A few weeks ago we were back at John Forrest National Park to see if the waterfall was as lively as Lesmurdie Falls had been and to enjoy a day out in one of Perth’s most beautiful and oldest National Parks.
First, A Little History
John Forrest National Park was the first area to be given National Park status in Western Australia in 1900 though it was originally named Greenmount National Park until it was renamed in later years to honor Lord John Forrest, the first Premier of Western Australia.
During the Great Depression sustenance worker’s built gardens, picnic shelters & even swimming areas which can still be seen around the visitor area. Sadly most of the bridges built across Jane Brook are in need of repair and not currently usable.
There also used to be a railway line to the Park which was part of the original route of the Eastern Railway that now runs from Freo to Northam. In the early 1900’s visitors regularly traveled out to the Park from Perth by rail for a day out in the forest. Sadly this is no longer possible as the rail link was rebuilt through the Avon Valley but you can now walk much of the abandoned railway line by following the 59km Railway Reserves Heritage Trail which passes through the Park.
Before heading out on any of the trails it’s worth having a look around the picnic area and seeing the landscaping that was done, it is a unique piece of history and an interesting place to explore with some amazing photo opportunities.
If you walk 800m to the east, along the banks of Jane Brook you will come to Hovea Falls where you can see the water cascading over a large granite sheet similar to the Cascades at Lesmurdie National Park. There are also several cute little picnic huts along the path providing a great spot for lunch.
After having our packed lunch under the trees beside Jane Brook we set out on the National Park Falls Trail, which is clearly signposted (as are all the trails) with a waterfall trail marker. As you can see from the images above and below the trails are well maintained and surrounded by lush green forest.
There are plenty of opportunities for great photos as you walk through the forest, spring flowers are starting to bloom and the colours are amazing with the sun filtering through the trees. Plus, you never know when a furry little creature might hop out in front of you, sadly we had no such experiences on this walk!
I always have trouble deciding what lens to use in these forest scenarios so I generally have my wide angle out for half the walk and my 70-200 for the other half but I still end up doing a few extra lens swaps as various photo opportunities arise.
As we approached the top of the Darling Scarp we started to see some white water as the river becomes more rocky, a great place to try out some long exposure shots 🙂
Shortly after the rapids begin the trail crosses over the river and on to the old railway track which forms part of the 59km Railway Reserves Heritage Trail that I mentioned earlier.
Shortly after joining the Railway Trail we were directed to a small trail on the right where the top of the National Falls can be viewed along with the amazing vista’s that the Darling Scarp always offers. It is also possible to get some nice views of the top of the Falls by continuing along the Railway trail for a few mins and looking back.
Although the river seemed to be running fairly well there was not an abundance of water flowing over the top of the Falls but the views were spectacular none the less.
From the top of the falls we saw that there is a viewing platform at the foot of the falls and there was a fair bit more movement in the water down the bottom.
We couldn’t see any signs that indicated the path to the foot of the Falls but it looked pretty clear that if we followed the Eagle’s View Trail signs that we should end up where we wanted to be. The trail was a bit narrow through the bushes at times and there were a few rocks to clamber over but that just adds to the fun and adventure 🙂
At the bottom I the scenery is just as amazing and I spotted this amazing shadow of a tree silhouetted on a large granite slab which made for a very interesting shot.
We were also greeted by a very inquisitive Magpie who seemed to want to hang around us for most of our time at the foot of the Falls, see if you can spot him in the photo below.
I think he liked Maggie …
There was definitely a lot more action at the foot of the Falls though they were far from being at their most exciting I suspect we missed their best performance by a few weeks.
Unlike my last waterfall trip I actually remembered to bring my tripod with me this time and not leave it in the boot of the car, so this was a great opportunity to play around with some longer shutter speeds.
Armed with my Tripod plus ND8 & Polarising filters I was able to get some nice long exposures of up to 3 secs, even though it was early afternoon with very little cloud cover.
Having got some nice wide angle long exposure shots I decided to switch to my 70-200 lens and try to get some higher speed close-ups of the water crashing over the rocks.
Shortly beyond the foot of the Falls the river transforms back into a quiet, peaceful vision of beauty. Such a stark contrast to the chaos occurring just a few feet away, nature is always so full of surprises.
