Canyon Nomenclature and History

Photo - Hole in the Wall Canyon


This is an attempt to explain the names of some of the Blue Mountains canyons and give some historical details. Mainly sandstone canyons are included.No canyons north of the Wolgan/Capertee divide are mentioned. Any comments, corrections or amplifications would be welcome.
It is of course biased towards the canyons I have personal knowledge of their naming and exploration. I would welcome some more information. This page was last revised on 28 November 2001

Southern Grose

The Grand Canyon

Jugglers Canyon First known exploration by Stephen (Frank) Bray, Louise De Beuzeville (the juggler) and Justin Blows on a SUBW trip circa 1993. Justin Blow's account has been reproduced in "Press On Regardless".

Hat Hill Canyon

Crayfish Ck Canyon

Mt Hay Canyon also known as Butterbox Canyon. First descent probably by a Institute of Technology Bushwalking Club Party in the mid fifties (Bob Holmes et al). This was prior to a descent by the Catholic Bushwalking Club in 1958. The CBC had tried to go up the creek in 1952 and explored the area from below. On one trip, they forced a pass up Butterbox Point (This may have been the same pass found by Tom Williams (on a trip with Bob Sault and Dave Noble and others in Dec 77 - Tom William's account has been reproduced in "Press On Regardless").

Cut-Throat Canyon

Arethusa Canyon Extensively explored by SBW parties from below (it was possible to climb up the last waterfall on tree roots) prior to first (?) descent by YMCA ramblers in 1946. Apparently, the Ramblers noticed a rope hanging down the first abseil, so they may not have been first down. Col Gibson has been researching the history of this canyon. Col's article will be appearing in a future issue of the "Waysider". It will contain significant new information.

Carmarthen Labyrinth

Thunder Canyon First explored by a SUBW party of Col Oloman, Gerry O'Byrne and Dick Donaghey on an epic trip from Mt Charles to Leura in October 1960. This discovery was very significant in the development of Blue Mountains canyoning. You can read the original SUBW walks report by Col Oloman. This contains a copy of Col's sketch map of the canyon. There is also an account of the trip by Gerry O'Byrne (written in 1996). As well you can read articles by Col Oloman and Dick Donaghey in "Press On Regardless" - the SUBW 50th Anniversary magazine.

Photo - Claustral canyon.

Claustral Canyon First explored from below by SUBW parties after descents of Thunder Canyon in the early 60's. The waterfall section was first attempted by a Kameruka Bushwalking Club party consisting of Barry Dunnett, Dave Lambert, Aat Vervoon, John Pettigrew, Bruce Powell, Dave Rhodes, Steve Sessions, Rona Butler and Dave Frost(1-2 Dec 62). They were stopped by lack of belay points on the last drop and had to climb up their ropes. They later walked up to the bottom of this section from below. The first full descent down the waterfalls was made by another KBC party shortly after by Dave Rhodes, Jeff Boyd, Bruce Powell, Bryan O'Halloran, Steve Sessions and Don Wilcox in Feb or March(?) 63. They placed a bolt on the top of the then blocked up keyhole. Slightly earlier, in January 63, a UNSWBWC party of Rick Higgins (UNSWBWC and SUBW) and Terry Thomas descended down the canyon (they named it "Calcutta Canyon" after being told that SUBW members had discovered a "black hole" below Claustral Falls. They bypassed the waterfalls by a long set of abseils directly into the hole from close to the Ranon junction.(VS&M; Vol 11 1992)

Ranon Canyon First explored by a Kameruka Bushwalking Club party of Barry Dunnett and Dave Lambert. (The original leader Les Watters was unable to attend), 27-29 Apr 1962 (VS&M; Vol 11 1992) Dennis Rittson has recently emailed - after talking to Dave Lambert- "he commented on the creation of the name for "Ranon" Canyon. The feeling of that first party was that the waterfalls surrounded it with with rain, and that the intention was to call it "Rain(ed)on" Canyon. Dave is not sure whether a spelling error crept into the account, or whether The Camel was just being a bit clever in transforming the spelling a bit, as a sort of a pun. and Oops Correction! I said that Barry Dunnet named Ranon without the "i", but it was Jack Pettigrew, according to Dave Lambert's recollections.However, now according to Col Gibson, following recent correspondence from Barry Dunnet, the name comes from the Sun God "Ra" and "non", thus the name means "no-Sun".

King George Brook First explored by a UNSWBWC party of Terry Thomas and others, (late 62 or early 63) (VS&M; Vol 11 1992)

Burumin Canyon Explorers Brook (also know as Cayley canyon) was first explored by a SUBW party (Dave Dash, Athol Abrahams, "Doc" Outhred, Ratius Papulus, Al Bashford and Nev Mendham) in Oct 63 (VS&M; Vol 11 1992). The trip was lead by Dave Dash. You can read Athol Abrahams' trip report in Press on Regardless.

