Syncarpia camp site on Govett's Creek, Blue Mountains

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Syncarpia camp site on Govett's Creek, Blue Mountains

Postby skibug » Fri 19 Nov, 2021 2:51 pm

I've read and heard some snippets about this camp site - I'm familiar with the small clearing with fire pit next to Govett's Creek at the point where the Rodriguez Pass track (coming downhill) reaches that creek - is that Syncarpia, or is it further upstream heading towards Edenderry Falls? If it is the upstream site, how far, what is the nature of the track and crossings, and around how many 2 person tents would it fit?

With thanks,

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Re: Syncarpia camp site on Govett's Creek, Blue Mountains

Postby tom_brennan » Mon 22 Nov, 2021 10:04 pm

I believe it's up on the flat just south of the Greaves Creek/Katoomba Creek/Govetts Creek junction, but not sure why I think that.

It's a long time since I've been there - so can't remember whether it was still clear enough to camp. My guess would be that you would be doing a bit of clearing!
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Re: Syncarpia camp site on Govett's Creek, Blue Mountains

Postby skibug » Mon 29 Nov, 2021 11:17 am

Anyone else know?

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Re: Syncarpia camp site on Govett's Creek, Blue Mountains

Postby johnw » Mon 29 Nov, 2021 3:26 pm

Not sure if I'm much help but I did camp there a couple of nights back in 2012 on a volunteer trip.
Trying to recreate some history, at the time I had a GR 535 740 (Katoomba 1:25000), up Govetts Creek near the junction of Greaves and Govetts Creeks, as the vicinity of "Old Syncarpia". Probably would have been six of us at most, each with a one or two man tent. My (now vague) recollection is that the site we used was partly shaded, slightly sloping, enough room for the tents but not all together. You had to suss out a spot between trees etc. We may have actually decided to go a little upstream on Govetts Creek from the true location. Memory is hazy. My photos don't help unfortunately, I only took shots of Edenderry and Hilary Falls, and Blackwall Glen. I haven't been that far upstream since the most recent fires, so I don't know how that locality has fared. Downstream of Junction Rock was incinerated, regrowth was becoming robust earlier this year. I note that Andy Macqueen in "Back from the Brink" lists the Syncarpia location as "near the junction of Greaves Creek and Govetts Creek".
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Re: Syncarpia camp site on Govett's Creek, Blue Mountains

Postby marron » Tue 23 Apr, 2024 11:06 am

Late to the party, but that area has only just recently been opened up again after being closed since the fires and I've spent a bit of time down there recently after a long absence!

I've always been a little bit confused by where "Syncarpia" is, and have got different answers. I'd say that things are muddled a bit in general because heading up Govetts Ck from the junction with Greaves, and actually up Greaves a way too, there's just some lovely turpentine (syncarpia) forest all around. So I've heard people just refer to the whole area as "Syncarpia" which doesn't really narrow things down.

In any case, there's the little site just near where the Rodriguez track meets Govetts Ck. (Rodriguez is still closed, by the way, and basically won't open again - too sketchy particularly near the top now). People say "no, that's not Syncarpia!"

Okay, so if you head up Govetts Ck on the right bank (opposite from that little camp site - your left as you head up stream) there is a nice bit of flat with some obvious signs of long usage - logs and firepits etc. This could be it.

Keep heading upstream and before too long you get to the junction of Greaves and pretty much have to cross back over around there anyway as it becomes very steep on that side. Once you've crossed Greaves as well and start heading up the left bank (right as you go upstream) of Govetts above the junction, there is a rise with a bit of flat; there have clearly been some landslides around here, and then large sandy flood deposits which have encouraged big grass. This could have been it, I don't know, but there's not many signs left if so. (Edit: just checked and this is where Andy Macqueen locates it on a map in "back from the brink". If anyone knows, it's him... but i'd say the flooding through here has made it a bit more difficult than it used to be for camping).

After this section you will pick up the old track to the falls, and enter some lovely turpentine forest near Blackwall Glen with not much understorey at all. Ground is undulating, and slopes up fairly quickly away from the creek, but there are certainly plenty of small open spots to pitch a tent spread out among the trees. This could be it too.

