KARALEE ROCK, WA
50km east of Southern Cross
Located only five kilometres north of the Great Eastern Highway and 50 kilometres east of Southern Cross, Karalee Rock is an ideally located free camp between Perth and Kalgoorlie and just one of several granite outcrops which are popular for campers across the Western Australian wheatbelt.
The Karalee Rock is one of the stopping points along the Golden Pipeline Heritage Trail, and one of a number of rain water rock catchments built in the 1890s to service the steam trains on the Eastern Railway from Perth to the Goldfields.
As well as today providing a free camping and picnic area Karalee is an interesting place to explore and learn about the history of the rock which goes back thousands of years to when Aboriginal people camped here and collected water from the rock’s gnamma holes and soaks.
Early explorers, sandalwood cutters and gold seekers also camped here. Karalee was officially gazetted as a water reserve in 1888 and by 1895 most of the 600 teams and 4,000 horses travelling between Southern Cross and Coolgardie regularly stopped at Karalee, as well as construction workers building the Goldfields Water Supply Pipeline in 1902.
When the railway between Southern Cross and Kalgoorlie was completed in 1896 a series of rock walls, an aqueduct and 48.3 million litre dam was constructed at Karalee to collect rain water off the two granite rocks and provide water for steam trains en route to Kalgoorlie. Six kilometres of granite slab walls up to a metre high, all cut from the rock itself and laid by hand surround the enormous rock catchment. These walls direct rain water to flow off the rock into the dam via a large semi-circular steel flume aqueduct, hand riveted at each joint, which can still be seen today. The water was then pumped 3.6 kilometres south to the railway siding. The construction was an enormous achievement of both manual labour and horsepower.
The flume aqueduct has been conserved by the National Trust of Australia (WA) for its heritage value.
At one time the Karalee township consisted of a telegraph line, stone cottages, barracks and a hotel, none of which remains today.
Thanks to the National Trust and Southern Cross community, visitors can now camp or picnic in the peaceful shady surrounds and learn the history of the area by following two marked walk trails with interpretive signage that start not far from the camp ground. The gravel walk trails – a 1.2km trail and a longer 2.7km walk trail – are easy going and take you through bushland as well as over a section of rock. There is also the opportunity to walk around the dam wall and across the rock to see the magnificent views.
Along the trail you will see one of a series of Charles Hunt’s wells constructed along the goldfields route in the 1860s by convicts and pensioner soldiers.
The shady open campsite is lightly wooded with tall salmon gums and eucalypts. It is suitable for caravans, camper trailers and tents and has a wheel chair friendly eco flushing toilet and hand basin, picnic tables, fire rings and RV dump. Visitors are asked to bring their own water and firewood, be aware of fire restrictions during certain months, and take away all your rubbish. Pets are discouraged as this is a wild dog baiting control area.
We found that there were a lot of birds around the dam area, making it a great camping place for bird watchers. During spring the surrounding bushland is ablaze with wildflowers. On the left side of the entrance track just before the dam is a stand of the red fruited quandong trees, an important food source for Aboriginal people and early settlers.
This section of the Golden Pipeline Heritage Trail runs along the Kalgoorlie pipeline and the old railway formations. Along the one way drive west to east you can see remains of the old pipeline, the trench that the original steel pipeline was buried in, remains of replacement wooden pipe and wire coils, and the telegraph line that followed the railway and pipeline.
Location: Karalee Rock is located 5 kilometres north of the Great Eastern Highway, 50 kilometres east of Southern Cross and 131 kms west of Coolgardie. The turn off is signposted on the highway.
GPS: 31°14’60.0″S 119°50’22.8″E
Facilities: Eco flushing toilet, hand washing basin, picnic tables and fire rings. Bring own firewood, be aware of fire restrictions and take away rubbish. The camping area is suitable for caravans, camper trailers and tents. No potable water.
Wheelchair access: Wheelchair friendly toilet.
Pets : Not encouraged