Take the Golden Pipeline Heritage Trail and walk in the footsteps of those who struck it rich – and the thousands who didn’t – during WA’s gold rush era.
A journey east to Kalgoorlie from Perth can take on a whole new meaning when you follow the Golden Pipeline Heritage Trail. The 650km path follows the historic water pipeline from Mundaring Weir in the Perth Hills through the wheatbelt to Kalgoorlie.
Few would realise it is the longest freshwater pipeline on earth. Still operating, it provides water to an area of 440,000sqkm, 100,000 people and about six million sheep.
In the late 1890s the concept of pumping water uphill over hundreds of miles was ridiculed, particularly as it was a feat never achieved anywhere in the world.
Engineer CY O’Connor pressed ahead with plans and in 1903 the dream became a reality. Sadly, O’Connor took his own life just 10 months before the pipeline opened. Many believe the controversy surrounding the project led to his death.
You can learn more about this tragic story, as well as other tales from the era, at the 25 designated stops which make up the Golden Pipeline Heritage Trail, including stops at dams and wells, natural attractions, gold mining and ghost towns.
Many sites include walk trails and all have information panels that reveal stories of the many thousands of people who tried to strike it rich or who were involved in the pipeline’s construction and operation.
At the start of the trail is the Number One Pump Station at Mundaring Weir, the first of eight pump stations. The trail then weaves through wheatbelt towns including Cunderdin, Kellerberrin and Merredin and finally ends in Kalgoorlie at the Mount Charlotte Reservoir. Here, a platform allows a view over the culmination of all that hard work – millions of litres of water. It also provides spectacular views over Kalgoorlie-Boulder.
More amazing views are on offer at Karalee Rocks, about 50km east of Southern Cross. Once a water catchment area used to channel water into a dam, today the low walls constructed from rock quarried on site remain, and two walk trails give an insight into the simple but effective technology of the catchment.
For a real taste of what life was like for prospectors, visit Jack Carin’s camp. Jack lived here for more than 30 years, making his home from scrap building materials and bush poles.
The camp is pretty much how Jack left it in the early 1970s. There’s an information panel, and a walk trail around the fenced off perimeter.
Number Eight Pump Station, about 50km west of Coolgardie, is the last of the stations and was used until 1970. It’s almost completely intact and can be viewed by prior arrangement with the National Trust.
Between Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie is the Bullabulling Rock Tavern, the only building remaining in a small town, which was once a railhead. It’s a great place for a cold drink and a steak sandwich.
Travelling the Golden Pipeline Heritage Trail also brings you into close contact with nature and is great for bushwalking, bird watching and spotting wildflowers, especially during spring.
There is plenty of country-style hospitality along the way, with farm stays and historic hotels good options for accommodation.
The best way to get the most from the Golden Pipeline experience is to purchase a guidebook before setting off, which includes maps, photographs and information about the trail. Guides are available from The National Trust, at visitor centres along the way and at Perth bookstores.
Golden Pipeline Heritage Trail, the National Trust of Australia (WA) (08) 9321 6088