So... I don't know, and I think people have camped in all of those according to their preferences and said they were at Syncarpia (unless they were doing it in the 30s when according to Macqueen it was more popular).

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Re: Syncarpia camp site on Govett's Creek, Blue Mountains

Postby johnw » Tue 23 Apr, 2024 1:21 pm

marron, welcome to the confusion! :) I think your assessment is as good as any of us have speculated. Somewhere I have seen photos of the location dating back to the late 19th or early 20th century when it was apparently very popular. Ladies wearing long bustled dresses etc. Possibly in Andy Macqueen's book but could have been online. I remember passing through a very flat section, I think on Govetts Creek, enroute to Blackwall Glen that did resemble the photos I've seen, but that's going back many years now. If you're keen to pursue it further it might be worth contacting Andy Macqueen. There are probably contact details around as he's published quite a few books. Once I'm 100% recovered from various health issues I might go down there and have another search myself, given that access has been restored.
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Re: Syncarpia camp site on Govett's Creek, Blue Mountains

Postby marron » Tue 23 Apr, 2024 1:34 pm

Yes in back from the brink Macqueen has a lovely photo of a group at Edenderry in 1905 - as well as some of people climbing Arethusa falls in the 30s - but none of Syncarpia itself, I think.

Forgot to add - hope you are able to get back on track soon! you aren't a weeder by any chance are you?
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Re: Syncarpia camp site on Govett's Creek, Blue Mountains

Postby tom_brennan » Tue 23 Apr, 2024 2:00 pm

Everything I've read suggests it's up Govetts Creek, but very close to the Rodriguez Pass Track & Greaves Creek. Which points to the 2nd or 3rd of your 4 options above.
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Re: Syncarpia camp site on Govett's Creek, Blue Mountains

Postby johnw » Tue 23 Apr, 2024 4:14 pm

marron wrote:Forgot to add - hope you are able to get back on track soon! you aren't a weeder by any chance are you?

Thanks, I've been back in the bush recently following a knee replacement (going really well), but since had some unrelated issues.
Minor investigative surgery this week, hopefully puts a finger on it. Yes I am a weeder.
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Re: Syncarpia camp site on Govett's Creek, Blue Mountains

Postby marron » Tue 23 Apr, 2024 4:35 pm

Hope it goes well! And if you are the John I'm thinking of we may have met on a blue gum weeding jaunt a few years back, post fires, and maybe again up on a one-dayer up at Mt Vic not so long ago.

G'day again if so!
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Re: Syncarpia camp site on Govett's Creek, Blue Mountains

Postby johnw » Tue 23 Apr, 2024 6:33 pm

marron wrote:Hope it goes well! And if you are the John I'm thinking of we may have met on a blue gum weeding jaunt a few years back, post fires, and maybe again up on a one-dayer up at Mt Vic not so long ago.

G'day again if so!

Yes I was at the Mt Vic day recently and have done many Blue Gum weeding trips and other locations over the years, including post fires.
I'd say 99.9% chance we have met, so yes g'day again :). Feel free to PM me if you'd like to discuss either topic.
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Re: Syncarpia camp site on Govett's Creek, Blue Mountains

Postby marron » Wed 24 Apr, 2024 11:24 am

Ok, never one to let a mystery go, here's one to muddy the waters. Having a look at Back to the Brink again there's a reproduction of a Dunphy map from 1966/67 (p240 of my edition) which has a "Syncarpia Camp" label well up the creek.

State library has what looks to be an earlier map (1961) with a clearer label:

https://collection.sl.nsw.gov.au/digital/2ZewyD6AjMAm3



I've attached the file, hope people can see it. This one has a very clear arrow pointing a spot near what purports to be Arethusa falls. However... my understanding is that that is not the correct positioning of the falls, which are downstream, where the creek turns north.

Of course Dunphy's maps weren't always entirely accurate. I'd say he missed the boat on this one.

But looks like next time I'll have to attempt getting to the base of Arethusa just to be sure...!

