Wells, Pipelines and Water

Wells, particularly native wells, were the first means of providing life sustaining water for prospectors and explorers as they moved east and north-east of the settled areas around Perth in search of riches, both metallurgical and agricultural.

The development of the goldfields and the consequent increased need for water led to the installation of the Mundaring-Coolgardie Water Pipeline – a marvel of its time.

On this trip we would investigate many of these wells, check out the machinery and reservoirs associated with the pipeline, and find an historic wooden section of the pipeline.

At Karalee we would relocate an historic Bicentennial Plaque, however, there was much to see and do before and after we got to the scene of this project.

To Mindebooka

Friday night camp was at Mindebooka Hill, one of our ‘get out of town’ locations. Getting to the campsite on Friday afternoon was an adventure in itself. The planned route was across low lying, salt lake country that is part of the Baandee Lakes system. After a few adventurous attempts to get where we wanted to go we reversed out of the slippery area and made for Great Eastern Highway, arriving at Mindebooka just on dark and just as a storm was about to hit.

Popup shelters turned what could have been a miserable night into quite a pleasant occasion in front of a great fire. We camped on the south side of Mindebooka Hill.

We had to leave Southern Cross with full fuel tanks. The roadhouse servo was very busy – a sign of the times.

Ghooli Pumping Station

The No. 6 Pumping Station at Ghooli is 13 kilometres east of Southern Cross. The pumps, though inoperable,  are still in good condition.

At Yellowdine we picked up Hunt Track heading to Karalee. A loader or similar had been used to rework the track from just east of the lake at Yellowdine to just short of Karalee. What was once a tight, twisting, rough, overgrown track was now an easy, pleasant drive.

Morlining Well

Morlining Well was an important water source for hopeful diggers heading to the goldfields along Hunt Track in the 1890s.


The repaired track ended where some new 1080 poison warning signs had been installed. It would seem that the track works were for the benefit of the local dogger. We investigated the water harvesting infrastructure on the southern portion of Karalee Rock.

Installation of Plaque

The diversion channels led us to Hunt’s Dam where we were able to place the Bicentennial Plaque in its correct location. Home after 33 years.

Wooden Pipeline

Leaving Karalee we followed Hunt Track to Koorarawalyee, near where James showed us the remains of a section of the world famous Mundaring to Coolgardie pipeline that was made of wood. It was in use until the 1960s.

After successfully locating the abandoned wooden section of pipeline we continued west along the pipeline to the abandoned Gilgai No. 7 Pumping Station.

Cobb & Co. Well

From Gilgai we headed back to Great Eastern Highway to try to find an old Cobb & Co. well. The key to finding this well is to first locate Campbells Tree (a kurrajong) at the side of the Highway or to find the pipeline crossing 6.3 kilometres to the west of the tree. We located the tree, drove west along a track paralleling the highway for 1300 metres, then clambered over the pipeline and searched for the well which wasn’t too difficult to find. It is reputed that a rabbit shooter fell into it and died before being found.

Camp at Boorabbin

Under threatening skies we made our way to Boorabbin, electing to camp between the reservoir and the quarry. In the morning we checked out the quarry and did some tidying around the heritage infrastructure.

We drove over to the water catchment part of Boorabbin – harvest walls, diversions channels, reservoirs connected to reservoirs and other installations connected with collecting, preserving and utilising water.

The upper reservoir has a surface area of 1600 square metres and the lower reservoir 2500 square metres. These reservoirs along with the one at Woolgangie were substantially drained of water to fight recent bushfires.

Hermit’s Hut

It was time to visit the Hermit’s Hut.

WWII Airstrip

During WWII this airstrip was considered to be far enough away from the coast so as not to be vulnerable if there was a coastal invasion. Little is left although the outline of the strip and some remaining bitumen can be seen.

Pioneer Well

From the airstrip we walked about 750 metres south-west in search of an unnamed well. It was possibly a water supply for people at the airstrip although it is likely to have been dug before the airstrip was constructed.

The leading edge of a storm hit as we walked from the pioneer well back to the abandoned airstrip. The heavy rain persisted all the way through our drive to Boondi. It was clear that the rain had settled in. The country around Boorabbin/Woolgangie is no place to leave a sealed road in the wet. While waiting for Boondi Reservoir to overflow we decided to turn around and head west.

Rather than just head back to Cockburn we elected to visit Kodjerning Well, Moorine Rock Well, and Karolin Rock to check out the results of our handiwork two months earlier.

Karolin Rock and Wells

Further work will be done on these wells to clear trees and vegetation away from them and make them an accessible tourist site.

Baladgie Rock

Leaving Karolin Rock it is only a few kilometres to Baladgie Rock and Lake. This is a popular overnight stop for travellers. It has basic facilities and fantastic views of the lake from an easy-to-climb rock.

Collection of Model Ts

Our journey took us to Mukinbudin, where we stayed overnight. We were lucky enough to get an invite to see a private collection of veteran cars on a farm just outside of town.

We took back country roads from Mukinbudin to Dowerin, stopping at some pioneer wells along the way, including Moujakine, Trayning and Nanning.

White Man Well at Moujakine


© Kim Epton 2021-2024
1386 words, 52 photographs, two images.
Kim Epton
Andrew Brooks

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