The Blackwood, at 300km, is one of the longest rivers in WA’s South-West. Due to inland explorers not realising they were on its headwaters, the upper Blackwood is now known as the Arthur River and the Blackwood name commences at the junction of the Arthur with the Balgarup River near Wild Horse Swamp SW of Moodiarup. It flows generally SW past the townships of Boyup Brook, Bridgetown and Nannup before entering the sea from Hardy Inlet at Augusta. Besides the Arthur and Balgarup rivers, its tributaries include the Tweed, Hillman, Buchanan, Beaufort and Carrolup rivers. That’s a heck of a catchment.
Please note that you can purchase this and 17 more great day trips out of Perth in 4WD Weekends out of Perth
The trip notes begin from Arthur River on the Albany Highway. Down past Moodiarup you will catch your first glimpse of the Blackwood just downstream from its commencement. Past the first crossing, sticking to the trip notes south of the river, you will regain the Boyup Brook road downstream from Trigwell Bridge and follow it to the turn-off to Condinup Crossing where there’s now a culvert that should keep your tyres dry.
Past Barrabup you take to the tracks on the north side of the river, a route that once possessed a degree of difficulty that made it a favourite of Campfire Escapes until DPaW decided to grade all the fun out of it. Eventually, the trip notes will guide you down to Warner Glen Bridge and Alexandra Bridge, your eleventh river crossing since setting out, and from there it’s a straight-forward hop to Molloy Island or the mouth of Hardy Inlet at Augusta.
During our reconnaissance, the trip was completed easily in three days. Then again, there are lots of reasons for a longer stay in Augusta and perhaps the joys of house-boating on the Blackwood will attract some travellers.
The watercourse was named by Governor James Stirling who sailed down with the first settlers to Augusta on board the Emily Taylor in May 1830. Surveyor General Roe’s report of Stirling’s examination of the region indicates that the party used the ship’s boats to examine Hardy Inlet which led to ‘a River named the “Blackwood” which runs to the North about 15 miles, and 10 miles to the east before it ceases to be navigable for boats.’ Although he doesn’t actually say, there is little doubt that Stirling, a Royal Navy man through and through, bestowed this name to honour Vice Admiral Sir Henry Blackwood (1770-1832). Blackwood joined the navy as a volunteer at the age of eleven, made Lieutenant before turning 20, Commander at 23 and attained the rank of Post Captain at 24 years of age. He commanded several vessels with distinction and valour over the years of almost continual seagoing warfare following the French Revolution. He was well-known as Lord Nelson’s favourite frigate captain by the time he was given command of the newly launched, 74 gun ship of the line, HMS Warspite in 1807. Stirling, a Midshipman in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars, was transferred to Blackwood’s ship in April 1809. Within four months Captain Blackwood had granted him his first commission. Stirring times and no doubt some powerful memories for the fledgling Governor of the eleven-month old Swan River Colony some 21 years later.
Opposite the first corner after this culvert a couple of derelict farmhouses can be seen on the right. This was Condinup Farm, a property taken up by one Joseph Taylor in 1877 who had built the smaller, and older, homestead by 1880. This early homestead in the Victorian Georgian style boasts Flemish Bond brickwork and its steep iron roof was probably originally clad with She-oak shingles. Taylor advertised his extensive enterprise for sale in 1888 and the adjacent weatherboard and iron homestead was apparently built by later owners about 1910.
After visiting the Gregory Tree, just a stump now with a blaze cut by explorer Augustus Gregory in May 1845, you will recross the Blackwood on Condinup Bridge and head for the township of Boyup Brook via a pleasant road winding through rolling riverside farming land, a small taste of things to come. The amazing and completely crazy Harvey Dickson’s Country Music Centre, well-worth a look-around at least, is on this route and a great spot to camp if you give them a call.
From the pretty little town of Boyup Brook through to Bridgetown you’ll follow a winding ribbon of river on its intricate course through more of this region’s picturesque hills. After popping into Bridgetown for a well-earned coffee and a perhaps not-so-well earned slice of cake, the trip notes continue down the Brockman Highway onto less frequented roads, pursuing the waterway wherever they can. On the great wriggling left hand bend of the river near where Balingup Brook runs into it, the course takes to the hills cutting across to the Nannup Balingup Road. A stretch of bitumen that has always been a favourite scenic drive, this leads to Nannup. From that touristy little town you’ll cross the river once again and make your way past Glen Orley’s tranquil Barrabup Sanctuary, a bush setting nestled in a bend of the Blackwood and a recommended campsite although you’ll need to pre-book.
Past Barrabup you take to the tracks on the north side of the river, Eventually, the trip notes will guide you down to Warner Glen Bridge and Alexandra Bridge, your eleventh river crossing since setting out, and from there it’s a straight-forward hop to Molloy Island or the mouth of Hardy Inlet at Augusta.
Regardless of the type of adventure you are embarking on, keeping the basics in your vehicle means that you should be bale to deal with most situation that may arise.
Great for getting yourself out of a sandy situation. They also work really well in mud.
You never know when you are going to have to dig yourself out of trouble or when there is a call of nature that requires a hole.
You don’t always need this equipment BUT when you do, you do. Best to ensure that it is always in your vehicle.
Much better than a stick and a lot more accurate. You will more than likely need to adjust tyre pressure on this trip.
If you need to let your tyres down for any reason then you will also need to pump them back up again.
Being so close to Perth is no reason to disregard the basic planning process. Make sure you let someone know where you are going and when you intend to be home. Mobile phone coverage should not be relied upon. This could impact how well Google Maps (or equivalent works) and you should either invest in a good quality GPS unit or ensure you have a map of the area.
Something to deal with minor cuts and scrapes as well as compression bandages to treat snake bite.
Make sure you have some sunscreen and insect repellant with you.
Ensure there is enough water in the vehicle for everyone who is coming with you.
We use and recommend HEMA’s HX2 GPS navigator. The unit does not require mobile phone signal to operate, shows you exactly where you are and what is around you (including points of interest and facilities). The HX2 also gives you turn by turn navigation when back on the bitumen if you need it.
Your other option is to grab a copy of one of HEMA’s maps or 4WD atlas relevant to your area of travel.
If you have a smart phone or an iPad (preferably one that can take a mobile SIM card – you don’t need a SIM installed) you can look at HEMA’s CamperX or 4×4 Explorer.
Keep a roll in the car, along with hand sanitiser and maybe some wipes. Make sure you have a rubbish bag handy and bring all of your rubbish home.
Don’t spend the entire trip driving, make sure you stop and explore. It’s a great opportunity to build some memories with the family.
Time your trip so you stop at Mt Observation and have either morning tea or a picnic lunch there. Spend some time exploring the area and take in some of the views.
When you stop and sit for a little while you will be amazed at the amount of wildlife that you will spot.
Take a camera and try your hand at some scenic shots or even some macro. It’s also a great spot to get some nice portrait shots of friends and family or even a candid shot of them enjoying nature.
There are a couple of ways that you can get your hands on the instructions for this little adventure.
Grab a copy of 4WD Weekends out of Perth from our web shop or your nearest 4WD accessory store.
You can also purchase our basic Fact Sheet and Map from our web shop for $2.95