FOSSICKING AROUND BONALBO

EASTER FIELD TRIP - PART I

By Paul Clacher   Copyright 2000

 
A short trip during the Christmas Holidays saw us in the Northern New South Wales area of Tabulum. We were not here by accident, but were in the area to find a suitable base location for the Club's Easter Field Trip. As the club will be searching for gold, labradorite and smoky quartz crystals in this area a central location would be essential. A centrally located township was found. BONALBO!

Bonalbo is a wonderful sleepy little town South of Urbenville and is only 3 hours and 11 minutes from Ashgrove. It has a beautifully grassed caravan park with powered sites and facilities (of course) which is next to a swimming pool and next to the Bowls Club which also has an undercover barbeque. Bonalbo itself has a mini supermarket, a Hospital, a Hotel, take away stores, a Police Station and petrol stations. All this is walking distance from the caravan park, which is also located on the banks of Peacock Creek. I am also told there are some very good fishing spots quite close to the township. The area is rich in logging and mining history

Good news - The Labradorite dig is open on request at a small daily fee $2.00 per person, Lanikai will be open to the club for gold fossicking also at a small daily fee. Smoky quartz crystals are abundant in the area and there is a public fossicking area at Drake where metal detecting is permitted. I have heard that Chalcopyrite specimens can be found around the base of the Mt Carrington mine at Drake. Gold was located in this fossicking area and I understand coins and other relics can be found from time to time. The word is that agates can be found in the area too. I heard of a story of a person finding a 20 kg smoky quartz crystal which I understand was perfectly clear. Further North at Bean Creek Falls, tubular chalcedonies have been found in the area above the falls.
 
 

BONALBO EASTER FIELD TRIP - PART II
BONALBO derives its name from the local Gidabal word "Bunawlbu" meaning bloodwood trees. Established in 1910 it remains the heart of the Upper Clarence supporting graziers, the timber industry and dairying. Bonalbo has a population of approximately 500 people. A short drive South is the town of Tabulum with a population of 150 people. The Tabulum bridge is the longest single span wooden bridge in the Southern Hemisphere and was completed in 1902.

MALLANGANEE is just 18 km East of Tabulum and the Labradorite is just 9 km further on. At this point there is a lookout where you will have your breath taken away by the expansive views from the Richmond Range of Mt Warning, Haystack, Sugarloaf, Ben Lomand and Mt Nardi. There are also BBQ and toilet facilities available. Within this area there are also separate flaura and fauna reserves. Mallanganee also produces the best meat pies. I have tried one, yum. They are also available at Tabulum. Well I am sorry to say that I have found better tasting pies than the Mallanganee Meat Pie. Fortunately for Mallanganee, these pies can only be bought at the PARKER Bakery at Rutherglen in Victoria (September 2003). I must say though, that the PARKER PIES are that absolute best pies I have ever tasted, so if you are ever in Rutherglen in Victoria, I would highly recommend that you go to the PARKER Bakery Tel (02) 6032 9605 and buy yourself a pie.

LABRADORITE at the dig, seriously is literally lying on the surface. It is not uncommon to speck pieces 30 to 40 carats in size. Digging for the stone in the soft soil will naturally deliver you many more stones. The fossicker in this area cannot miss. Once the stone has been faceted it seems to even rival the fire of a diamond. However sadly Labradorite only has a hardness of 6.5 on the moh scale. It is honey yellow in colour, is double refractive with a refractive index of 1.52 - 1.58, a specific gravity of 2.62 - 2.76 and a cleavage in two directions. You will need a 1/4 inch sieve (optional 1/2 sieve), a pick and a shovel. Cost is $2.00 per person per day.
 