Although looking at pictures from above again, it's hard to imagine there's anywhere terrific for a campsite.

https://www.david-noble.net/BlueMtsWate ... eath2.html

Edit: in Dot English (Butler)'s account of attempting to ascend Arethusa canyon in 1938 she makes reference to camping "close to the junction of Blue Gum track with the Rodriguez Pass Grand Canyon round tour". The party lost the track creekside as they were going up Govetts and headed up the spur to Carne Walls to then get across to Arethusa falls. They got up the falls but couldn't get up the canyon at a certain point so they returned a second time - she says they camped at "Arethusa Falls camp" (with a bunch of boy scouts!) before trying again. Interesting, no mention of Syncarpia at all, and it's not clear if it's the same place they camped at each time. The first one may even have been closer to junction rock (really only 10-15 minutes downstream). But I wonder if the second was at the base of the falls - seems logical if you were going for a second attempt to get close beforehand.

Not syncarpia but interesting none the less and I'm definitely going to have to check it out :D
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Re: Syncarpia camp site on Govett's Creek, Blue Mountains

Postby marron » Wed 24 Apr, 2024 1:26 pm

Sorry folks for the deluge. John's reference above to an old Katoomba map made me dig out my 1982 version.... which places Arethusa where Dunphy had them! (no reference to Syncarpia).

https://ibb.co/WW7ZjZY

Curiouser and curiouser!

Just noticed that Edenderry/Hilary are in the wrong spot below Blackwall Glen as well. All a big muddle haha.
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Re: Syncarpia camp site on Govett's Creek, Blue Mountains

Postby Warin » Wed 24 Apr, 2024 3:28 pm

The Geograhic Names Board has the 'official' locations...

For Arethusa Falls GDA2020 Lat33°39'54.3"S, Long150°20'04.2"E Gazettal Date 27-02-1970

Web page for searches .. you only need the name.. https://proposals.gnb.nsw.gov.au/public/geonames/search
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Re: Syncarpia camp site on Govett's Creek, Blue Mountains

Postby marron » Wed 24 Apr, 2024 3:57 pm

And those co-ordinates are closer to the Dunphy's map and the topo map, as opposed to where the canyon comes out. Which fits the description:

Waterfall on Katoomba Creek above its junction with Govetts Leap Creek.



Seems like perhaps, not unlike the Syncarpia situation, what was originally designated and what people actually call things is a bit different. Probably the 30s attempts at going up the falls at the cliffline end cemented those falls as being "arethusa" even though officially that is not them. Or perhaps Dunphy just got the description muddled so on it went on to the map even though in common use the falls were downstream. Given the designation date of 1970 and Dunphy's submission being in the 60s, I'm leaning towards that.

Back to syncarpia, I found a 1947 reference to Syncarpia in the bushwalkers annual - a party coming down the canyon and then continuing down Govetts Ck. After an eventful descent they rested in the sun at the top of Arethusa Falls at the end of the canyon (can only be the non-official Arethusa!), and then clambered down into the falls and walked to Syncarpia, where they dried out more in the sun. Up Rodriguez and out at 5. The sunniness would make me think again it's got to be the rise above Greaves at the junction there - unless they just had it wrong themselves.
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Re: Syncarpia camp site on Govett's Creek, Blue Mountains

Postby tom_brennan » Wed 24 Apr, 2024 4:07 pm

Most GNB locations for older place names are accurate to the nearest minute - which has then been converted to GDA94 or GDA2020.

That's why so many latitudes end in 54.3" and longitudes end in 04.2"!!

If you're wondering why they appear to be so inaccurate...
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Re: Syncarpia camp site on Govett's Creek, Blue Mountains

Postby marron » Wed 24 Apr, 2024 4:17 pm

Yeah, they were a bit off, but still further up the creek. Who knows haha.

Meanwhile, I'll knock off in a minute a swear, but found this in the 45 annual. Probably nothing, it's just a random photo which doesn't appear to be attached to any article, so it's probably just a picture of syncarpia trees as opposed to the campsite, but, this is a bit more what it looks like further up around Blackwall Glen, or on the right bank of Govetts CK opposite the junction:

syncarpia2.PNG


Then again, photographer J Wood has photos of the Grose/Blue Gum in other annuals and was a SBW member. Seems possible it was the general area, anyway.
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Re: Syncarpia camp site on Govett's Creek, Blue Mountains

Postby tom_brennan » Wed 24 Apr, 2024 5:53 pm

You can safely discount both Dunphy's location of Arethusa Falls and Syncarpia Camp, as well as the GNB's location (and description!!) for Arethusa Falls. Flights of fancy all round.