Having got some great photos and made a new Magpie friend we decided to head back to the car so we climbed back up to the top of the Falls and retraced our steps back to the car park.
On the way back I spotted the ruins of one of the old railway buildings which looked ideal for a grungy & moody image.
Just as we got back to the visitor area a friendly hiker mentioned to us that there was a Roo with her baby just up ahead. Awesome, I can never resist the chance to get some wildlife shots and apart from our friendly Magpie the wildlife had been a bit reticent to show itself.
Mum and baby proved to be very accommodating and I managed to get some gorgeous shots of both.
These sorts of shots may look easy to just snap away but can actually be quite technical to get the depth of field and shutter speeds just right.
It’s always important to make sure you focus on the animals eyes, of course this can be tricky when there are two sets of eyes of equal importance! Getting just the right depth of field to keep both animals in focus but blur out the background is crucial.
To complicate matters the light was starting to drop of making it harder to get the shutter speeds I needed to freeze any motion so I had to up my ISO to 800 to allow for the already reduced depth of field from a 200mm lens and give me shutter speeds of at least 1/200th sec, which was still pushing my luck.
We’d had a great day out and got some great shots so to top it off we decided to sit under the trees, relax and have a quiet beer with nature. What I love about just sitting in the outdoors is that you start to notice all the things that you’d normally miss. The birds ignore you and just do their thing, kangaroos wander past, even the insect life seems to have more purpose.
At one point two kangaroos suddenly hopped out of the bush with the back one barking very loudly and the front one seemingly running away, I don’t think I’ve heard a Kangaroo make a noise before. We guessed that it might have been some kind of mating activity, but who knows 🙂
As the light started to fade and the temperature cooled more kangaroos appeared leaping through the bush at high speed. Not one to miss an opportunity up came my camera with my 70-200mm lens and I started snapping away just in case I was lucky enough to get an interesting shot. The light was too low to stand a chance of freezing any motion and it all happened to fast to change my ISO so the shots all came out a bit blurry.
Not to be put off I picked the best one and added a bit more motion to the background and turned it into and action shot with a bit of a surreal look to it. Best part of the shot is that you can just make out a baby joey in the pouch of the roo at the back, probably my favourite shot of the day 🙂
Location: John Forrest National Park is located in Hovea in the Shire of Mundaring, Western Australia. Like Lesmurdie Falls it is also situated on the Darling Scarp, one of Australia’s largest geological fault lines and the iconic entrance to the region knwn as Perth Hills. To get into the Park take one of the 3 junctions off Great Eastern Highway onto Park Road. The first turning onto Park Road will take you on a longer scenic drive through the beautiful forest, whilst the second turning onto Park Road is the fastest way to get to the visitor area and car park. There is a fee for entering the visitor area which usually works on a trust system and costs $12 per car unless you have an Annual All Park Pass (as we do) which costs $55.
Parking & Facilities: There is a very large amount of parking around the visitor area as well as a many barbecue & picnic areas, toilets information boards and a Tavern. This is also the starting point for all of the walk trails in the area.
There are numerous walk trails that you can follow from the visitor area including the popular Eagle View Walk Trail:
- Eagle’s View Walk Trail. 15km return, Class 4, allow 5hrs
- John Forrest Heritage Trail. 10.5km return, Class 3, allow 3hrs
- Wildflower Walk Trail. 4km return, Class 2, allow 1.5hrs
- Glen Brook Trail. 2.2km return, Class 2, allow 45mins
- National Park Falls Trail. 2km return, Class 2, allow 1hr
- Jane Brook Promenande. 1km return, Class 1, allow 30mins
Check out the links below for more information about John Forrest National Park and it’s walk trails,
If you’re looking for more interesting walk trails around Perth then make sure to check out “The Life of Py” Hiking, Photography & Travel Blog he’s done a great job of documenting a lot of our local walk trails which we will be working our way through.
- Perth Hills Visitor Centre
- Eagle’s View Trail at Trails WA
- Department of Parks & Wildlife
- Eagle’s View Trail at The Life of Py Hiking Blog
- Experience Perth Top Walking Trails
- Atlas of Living Australia