic route is via Mt Hotham, where stunning panoramic views of blue mountain ranges stretching into the distance make it easy to understand why this part of Victoria is called the High Country.
The Haunted Stream offers a mildly challenging 4x4 drive, great scenery and secluded camping along a trout-filled stream. It’s a great destination for the entire family and, being in the State Forest, the furry, four-footed family members of the canine persuasion can come along as well.
THE Haunted Stream was given its name following the suspected murder of a local identity, Sir Roger Tichborne, better known as ‘Ballarat Harry’. Ballarat Harry disappeared on a trip to Omeo with a mate, who subsequently returned to the diggings at Stirling with a large amount of money and some of Harry’s possessions. While nothing was proven and a body never found, locals began to report strange sounds in the night and ghostly apparitions which ultimately led to many considering the area haunted. In reality, the strange noises were probably the calls of the powerful owl which sounds not unlike someone screaming, and the ghostly apparitions were most likely due to the alcohol-fuelled, overactive imagination of superstitious miners.
The Haunted Stream is near Ensay, 350km north-east of Melbourne.
WHEN TO TRAVEL
Oct to April are the best months to travel, with summer temperatures rarely exceeding the mid-20s. Winter is cold and harsh, with many tracks seasonally closed between June and Oct.
Bush camping is available at Stirling, Dogtown and Dawson City on the Haunted Stream. Omeo Caravan Park offers good camping facilities, while a full range of services are available in the township.
The Haunted Stream Track is a 4x4 track of medium difficulty. Very popular on weekends and holidays, extreme caution is required on blind corners. In dry conditions, with an appropriate 4x4, an experienced driver would find it possible (but challenging) to tow a small off-road camper.
Dogs are permitted in Victoria’s State forests provided they are ‘under effective control’, something DELWP rangers interpret as being on a lead. With large areas of State Forest baited with 1080 poison, your much-loved pet should never be allowed to roam.
For more info phone the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) at Omeo on 13 61 86.