The Blue Mountains Geographical Encyclopedia concurs with Syncarpia Camp being at the junction of Govetts and Greaves - funnily enough their reference is Dunphy!

Arethusa Falls has numerous references for its current location (ie at the end of the canyon), from the '30s onwards. Spatial Services certainly has it worked out now.
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Re: Syncarpia camp site on Govett's Creek, Blue Mountains

Postby marron » Wed 24 Apr, 2024 7:20 pm

Dunphy might have corrected himself on another map - or got it right on another. Heh.

This reminded me of Fox/Keats, looking it up in their Upper Grose book they say that Arethusa Falls is so named because Alpheus married her in Greek mythology (which fits the end of the canyon bit, where the 2 canyons meet). They also say the falls are mentioned in a newspaper in 1897.

Well, i found it.... it's a list of local attractions and it appears to suggest access - I'm guessing to view- via Medlow, with Minnie Haha on the way from that side:

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/194839609

Makes me wonder if again, they were looking at the "real thing" - a pretty long trek out along Carne's perhaps? Don't even know if there is a good vantage point out that way - or if they were actually referring to our phantom set further up Katoomba Creek.

Ah! Here is a Tourist Map from 1912, which shows how they would have access "Arethusa falls" - again, it's at the junction of Katoomba/Govetts:

https://collection.sl.nsw.gov.au/digital/oAlQkkW3kAR2D

Not only "Arethusa", but also, "Good Camping Ground" at the junction of Greaves/Govetts! Firming up as the spot for Syncarpia, even if it is now quite overgrown/flood affected. But isn't that interesting, access from the Pt Pilcher rd, then working up the creek to see the falls.

And in 1913 this brochure suggests a buggy ride from Medlow to see Minni Haha, with Arethusa nearby:

https://collection.sl.nsw.gov.au/digital/NgmKeGPVgq0l2

1909 - Parish Map, Arethusa at Katoomba/Govetts:

https://collection.sl.nsw.gov.au/digital/GBRMErlvygEk5

And for good measure here's a map from '35, showing Arethusa again up at the Katoomba/Govetts junction.

https://collection.sl.nsw.gov.au/digital/6v6602mAqkZ0g

I am starting to think the set at the beginning of the canyon was the original - that's several pre-Dunphy references now to that spot, plus him as well. And in common use, due probably in part to Dot and co's exploits going up it, the falls at the end of the canyon ended up with the name.

Edit:

Lol - here's Rodriguez in 1926 putting Medusa falls well up the creek

https://collection.sl.nsw.gov.au/record ... pzBGWqz8GQ

But yeah, by the 40s, Arethusa has made it's way to the cliff edge:

https://collection.sl.nsw.gov.au/digital/0BbBZmZ8oJ08D

Edit n

Just a lovely map from 1877 listing "cascades" in the spot near the top of Blackwalls Glen, and hardly anything else. No Rodriguez track yet. Only 2 years after Docker's Ladder was ascended - interesting that's on there, already. "Junction Camp" at Blue Gum. Seems unlikely that that section was well enough visited to be labelled - more likely noted from the ridges, I guess.

https://collection.sl.nsw.gov.au/digital/akpjgMq6mjMLK
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Re: Syncarpia camp site on Govett's Creek, Blue Mountains

Postby marron » Sat 27 Apr, 2024 7:59 pm

double post
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Re: Syncarpia camp site on Govett's Creek, Blue Mountains

Postby tom_brennan » Mon 29 Apr, 2024 9:01 am

Interesting stuff marron!

I wonder if there are actually any falls at the junction of Katoomba and Govetts Creeks (which themselves have had various names over the years). As far as I can tell, there might be some minor cascades (~2m) in Govetts Creek, but nothing more than that. Given the other scenic highlights of the mountains, nothing worth advertising.

