Start: Rockford Bridge Car Park
End: Rockford Bridge Car Park
Time taken: 3-4 hours but longer if you plan to swim
USP: Views, waterfalls, wild swimming
Distance: Approximately 10km
This brilliant loop walk starts at Rockford Bridge near Tahmoor on Rockford Road, where it crosses the Bargo River. There’s a small, off-road parking area to the side of the bridge, which had some fairly large rain galleys and potholes down the middle when we visited. After a period of rain it might be worth parking just off the main road, especially in a 2WD.
This area has some interesting history, having been a sacred area for Aboriginal woman to wash, bathe and give birth hundreds of years ago. An area where men were forbidden from going. Unfortunately the traditional ways have been lost along the way and the area is now open to the general public for exploring. A paper map we picked up in a log-book box halfway round the trail told us a lot of the trail blazing was down to Jo Hafey and Robert Sloss who explored the area in 1998. They found a navigable route through the dense vegetation lining the gorge and created the original trail that winds through the steep sides of the canyon, taking in waterfalls, deep swimming holes and some impressive views. It’s definitely a job well done!
From the car park the trail passes beneath Rockford Bridge and heads down stream. There are now several routes you can take, but all head in the same direction. Some stay above the Bargo River on the upper bank and some traverse the rock platform beside the bubbling river. Keep an eye on the narrow strip of sky above you as you go, for glimpses of Wedge Tailed Eagle and Sparrowhawk cruising the thermals forming over the gorge.
The first highlight comes quite quickly as you stumble upon ‘See Through Pools’. A small waterfall sends the river bounding down a 12 foot drop, collecting in a deep pool below. While we were there, three large Common Carp were cruising the pool, investigating anything that might be edible as it washes over the falls. On a warmer day it would be a great spot for a dip, with easy access in and out of the water, but being so close to the car park, it’s sure to be busy.
Continuing downstream you soon hear the biggest waterfall on the route, Mermaids Pool. This is probably the most well known part of the track, sometimes for the wrong reasons. The water gushes down several large steps, before free falling from a 20 foot drop into a wide, deep pool below. Many people come here to jump from the rock platform into the pool below, but the only way out is to climb up an old rope beside the falls. Numerous people have been seriously hurt and even killed here, mis-judging the jump or underestimating the climb up the slippery rocks with wet hands and feet. Despite the risks, there’s no denying it’s a stunning area to relax in.
To continue past Mermaids Pool you need to go back on yourself and find the path that heads up to the right, as you’re looking downstream, and traverses high up around the right hand edge of the pool. The drop at the top is very large and completely unprotected. If you have kids or pets in tow, keep a close eye on them. From here there are great views back upstream, the way you’ve come.
Past Mermaids Lockdown you’ll eventually come to a red log-book box and a fork in the path. In the box there were a number of paper maps, so we snapped a photo for safe keeping and scribbled a note in the log-book (Monday 10th, June 2019 – see if you can find it). We then took the right hand fork, heading back towards the gorge bottom, down Jack’s Pass Steep. This was the start of our favourite section of the route. Once reaching the bottom, it felt very still and peaceful. A lot of people go as far as the Mermaid’s Pool and set up camp for the day, leaving the loop around the back comparatively quiet.
We kept going, using our photo of the map to tick off Dog’s Crossing, Olympic Pool, Devil’s Knee, The Split Waterfall and Stone Bridge Crossing. At several points the trail crosses the river, only to return again several hundreds meters up. Along the way there are numerous pools, deep enough to swim in and flowing water to keep them fresh. Eventually the flat walk through the gorge bottom was over and it was time to head back up onto the cliffs via Rosie’s Pass. True to the map, this section was under construction, with foliage being cleared and stone steps moved in to place to navigate the steep sides. A big thanks to the team working on this. You’re doing a great job!
Once on top of the cliffs again it’s a straight forward stomp back to the log-book box and back towards Mermaid’s Pool, finally retracing your steps to the car park. Although Sydney is technically in a drought, the river and waterfalls were still in good shape when we visited. It would be an impressive walk after some heavy rain.