Roaming Down Under

Fernhook Falls

Cascades and forested pools between Manjimup and Walpole

Fernhook Falls is more a series of cascades than a single waterfall, and is a lovely spot to visit in the rainy season. In a remote patch of native forest, the Deep River tumbles over rocks through a number of lush pools, providing a scenic side trip for those travelling between Manjimup and Walpole.

Main part of Fernhook Falls, Western Australia

Main part of Fernhook Falls

The falls are easily reached up a good gravel road, about 6km from the main highway. The signposted turn-off is about 83km south of Manjimup, or 33km past Shannon River; from the other direction it is 35km north-west of Walpole. Upon entering you are greeted by several small car parks and a toilet. Look out for the signs with the maps - helpful for getting one's bearings and knowing what to expect.

From the first (upper) car park a trail takes you down through the bush to the biggest cascade, where the river descends under the road bridge. The first part is gently sloping and wheelchair accessible, allowing everyone to get a good view of the main falls.

Fernhook Falls and Beardmore Rd bridge, Western Australia

Fernhook Falls and Beardmore Rd bridge

The water may not drop a great height, but after rain in winter and spring the horizontal expanse of the main falls and surrounding rapids can be a delightful sight. And a delightful sound too; one not often experienced in the WA bush. Numerous small cascades provide opportunities for photographers to go rock-hopping to find different viewpoints.

Continuing downstream, the trail passes other cascades and ends up at Rowel's pool. Here the water swirls slowly, and is often covered at least partially with white foam. It can be so thick as to resemble detergent foam in a kitchen sink, but the foam is entirely natural; the result of organic compounds released by decaying plant matter. In fact the Deep River is probably the most pure in the south of WA, with almost all of its catchment area being forested.

Rowel's pool, downstream from Fernhook Falls, Western Australia

Rowel's pool, downstream from the falls

When water levels are up, this pool is sometimes used as a launching point for canoeists following the river down to Walpole. At other times, outside of holiday periods, it is mostly deserted, still and peaceful. A small number of campsites - with toilets, picnic tables, barbecues and a campers' kitchen - make Fernhook Falls an appealing option for an overnight stay. On cold mornings the mist hovering over the waters can be delightfully moody, and a contrast to the more energetic falls just upstream.

Visiting the Fernhook Falls can easily be done as a detour from the main highway between Manjimup and Walpole. However, with a little more time the falls can be part of an alternative route between the two towns. The gravel road leading to Fernhook Falls - Beardmore Rd - continues east through some lovely forest to Mt Frankland, and from there the North Walpole Rd meanders through forest and then, back on a sealed surface, through farmland southwards into Walpole.

A sign showing the facilities at Fernhook Falls, Western Australia

A sign showing the facilities