|Maps:||LPI Mountain Lagoon 9031-3S 1:25000|
The lower Colo River is in many ways as rugged as the upper Colo. Deep pools and scrubby banks make for slow travel through spectacular country. The lower Colo is however more accessible, and civilisation closer at hand. The massive cliffs further upstream give way to more broken slopes. Passes are typically less exposed. It is a good proving ground for more remote trips.
This walk explores a section of the lower Colo by making use of two existing tracks. The track along Gospers and Mailes Ridges to Colo Meroo is separated by about 8km of untracked and challenging river walking from the T3 Track which ends at Tootie Creek. Joining them altogether enables a loop walk.
The walk is best in late spring or early autumn. The weather should be warm for long wades in the river, but not too hot for the ridge walks in and out.
From Richmond, follow signs to Lithgow along Bells Line of Road. Take the signposted turnoff on the right to Mountain Lagoon at Bilpin after about 28km. Follow Mountain Lagoon Rd for 12.0km to a turnoff to the left to Bean Lane - the last few kilometres are unsealed. Continue along Mountain Lagoon Rd for another 500m and turn left on to Sams Way. Follow Sams Way for 1.2km to where a fire trail branches off north, and there is a sign saying "Walking Tracks - Colo Meroo and Tootie Creek". Park your car here.
From 11 Sep 1999, last checked 23 Oct 2011
Day 1: Mountain Lagoon to Colo River (17km, 110m ascent)
From Sams Way, walk north along the fire trail for 400m to a fork in the trail and a locked gate. The left hand branch is the Tootie Creek (T3) Track, which you will return on. The right hand branch is the Gospers Ridge Track, signposted to Colo Meroo. Take the right hand branch and follow it. After a short steep uphill, the fire trail swings roughly east for about 2km, and then roughly north east for about 1.5 km. After another 1.5 km heading roughly east you should reach a track junction at about MGA846985. By this stage the fire trail is more like a wide foot track. The right branch continues down Gospers Ridge to Upper Colo, so take the left branch which swings north on to Mailes Ridge.
Continue north on a foot track along Mailes Ridge. After a couple of kilometres the ridge starts to narrow, and there are great views of the sand banks in the Colo River several hundred metres below from numerous vantage points. The track is vague in places, and while it has occasional track markers, care should be taken. In general, the track keeps to the ridge, or just below the ridge on the east side.
At the end of the ridge, the track descends steeply to a 4WD trail. Turn left and a short walk brings you to the pleasant Colo Meroo Camping Area. There is a large shelter and a pit toilet.
While it is possible to camp here, it makes for a long second day. It is advisable instead to get some distance along the river.
Head down to the river along the marked track that leaves from near the toilets, and wade up the river. Dunlop Volleys or light sandshoes will come in handy here, although they will fill up with sand regularly. It is also possible to walk in bare feet, but I suggest taping the tender parts of your feet to avoid blisters.
For the first 5km south to the big bend, the Colo is mostly shallow and sandy. The river is dotted with large sandbanks, and deep pools are uncommon and easily avoided. The occasional foray on to the bank is required. As is typical in the Colo, there is plenty of Colo quicksand. The type where your foot goes in 30cm more than you expect and you tip over into the water aided by your pack. A stick or pole can be useful to prevent this.
There is typically an excellent sand bank for camping opposite the creek junction on the big bend, at MGA841000.
Day 2: Colo River to Mountain Lagoon (12km, 500m ascent)
The next day, continue walking upstream along the river. As you round the big bend and swing north, the river gets deeper. There are still numerous sandbanks, but the pools between them are more frequent, and often chest deep or more. There are three sets of rapids to bypass, adjacent to three successive creeks that enter the Colo from the west. The first is about 1km upstream from the big bend. The water is usually deep near the rapids, and longer excursions on to the banks may be required. This can be slow going as the banks become scrubby in places.
Beyond the third set of rapids, it is probably best to keep to the west bank for much of the way to Tootie Creek. The fourth set of rapids marks the Tootie Creek junction. This is where you will leave the river. Locate the rough track that leaves from the big sandbank, just below the junction. It climbs steeply up a small gully before cresting the ridge. If you are unable to find the start of the track, head up Tootie Creek a little way and climb the ridge, continuing along the ridge until the track becomes obvious around the first saddle. After the first steep pitch there is a saddle, not visible on the map, and a good lookout back to the cliffs and the river. The next section is the steepest, climbing up under the cliffs to the west, before cutting back east on a higher, narrow ledge to a particularly spectacular lookout.
From there continue up the ridge, over a number of unmarked knolls. After 2km of steep climbing you will reach the fire trail, from where it is about 5km of easy walking back to your car.