Distance: 3km Time: 2hrs
The Mueller Track can be accessed from the Visitor Centre and from the Brown Trail near Lambert’s Clearing. The most rugged and remote of our walks, the track follows the creeklines of two valleys. Ku-ring-gai Creek flows through tall red gums and coachwoods before tumbling down Phantom Falls and converging with Tree Fern Gully Creek near a delightful stopping-place known as Whipbird Gully. Along Tree Fern Gully creek you will find a smaller set of falls and also Billy’s Bridge, a natural rock arch named after a local aboriginal character. Please ensure you are well-prepared for this bushwalk and take plenty of water. Please note that monitoring cameras are installed at sections of the track. These cameras are observing native animals and any incidents of roaming dogs.
Mueller Track (starting at Dampiers clearing)
The track starts with a meander through an open forest community. Grass trees (Xanthorrhoea sp) and mid-story species such as Old Man Banksia (Banksia serrata) and Silver Banksia (Banksia marginata) will be on full display in the cooler months with yellow flowers. Banksia flowers are important food resources for native pollinators such as wattle birds and the Eastern Pygmy Possum (Cercatetus nanus) which feeds on the nectar and carries pollen in its fur and whiskers.
In the spring, Red Spider Grevillea (Grevillea speciosa) and Mountain Devils (Lambertia formosa) can be seen as flashes of red colour on small spikey bushes. Larger trees such as the Red Bloodwood (Corymbia gummifera) and Scribbly Gum (Eucalyptus haemastoma) thrive in the higher areas of this track relying on the deep sandy soils and sunny positions. Take a moment to have a closer look at the distinctive markings of a Scibbly Gum tree caused by a moth larva that burrows under the bark and leaves unique “scribbly” trails.
The track continues downhill winding through rocky outcrops which serve as perfect spots for lizards and snakes to bask in the sun. Hakea species can be seen either side of the track with their bulbous seed pods which open after fire.
Shortly after the turn off to Fitzgerald track to the right, a large burnt out Red Bloodwood can be seen emerging from a flat rock platform overlooking the valley below. These mature trees are important habitat for native fauna as hollows form in the trunk and bows which serve as perfect homes for possums and owls such as the threatened Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua) known to occur in the Ku-ring-gai area.
Continuing the track goes through a gap between two large slabs of sandstone rock. This rock makes up much of the base layer for the soils in the area. Small crevices and caves in these rocks are important roosting habitat for microbat species and small marsupial mice such as the Brown Antechinus (Antechinus stuartii). From the rock feature is an excellent vantage point to observe the changes in vegetation occurring as the track descends towards Ku-ring-gai Creek. Notice how the canopy species gradually changes to Sydney Red Gum trees (Angophora costata) with their pink smooth bark and twisted branches and the soil darkens as the track nears Ku-ring-gai Creek.
A stark change in the vegetation can be seen as the track begins to run parallel to the creek line with species that prefer moist and nutrient rich soil dominating. Sweet Pittosporum (Pittosporum undulatum) produces sweet smelling flowers in the spring and bright orange berries which are a favourite food source of the Currawong and other birds. Black wattle (Callicoma serratifolia) can also be seen in this damper environment producing masses of white powder puff flowers in spring and summer. Their leaves have distinctive saw-toothed edges and a hairy silver underside.
As the track ambles next to the trickling creek, take a moment to look at the blankets of bracken that can be seen either side of the track which rely on the moist soils. Red Mahogany (Eucalyptus resinifera) can be seen with their rough, stringy bark and preference for damp, clay enriched soils. Fallen logs serve as perfect habitat for ground dwelling fauna such as the Long-nosed bandicoot (Perameles nasuta). Bandicoot diggings might be observed on the track as small round holes of about the size of a 50c piece. This animal plays an important role as a soil turnover species, as its diggings create water containing refuges for seedlings.
About halfway through the track is the spectacular Phantom Falls. A large outcrop overlooking the falls is a great spot for a rest or a picnic. Whipbirds distinctive calls can be heard in the distance as well as the water tumbling down the falls. In this area there is a dazzling spring display of drumsticks (Isopogon anemonifolius) with their bright yellow conical flowers. Spring also will reveal flowering of the Pink Boronia (Boronia pinnata) with its strong smelling delicate pink flowers.
The track begins to ascend towards Whipbird Gully through an She-oak (Allocasuarina) forest. Notice how the canopy becomes closed and the ground is covered in the phyllodes (‘leaves’) of the trees which serve to prevent growth of competing species. The She-oak seeds serve as a high-quality food source for the endangered Black Glossy Cockatoo.
Continuing past Whipbird gully the track runs alongside Tree Fern Gully Creek and gradually ascends towards a large hanging rock. Note how water trickles off the rock and at least four species of fern including the dainty maidenhair fern and coral fern revel in the constant damp source. The track goes across Billy’s Bridge, a natural rock arch named after a local Aboriginal person. Here the creek crosses the path and an Eastern Water Dragon (Intellagama lesueurii) might be seen basking in the sun or cooling off in the small pools.
The track gradually winds back up towards Lambert’s clearing and the vegetation returns to the open forest seen at the start of the walk.