Karalee Rocks Conservation Project Commences

Karalee Rocks Conservation Project Commences

Conservation General Natural Heritage
Natural heritage

The National Trust has received funding from the State Government Asset Maintenance Fund to address health and safety and conservation risks at Karalee Rocks, a popular camping site along the Golden Pipeline Heritage Trail.

The project got underway earlier this month when our Asset Management staff headed 450km east of Perth to Karalee Rocks. Joined by structural engineer Peter Baxendale from consultancy MEnD; and metals conservator Claire Rowson from International Conservation Services, they met with members of the volunteer organisation Track Care to discuss a new conservation project which will address health and safety and conservation risks on the site.

Track Care have signed an MOU with the National Trust to help manage Karalee Rocks and will be undertaking work to upgrade the campground, clear the rock water catchment channels and undertake maintenance to the dam. Other work will include conservation of the steel water catchment flume and repair of an 1890s stone lined well.

Karalee Rocks

Karalee Rocks is a popular camping site along the Golden Pipeline Heritage Trail. Works are required to protect heritage fabric and visitor safety on the site. The steel flume carries water approximately 200m from a granite outcrop to an open dam.

Karalee Rocks is approximately 50 kilometres east of the regional town of Southern Cross, 370 kilometres (by road) east of Perth along the Great Eastern Highway.  The property is approximately three kilometres north of the highway accessed by a gravel road along its eastern boundary that turns into the eastern slopes of the two granite outcrops that comprise the ‘Rocks’.

These two granite rocks are approximately 3.68 kilometres and 2.24 kilometres in perimeter respectively, and 26 metres and 15 metres in height respectively.  Each rock has a low wall around its perimeter constructed from granite sheet exfoliated from the rock. These walls were designed to channel water flow into a steel flume that extends into a large partially stone-lined reservoir.  A partially stone-lined channel extends from the second rock into this steel flume.

Bounded by the rocks, the flume, and the reservoir are areas of cleared and semi-cleared bushland that reflect the locations in which non-indigenous inhabitation has occurred since 1865. Within this area is a section of the original Goldfields Road (track), remains of the former telegraph line, a stone lined well and dam, and a larger well. There are remains of a small pumping operation south of the reservoir and remains of former buildings associated with the coaching stop and railway.

Little research has been undertaken regarding the Aboriginal heritage values of the site however the Goldfields Aboriginal Language Centre records that the Kaalamaya language is currently spoken by the Kaprun people in and around Kalgoorlie in the eastern Goldfields region of Western Australia. Norman Tindale in 1939 identifies the Kaalamaya (Kalamai/Kalamaia) country as being: At Boorabbin and Southern Cross; east to Bullabull-ing, north to Youanmi, Lake Barlee, and Pigeon Rocks; west to Burracoppin, Mukinbudin, Kalannie, and Lake Moore; south to about Mount Holland in the Parker Range.

The traditional land had a very small number of reliable and permanent water supplies. These were kept secret and covered in a bid to preserve the water. However, they were used during the building of the railway from Perth to Kalgoorlie – such as the system seen at Karalee Rocks. Kaprurn people were captured and often tortured to reveal the location of scant water supplies and the people of the area disappeared rapidly either due to the loss of their water or for fear of capture and torture.

Once native water supplies were located, the railway builders and subsequently the pastoralists, fenced them off for railway and stock use only. Water supplies were guarded against Aboriginal people and there is documented evidence of at least one massacre of Aboriginal people who dared to try and take water. The lack of water may have necessitated a move to stations, towns and other locations. Or possibly death from thirst.

A site identified as an Aboriginal artefacts/ scatter has been recorded for Karalee. This was entered on the Department of Indigenous Affairs Register of Aboriginal Sites 6 June 2003. (Site Id 20138)

Early explorers established a track to the goldfields that passed between the two rocks at Karalee.  A well and dam were built – possibly as early as 1865-66 – followed by construction of the Southern Cross to Coolgardie telegraph, along the Goldfields Road, in 1894.  An additional well was established in 1895 and in the same year the railway was extended from Southern Cross to Coolgarde, passing 3 kilometres south of Karalee Rocks.

A railway station was constructed at Karalee in 1897 due to heavy demand on this Yilgarn Railway (later renamed the Eastern Goldfields Railway) superseding the coach stop on the previously busy Goldfields Road.

In order to supply water for the railway, a low wall was constructed in 1897 around the perimeter of the rocks as a catchment system.  Exfoliated sheet granite from the rocks was used for this wall.  Water was directed through rock and steel flumes to a reservoir that served steam locomotives until the introduction of diesel train engines between 1953 and 1956.

A railway station and hotel had been constructed by 1903 and these continued to operate until a new standard gauge railway line was constructed in 1968, by-passing Karalee.  The station was closed in 1971. (RICH 2000, pp3-4)

Karalee Rocks is included on the State Register of Heritage Places. (Heritage Place No. 10062)

Track Care WA

Track Care WA is a volunteer organisation which establishes collaborative and positive partnerships with land managers, native title holders, government departments and other stakeholders to sustainably manage locations of environmental, cultural and historical significance, with the aim of ensuring access for all future generations. Their members come from all walks of life, bringing with them a wealth of practical experience, knowledge and skills that enable Track Care to undertake the projects they do.

International Conservation Services (ICS)

ICS assess, advise, conserve and restore all kinds of artworks, objects and places of cultural or heritage significance. They also provide consulting services for collection assessments and cataloguing, collection management planning, disaster management planning, and the use of technology in managing collections.

MeND Consulting

MEnD Consulting provides specialised Materials Engineering and Design services focused on the inspection, protection, maintenance and rehabilitation of fixed infrastructure. Their network of experienced engineers and specialist service providers brings together a combination of technical expertise and practical know how.

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