Certainly by 1931, Dr Dark and co were definitive about where Arethusa Falls were.

The problem with the reference of Arethusa being at the Katoomba/Govetts junction is that they are nowhere near the falls at the start of the canyon, which are only about 400m upstream from the current position of the falls (~GR539725). So if you dropped into Govetts Creek from the Grand Canyon Road at the point marked on the 1912 map, you'd in fact need to go downstream rather than upstream to get to the falls at the top of the canyon. Certainly a mystery.

The Engineers Track was built in the 1850-60s, so would have given access to the Grose all the way from Hartley Vale. Maybe that's why Junction Camp is on the map? Andy Macqueen (Back from the Brink) seems to think that Docker just advertised the route down Perrys - and that it was already known by 1875. Which might be why it was on the map by 1877. It's possible that some of the other access routes - Shortridge Pass, the Horse Track - were also known by 1877.
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Re: Syncarpia camp site on Govett's Creek, Blue Mountains

Postby marron » Mon 29 Apr, 2024 2:16 pm

Thanks Tom and yeah it is interesting. Love this stuff.

I wonder the same about the junction of Katoomba and Govetts and will try check it out at some point. The pre-20s tourist maps make me wonder if there is just a good vantage point lookng down on some cascades or something around there – my guess is that’s what people were doing when they went to Medlow and up Grand Canyon road (or whatever it was called then) to look at Minni Haha, and then apparenty, something else a little bit further downstream. There must be something…. or, alternatively, it is, as Macqueen says at some point, just a mis identification which was repeated in subsequent maps… but I think the fact that one of those maps shows an access point to the creek from grand canyon road, which looks pretty viable on modern topo maps, as well…. I don’t know, I feel like that’s an extra step beyond the wrong spot on the map. Anyway, time will tell (or not!).

Re: the junction camp, I only mentioned it as a point of interest haha (edit: - oh, I see i wasn't clear - by "that section" I meant Govetts Creek around and above Greaves) – but yes, the engineers camped there, and then Du Faur and co on the artists camp in 1875, which was when Docker and some others punched up to Perrys to see if it could be done. From memory they also got up to the base of Govetts Leap and said that they were first to do so, but there was a Blackheath resident who’d said he’d done it, probably via the horse track, in the 1850s – Haywood, I think. I reckon the “cascades” label on the ’77 map would still be from observations from above though, I think you can get some pretty good views from Fortress, and there’s not much other detail (no Blackwall Glen, or other falls, for example). Haywood also didn’t seem to tell anyone about where he went till much later, I think…. But yeah, I just thought it was cool map from a cool point in time.
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Re: Syncarpia camp site on Govett's Creek, Blue Mountains

Postby skibug » Fri 03 May, 2024 4:13 pm

Thanks everyone for the great info - amazing the effort people go to with their contributions. It would seem very likely that over the years the locations of both the falls and the campsite have been used a bit loosely - the camp-site itself probably moving around over time due to floods, rain, forest growth, slides and perhaps human management. Now that horse track is open, I'm very keen to go look for myself.

By the way, this all started maybe 5 or 6 years ago when my wife ran into a couple of families with kids that had spent a couple of nights there - apparently they seemed to use the names of the two locations interchangeably, ie that they had camped not far from the bottom of some falls. But again, this just reflects the uncertainty of where each is (or was).

Thanks again everyone, and if or when I get there I'll try to update this with some photos and track notes.

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Re: Syncarpia camp site on Govett's Creek, Blue Mountains

Postby marron » Fri 03 May, 2024 9:56 pm

I love it down in that little pocket and have missed it these last few years. Hope you can get down there yourself.
I went down last weekend and took a few snaps - posted them in the trip report/track notes section.
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Re: Syncarpia camp site on Govett's Creek, Blue Mountains

Postby Allchin09 » Fri 10 May, 2024 3:55 pm

Not sure if it's been looked at but the old SBW magazines are always worth checking

Search of all for the term
https://ozultimate.com/sbw/wiki/start?d ... =syncarpia

