This morning we left the town of Bright with its manicured parks and well maintained gardens to drive just 60 kilometres to the ski resort at Falls Creek. It was a short distance but with lots of exploring, it took us a good part of the day. This is the third day of our nine day tour around the high country and eastern Victoria.
The first part of the road took us across the Tawonga Gap that separates the Ovens Valley from the Kiewa Valley. There are some lovely views across the valley towards Mount Bogong from the lookout and also further down the road at Sullivan’s Lookout. A couple of generations ago this road was seen as an arduous journey with its curves and steep grades. With modern cars, it is a relatively easy drive.
The little town of Tawonga is the first town that you come cross once down in the valley. It used to have a pub but it burned down some years ago. Directly opposite the site of the old pub is a road that takes you down to the Kiewa River. Jill had some relations that lived along this road but she has lost touch them. We suspect that they died some time ago.
At this spot, the river bubbles along brightly as a shallow stream. It rises near Clover Power Station on the slopes of Mount Bogong and flows in a northwards direction towards its confluence with the Murray River near Albury. The river is dammed in several places to feed the power stations of the Kiewa Hydroelectric Scheme.
Just upstream is the town of Mount Beauty. The town was originally established in the 1940s by the State Electricity Commission of Victoria to house construction workers from the Kiewa Hydroelectric Scheme. Many of the industrial buildings are so ugly that no one else but a public service engineer could have designed them. The power stations in this area are now run as commercial operations by AGL. We bought a take-away coffee which we drank in a nice little park opposite the civic centre and purchased a few things at the supermarket. Unlike Melbourne and other large cities, no one in this town wears a mask while shopping. I think that it is so much in the backwaters that Covid has never appeared anywhere near this place.
About half way up the mountain, on our way to Falls Creek, we stopped in the little town of Bogong. It clings to the side of a mountain and has a network of switchback roads that lead down through the town to Lake Guy below the village. In 1917 the Bright and District Progress Association proposed using the Kiewa River for generating hydroelectricity. The proposal was taken up by the State Electricity Commission (SEC) and deferred until 1938 when a field headquarters were established near the confluence of the Pretty Valley and Rocky Valley streams on this site named Bogong. You certainly can’t blame the government for acting hastily and masking rash decisions!
About 30 houses were erected for SEC personnel, a post office was opened in 1940 and a school began in 1941. WW2 delayed further delayed progress and when peace was restored it was realised that an alternative location for the works headquarters at Mount Beauty was preferable. Bogong was retained as a secondary site. Bogong had a store and post office until the 1990s. There is now an outdoor education centre and the Bogong village resort which includes former workers’ cottages converted for accommodation. Nothing was open when we visited, so we assume that only the winter snow season brings in enough people to make businesses profitable.
Bogong overlooks Lake Guy, the first of seven reservoirs constructed for the Kiewa Valley project. The reservoirs and three power stations were completed by 1961, and the SEC disposed of numerous buildings to the Education Department. A new 140 megawatt hydro power station at Bogong was switched on in 2009
By lunchtime we were at Falls Creek so we drive along to the Rocky Valley Reservoir and found a picnic table for lunch.
The picturesque body of mountain water on the Bogong High Plains is perched 1600m above sea level, which makes it the highest body of water in Australia. It was constructed to provide water storage for the series of power stations down on the Kiewa River. It is also used for boating, swimming, fishing and a dragon boat race every January..
Nearby Mt McKay is the highest drivable point in Australia. It offers an incredible view of the surrounding plains for hundreds of kilometres on a clear day. Today was not so clear with some haze and low cloud that limited the view somewhat.
Some of this mountainous area to the west was an area of the walk that I once did with David when we started at the Cobungra Track and walked around to the Red Robin Mine.
Along a dirt road from Mt McKay, we reached Pretty Valley Pondage. This reservoir controls some off the water in the Kiewa Hydro Scheme. It forms a small lake on the Bogong High Plains close to Falls Creek. There are some spaces for a car park and it is the starting place for a number of bush walks.
I once began a walk near here that took me to Tawonga Huts where we encountered a mob, or two, of brumbies (wild horses). These are fairly common across the high plains and at the moment their numbers have increased to the point where the government wants to cull them. They are a much liked as a part of the ‘Man from Snowy River’ tradition although as feral animals, they are not a part of Australia’s true native wildlife.
Back along the road a little way, we came across Pretty Vally Hut. There was a very popular camping area nearby and just down the road there was another area that included some yards with lots of horses and riders.
The hut is a small timber hut that was built in the early 1930s to replace an old survey hut demolished in 1928. SEC Huts were placed here in the late 1960’s. This hut was was reconstructed in 1984 and renamed Horsemans Hut by 1990. Materials are mostly bullnose weatherboards and hardwood paling with a corrugated iron roof. There is a potbelly stove inside and toilets across the road.
We are staying at the hotel in Falls Creek tonight and tomorrow we will drive over High Plains Rod to Omeo.