The scene of Australia’s first Gold Rush, Ophir Reserve is a rugged yet peaceful reminder of the colonial past. The first Australian payable gold discovery was made here in 1851, just 30 kilometres north east of Orange. Evidence of old alluvial, reef and deep lead mines are still visible to those exploring the area.
Prior to European settlement the area was inhabited by the Wiradjuri people who knew the gorge as ‘Drunong Drung’ which was said to mean ‘many snakes’. The first Europeans into the area called it ‘Yorkey’s Corner’ after a shepherd from Yorkshire who grazed his flock along the creeks. Reputedly it was the father of William Tom (one of the trio who found gold in the area) who suggested ‘Ophir’ which was a reference to a place in the Old Testament famed for its fine gold.
While Ophir has much to offer with camping, fishing, fossicking and exploring the old diggings, it is not a “museum” and remains much as the diggers left it all those years ago. Care should be taken around the old open mine shafts. Hire a gold pan from the Orange Visitor Information Centre and try your luck in Summer Hill Creek just as the early settlers did during the gold rush of the 1850s.
Address: Both walks start near the Ophir reserve camprounds on Lower Lewis Ponds road. There are a bunch of maps posted and the walks are easy to find. There are also picnic tables, water, toilets and barbecues available. I love it when a dog friendly area is so well equipped!
Distance: Walking track one is a fairly easy 2.1 km walk that will take an hour or 2.
Walking track two is about 4.5 km. Nothing too difficult but it has a bit of a climb to it and some stairs. Allow 2-3 hours for this one.
It was a hot summer after one of the worst drought years the country had seen. Summer 2019 in NSW was also a horrible bush fire season. It was a terrible decision to take a few days off to go hiking over the Christmas break in the orange area. All the state forests were closed and any decent water sources were dried up. No where to swim, no where to hike and all of the country was just an arid hot mess… and then I came to Ophir. It was still suffering from the lack of rain that the rest of the country was but the place had an amazing feel to it.
We seen deer a couple of times on the walk. A pair of massive horned animals almost the size of horses and later a family of three including a spotted fawn. I have never seen deer before in my life so this was quite exciting to me. Buffy was more interested in the sheep we found. This picture was taken seconds before both sheep and dog took a bit of a run. Deer are a lot faster then sheep and I was too stunned to get a picture before they were gone. I have to learn to take pictures first and stare in amazement after.
I had actually been told by a couple of locals not to expect too much from Ophir and that it was not terribly interesting. I do love to go into a place with lower expectations. One of the things that you usually miss out on when you are going on walks with your puppy is seeing the cool historical stuff that is usually behind national park boundaries so this place just impressed me at every turn.
You don’t expect it when you set out from what feels like a very sunken location but there are some decent views once you hike your way out of the gully that the camping area is located in and up to the top of the mountains.
This picture of me is a good reason why my website has so many pictures of my much more photogenic doggo.
The second longer walk passes the Ophir Monument on the northern side of the ford near the picnic area, climbing up a rather long hill, it was not terribly steep but it is a fairly consistent climb. The views at the top were gorgeous and the breeze on a hot day was a welcome change.
This track also follows a rare stone gravity-fed water race constructed in 1890 for washing the crushed quartz from the stamper batteries.
Random video from Youtube showing what a stamper battery is. Yes I had to google it. Public school education 🙂
If you keep a close eye out you could see remnants of homes and other buildings left behind by the people who made this area their home during the brief gold rush periods of the region. Gold is still mined in Ophir in modern times but only when the price of gold is high enough to make it profitable since the returns can be mediocre.
Some more abandoned mine shafts to explore. Neither of us really wanted to go into these ones because of the suspicious buzzing sounds coming from inside them. Could be ghosts, could be wasps. Best to stay outside either way.
A lot of the mines were deemed unsafe and locked up like these ones. Still interesting to peer inside from this side of the gates.
One of the things that really make me want to return to Ophir is how much I want to see this place when we are not at the end of a terrible drought. I think this would be a truly stunning forest in better times. This beautiful rocky river bed must be spectacular when it is running.
Lucky we found some water a little further down the river for a quick swim on a hot day.
I loved my day at Ophir and so did Buffy. An amazing place to spend a day with family, with friends, with just your doggo or a day alone out hiking. So much to see, things to learn reguardless of your age, awe inspiring wildlife and just such a gorgeous place to spend the day.