LANIKAI is about 55 km west of Bonalbo and is at the lower end of the Tooloom Gold fields. Evidence of the gold seekers who worked the Pretty Gully gold field from about 1859 can still be seen along Pretty Gully Creek and the gullies running into it. At Pretty Gully the basalt covered lead is on a mountain beside the Clarence River and extends along the Northern side of the gully for 6.4 km. Gold can still be found with a pan, sieve and shovel if you know where to look. I am sure there are some specks of gold just hiding there waiting for you find them. Gold in a vial has a magic all of its own. At Tooloom in Dunns Gully the "Lady Bowen" nugget was recovered and it weighed 110 ozs.  You will need a small (12 inch diam.) 1/8 inch sieve, a plastic gold pan, a pick and a shovel, an eye dropper and an empty film canister. If you have a Metal Detector I would pack that too. Cost just for digging is $3.00 per person per day.

PRETTY GULLY Rainforest is a small drive up the road from Lanikai. The gully walk has Fig Trees, Bangalow Palms, Hoop Pines old gums and is aptly named. Paddy's Flat is just nearby and is located along the river crossing. It is a grassed and tree studded flat. The area is wonderful for fishing, swimming, Kayaking, camping (which is permitted) and fossicking. I have been told you can find gold, topaz and garnets at this location, but I do not know how many you would find.


 Fossils (Bryozoa) can be found in Emu Creek which is also not far away. The rock is black with white worm looking patterns throughout the rock. It cabochons beautifully.

 

EWINGAR STATE FOREST is about an hour from Bonalbo and about 100 years away from Brisbane. This is deep forest country. I wouldn't like to spend a night in the forest there by myself. The area is littered with beautiful waterfalls, ferny creeks, tall redwoods, Gold diggings and smoky quartz crystals. Fossils are also reportedly found in this area. Recently a large smoky quartz crystal was recovered weighing about 20 kg. This is truly a magical area. You will need shoes and clothing that doesn't matter if it gets wet. Better still bring your togs and sand shoes. You will need a bucket and a small geopick. (and a 1/2 inch sieve and shovel in the car just in case) Oh yes there is also gold in the area. Cost is free. You will need a permit from the Casino Forrestry.
DRAKE is 30 minutes drive from Bonalbo and is a very interesting little town indeed. The stories that can be told from the Drake area could fill volumes. The first mine was the Adeline on Mt Carrington in 1886. There are also good fossicking prospects at the Lady Jersy gold mine off the Long Gully road. Many fossickers were active around Drake and the total amount of gold taken from this area was 2531.85 kg. Gold can still be found in this area. There are many tales to be told and many characters lived and died in this area. One such character was Rabbity Jack. But thats another story.
 
BONALBO EASTER FIELD TRIP - PART III

BONALBO In 1842 the first pastoral lease was given to John Mc Donald McLean, founding the cattle industry that remains to this day. In 1880 "Cedar Cutters" brought settlers to the area and timber milling quickly followed. BONALBO was established by local graziers in 1910. Dairying flourished, and with the building of the Norco Butter Factory growth of the area was assured.
 

MALLANGANEE is the heritage area and backdrop to the Bullock Team which used to pull the huge Red Cedar logs from the surrounding forests. The meaning of "MALLANGANEE" is place of the TALL PINES. It is just 18 km East of Tabulum and the Labradorite is just 9 km further on. At this point there is a lookout where you will have your breath taken away by the expansive views of Mt Warning, Haystack, Sugarloaf, Ben Lomand and Mt Nardi. There are also BBQ and toilet facilities available. Within this area there are also separate flaura and fauna reserves. As I said last month Mallanganee also produces the best meat pies. I have tried one, yum. They are also available at Tabulum. As ststes above, I am sorry to say that I have found better tasting pies than the Mallanganee Meat Pie. Fortunately for Mallanganee, these pies can only be bought at the PARKER Bakery at Rutherglen in Victoria (September 2003). I must say though, that the PARKER PIES are that absolute best pies I have ever tasted, so if you are ever in Rutherglen in Victoria, I would highly recommend that you go to the PARKER Bakery Tel (02) 6032 9605 and buy yourself a pie.