Here are three which might be of interest
https://ozultimate.com/sbw/wiki/193807?s[]=syncarpia
https://ozultimate.com/sbw/wiki/194112?s[]=syncarpia
https://ozultimate.com/sbw/wiki/195306?s[]=syncarpia
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Re: Syncarpia camp site on Govett's Creek, Blue Mountains

Postby Allchin09 » Fri 10 May, 2024 4:31 pm

I also just checked a Dunphy publication relating to Central Blue Mountains Place-Names.
It was prepared for the Place-names Comittee of the Blue Mountains National Park Trust.
Dated 1965

Section 4 name #74
Syncarpia Camp
Bushwalkers' and rock-climbers' camping place on upper part of Govetts Leap Creek, between Arethusa Falls and Junction Rock, since 1933 (Syncarpia = turpentine tree)


Not overly helpful in confirming the location
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Re: Syncarpia camp site on Govett's Creek, Blue Mountains

Postby tom_brennan » Fri 10 May, 2024 5:35 pm

Allchin09 wrote:Not sure if it's been looked at but the old SBW magazines are always worth checking


Note that the new URL for SBW magazines (and other history) is https://history.sbw.org.au

I did search them, but I was a bit surprised how few references there were, and that none of the references were very specific.

I imagine there must be some other old clubs with publications that would give a pointer!
Bushwalking NSW - http://bushwalkingnsw.com
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Re: Syncarpia camp site on Govett's Creek, Blue Mountains

Postby marron » Fri 10 May, 2024 5:51 pm

Thanks Tom and Allchin.

I suspect any specific Syncarpia will be whatever the user of the name wants it to be... and that may have always been the case.

Wherever it is/was, there's some lovely turpentine in that nook :)
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Re: Syncarpia camp site on Govett's Creek, Blue Mountains

Postby marron » Sun 09 Jun, 2024 5:28 pm

I know this is now way off Syncarpia discussion (although that Dunphy map puts Syncarpia up the creek... ) but I had a crack at getting to the junction of Katoomba and Govetts creeks today via the, er, directions supplied by the early 20th century tourist map which places Arethusa there*. I know those buggers were hardy but I doubt they got there that way unless they were happy to swim (I thought long and hard about it myself, and decided against it - probably about 200 metres short, hence the long think, but just wasn't worth it - I'll try coming down the creek from bruce's walk or something next time). I'll write up a bit of a report later maybe. But yep, still a mystery as to what they were identifying as Arethusa.

*i didn't notice above, but one of those tourist maps is from the "Dunphy collection" which probably explains where he got his info from for the 60s designation, even though by then Arethusa was clearly the name of the falls that drop into Govetts gorge at the end of the canyon.
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Re: Syncarpia camp site on Govett's Creek, Blue Mountains

Postby keithj » Mon 10 Jun, 2024 8:16 pm

I've explored the area.

Arethusa Canyon

In mid 90s I did Arethusa Canyon dropping into Katoomba Ck fairly high close to the power lines. We encountered much quicksand (I recall briefly losing a boot), various tyres, drums & sawn timber, before a looong trek down to the abseils. The canyon was first done in sixties?, so anything labelled Arethusa Falls in earlier maps could only be viewed from above, unless it was the final big drop. So I believe that Arethusa Falls is correctly labelled on the NSW Topo maps. This is close to where Alpheous Canyon joins from the South. Reversing the lower section of Alpheous is the usual exit from Arethusa Canyon - OSM has this exit route marked. It entails a couple of rope assisted climbs, some swims and a short grade 19(?) climb.

I did Arethusa Canyon again in 2023 - this is a photo from the top of the Falls. Alpheous is directly behind me.
TopOfArethusaFalls.jpg



Higher up Govetts Ck
I did some exploratories in 2020 similar to marrons recent trip. On one trip I found some old cairns ...
KTownCkCairns.jpg


...and got to within 10m of creek level, well below the junction with Katoomba Creek via this route. There was a huge triangluar (tombstone?) shaped 10m high rock in the creek almost within reach of the edge.... might be worth a visit ?

ArethusaRoute.jpg


The rock is visible on the NSW aerial shots.

KTownCkRock.jpg
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