history of the
   six foot track

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history of the six foot track

Source: NSW Department of Land & Water Conservation

The Six Foot Track is the best way to get the true feel of NSWs rich history and its evolution over the last 200 years. Winding through State forests and national parks, the track follows the 45 kilometre route of the original 1884 horse track from Katoomba down Nellies Glan and through the Megalong Valley to Jenolan Caves.

Historical Background
Megalong is an aboriginal name thought to mean "valley under the rock'.
The earliest official records of the Megalong Valley date back to 1818 when a botanist names Thomas Jones followed the course of Cox's River downstrean from Hartley. For the next 20  years cattleman from Burragorang and Camden came to graze their stock on fertile land around Cox's River. The first grant of land in the Megalong areas was in 1838 after Surveyor W.H. Davidson marked off a one square mile area.

Later settlers used Megalong Cleft, also known as Black's Ladder and then Nellie's Glen for access to the Ridgetops. (Nellie's Glen was named after the daughter of J.B. North an early Katoomba business man).

The Jenolan Caves were discovered in 1838. Access for visitors was particularly difficult. Even after the construction of the western railway around 1870, visitors who travelled over the Blue Mountains to Tarana Railway station had to complete the journey by horse and buggy over a rough and sometimes impassable coach road. The trip from Sydney often took up to 24 hours.

1884 -1984
Acting on the advice of Mr Peter Fitzpatrick of Burragorang, the Premier of New South Walks, the Hon. Alexander Stuart ordered that a search be undertaken to find a horse track from Katoomba to Jenolan Caves

A Government survey party was duly appointed consisting of Mr W.M. Cooper, Surveyor of Public Parks, Mr Mayes of the Department of Mines, Mr Freeman of the Department of Lands and three others. They were to be met at Katoomba by Peter Fitzpatrick, who was to be the guide.

The group left Sydney on the 24th March, 1884 and travelled by train to Katoomba, staying the night at George Rowell's Great Western Hotel, later re-named the Carrington. On the following day they descended the Katoomba cliffs at Narrowneck by a rough zig-zag path into the Megalong Valley. A first base camp was made on the Megalong Creek.

It was thought that Black's Ladder might provide better access into the valley from Katoomba, so the survey party blazed a fresh route from the Megalong Creek camp up Nellie's Glen to the Explorers' Tree on Pulpit Hill. This was the most difficult section of the survey and took four days to complete.

The party then marked a route to Cox's River and a second base camp was established at Little River. From there a route was found which ascended the Black Range. They reached Jenolan Caves on 3rd April, 1884, having marked the route with blazed trees. It had taken 11 days to mark the 26 miles (about 42 kilometres) of bridle track.
The New South Wales Parliament consequently granted 2,500 pounds for its construction.

Travellers could now ride from Katoomba to the Caves in less than eight hours. The new track became popular and was described in the 1894 issue of the Blue Mountains Railway Tourist Guide as steep in places, but the romantic beauty of the surroundings amply compensates for the roughness of the ground'. The Six Foot Track, as it became known, was maintained for many years by two men using a wheelbarrow, picks and shovels.
Kerosene shale was discovered in the Megalong Valley in 1870 and in 1892 a mine was opened. An unplanned village sprang up on the Six Foot Track at Megalong, with miners' huts, a school, hall, hotel and a nearby Post Office. The village had up to 200 residents at its peak, but declined rapidly when mining ceased in 1897. Many of the buildings were demolished and the materials used in Katoomba.
For a period commencing about 1896 the Royal Mail was delivered daily except Sundays, by packhorse from Katoomba, via Nellie's Glen, Chaplow Creek and Mount Sandy to a Post Office at Cullenbenbong, near Hampton. This was known as the Pony Mail'.
For about 20 years from the 1880s to the early 1900s a small community of settlers was resident around Cox's River crossing. This included the Dysons, O'Reillys and the aboriginal Lynch family. The ruins of Dyson's log hut are still evident, but these are on private property.
In about 1904 a road link from Megalong Valley via Blackheath Glen to Blackheath was opened. This provided improved access to the valley, and horse and bullock team,, were more easily used for the transport of goods.

A road was also completed from Mt. Victoria to Jenolan Caves via Hampton. Motor vehicles became more popular, and therefore the number of people using the Six Foot Tray had declined by the 1930s.
Sections of the original Six Foot Track from the bottom of Nellie's Glen to the Megalong Creek crossing, and frorr Cox's River over the Black Range were converted into roa, or fire trails.
1985 to the present 
 One hundred years after it was first blazed, the historic track from Katoomba to the Jenolan Caves was re-marked by the Orange Lands Office. Signpo; were erected and stiles constructed, so that walkers could again follow the route of the Six Foot Track.