TOOLOOM About 1884 Kenny McLean, a local resident and a German mate of his, followed a reef down about 25 feet, lost the lead and abandoned the show. At the end of the year 1890, John PAYNE and his son Jack were prospecting right through DRAKE, following the gullies and creeks,. They arrived at TOOLOOM just before Christmas time, and after purchasing their supplies and yarning with some local inhabitants, they decided to have a look at the Kenny McLean show. Young Jack descended the shaft, and at at the bottom found a couple of feet of water had collected. This had caused the bottom of the shaft to sweat and wash the old workings. After a short time the son ascended and displayed to his father a hat full of gold specimens. After claiming the shaft as the "Rise and Shine", within a week they had secured 105 ounces of Gold. After 6 weeks they had secured 600 ounces of Gold. I understand Mrs PAYNE still owns the Old TOOLOOM Station today. In TOOLOOM at Dunns Gully the "Lady Bowen" nugget was recovered and it weighed 140 ozs. I am also informed, that there was also an 80oz nugget recovered from that location.

 
PRETTY GULLY On 5/11/1859 surveyor ROBERTS made a valuable discovery at Pretty Gully. Gold was found a plenty. Within a very short time the field filled with hundreds of hopeful diggers.Three hundred men were working Pretty Gully. It is interesting to note that the Gully was also home to a Native Cat . These cats incidentally were really native cats and not feral domestic cats of the present day. Mining finished about 1900, except for some Chinese who continued after the Europeans had left. There are beautiful camping locations very close by on the Clarence River and at Clarence River Wilderness Lodge.

A Point of Interest Worthy of Note in regard to the above "Native Cat"

Below is an excerpt form the book by Isabel Wilkinson, Forgotten Country, Northern Rivers College of Advanced Education, 1980. p 122.

 
"The family all shared a love of drawing and writing poetry, some of which survives to the present day. Two drawings by Finlay are shown , the one illustrating an incident in their lives while the family lived at "Crescent Lodge". Isabella remembers the time a native cat raided their fowl-yard, much to the consternation of the father. However, one of the dogs took a hand and chased the cat until it took to a tree, whereupon one of the elder brothers ran to the house (shown in the background) for his gun, and there ended the tale of one native cat. (Incidentally, these were really native cats, not the feral cats of the present day.)"

EWINGAR STATE FOREST Little is written of this area as it is wild country. It is thick in forest and jungle. It is also very mountainous with steep cliffs. One hundred and fifty years ago it would have been a challenge for the toughest miner come fossicker to penetrate the jungle, particularly as access was only via narrow tracks. The BULLDOG Diggings produced some good gold and some quite good smoky and clear quartz crystals can be found there today. There is a lost township in the forest named Malara Tops, which is not far from the Washpool National Park. I have actually been there as guided by Author of "Forgotten Country" Isabel WILKINSON. I can say I would not rush back into that part of the forest again as it was thick with black, brown and carpet snakes. In places the ground was a seething mass of leeches. I was also told to watch out for death adders too. Fortunately that day I did not see any. (NOTE :- I have only ever seen one snake and no leeches in the Ewingar or Bulldog area of the forest.)

DRAKE formerly known as FAIRFIELD was claimed by the OGILVIE brothers in 1840 as a part of their holding outstation at "Yugilbar". The first building to be erected in Drake was a large hut called "The Travellers Rest" in 1842 by Walter Hindmarsh. This is located near the Police Station. Ironically enough, those fossickers travelling from Malara, DRAKE and McLeods Creek to the Tooloom & Pretty Gully Gold Fields were for a time totally unaware that they were actually living on a Gold Field themselves. FAIRFIELD was officially renamed DRAKE in 1865. In 1885 a man named COSTA who was camped beside the road at DRAKE picked up a stone to throw at some horses noticed how heavy the stones were. He picked up another then another and decided to have the stones assayed. The stones were rich in GOLD and as a result he found the source of what later became the Adeline Reef which was to become the first and last mine to be worked in DRAKE. Records show that ten tons of ore from this mine when crushed yeilded 130 ozs of Gold. Just as an aside Agates have been recovered from the Plumbargo Creek right in the hart of DRAKE. (Might be worth a look.)
 

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