Wollangambe Wilderness

Parts of the Wollangambe Wilderness were explored by SUBW in the early 60's. Many of these trips were led by Col Oloman. Col also completed some solo walks into the Bungleboori area. I have no details of where these trips went. Rick Higgins, often accompanied by Ray Jerrams also explored canyons in this area. Again details of actual routes they took are not available.

Wollangambe Canyon as far as I know was first explored by SUBW parties (Col Oloman and others) circa 1960. See Col Oloman's article "Canyons Recalled" from "Press On Regardless" for more information.

Why Don't we Do It On The Road - named by Tony Norman after (probable) first descent. Named after a song on the Beatles "White Album". "Norm" is a very keen Beatles fan.

Clatterteeth - (Du Faurs Creek) first visited by a SBW party in 1964, leader - Ross Wyborn. (The Sydney Bushwalkers - the first 60 years)

Yarrumun Canyon as far as I know was first explored by SUBW parties (Col Oloman and others) circa 1960.

Dumbano Canyon as far as I know was first explored by SUBW parties (John Paynter and others) circa 1961 at least as far as the upper and middle constrictions. You can read about John Paynter's 1961 trip in a SUBW walks report "The Dumbano Dungeons" and another trip report from 1962 by Max Eden reproduced in "Press On Regardless". The lower constriction was first explored by Rick Higgins and Paul Hinkley (UNSWBWC) in about 1965.

Photo - Froth and Bubble Canyon.

Froth and Bubble Canyon (also known as Bubble Bath Canyon) named because of foam in the canyon when it was visited by a SUBW party consisting of Brad Phillips, Chris Cosgrove and David Noble in January 87. The day before they had been in Bungleboori Ck - north branch and experienced a massive 5m flash flood. Later on the trip they climbed out of Bungleboori Ck and climbed into the lower part of the canyon from below. The same storm had left all the foam in the canyon. It was named "Froth and Bubble" by Dave Noble and "Bubble Bath" by Brad Phillips.

Crikey Canyon - Named after a comment by Tony Norman (SUBW) early in 1982 when he was looking for a creek in a small valley near the Valley of the Swamps - "crikey, mother of God!" when he saw the creek a long way below down a narrow hole. Bob Sault writes "Ian, Norm, Damien (Michael Dougherty) and I "discovered" Crikey Ck either in late November or early December 1981, and went down it with a larger party in early 1982". Shortly after, the first SUBW party to abseil into the canyon consisted of Ian Wilson, Mike Doherty, Bob Sault, Tony Norman, Anne Gray, Nick Melhuish, Doug Wheen, Russel Looby and Mike Morgan.(VS&M; No 2 - 1983). They saw no signs of any previous party and had to throw logs down the canyon for some of the belay points.

Water Dragon Canyon - named by a Catholic Bushwalking Club party (Martin Doyle, Peter Demspey, Mick Gorman and Anthony Gwyther) that visited the canyon (6 Feb 83). Named "Waterdragon" by the party "because there was a Waterdragon lizard sunning itself at the top of the abseil which had given us such a memorable day" (The Waysider No 178 Mar/Apr 1983).

Andrew Cox abseiling in Whungee Wheengee Canyon.

Whungee Wheengee Canyon - named by an SUBW party (B Phillips, A Norman, A Long (and others ?) - mid 80's) who were most likely the first party to visit all the canyon. The canyon was so named to be deliberately confusing with Wheengee Whungee Creek near Kanangra Walls.

Arthurs Canyon - named by a Springwood Bushwalking Club party (Tom Williams, Dave Noble, Gordon Thompson, Adrian Stanborough and others), Easter 1976 on a Wollangambe Wilderness traverse. Named after the nearby complex pagoda ridge - which had been referred to by C Cosgrove and D Noble as "the Western Arthurs of the Northern Blue Mts"

Photo - Bob Sault (circa 1982) by Michael Dougherty.

Hole in The Wall Canyon - named by Bob Sault and Tony Norman (SUBW) after noticing the sudden emergence of this canyon into Bungleboori Ck - north branch. (Both this canyon and Banks canyon were noticed by a NPA party consisting of Dave Noble, Geoff Grace, Lyn Starmer and one other during the August-september school holidays in 1980 - but it was too cold to explore then. I think Bob Sault's parties found them independently soon after)

Four Dope Canyon.(SUBW) also known as "Birthday Suit Bertie Canyon" after Bob Sault's attire (or lack of it) during part of the canyon. (Doug Wheen: "Birthday Suit Bertie canyon has a certain ring to it") Named after a plantation discovered by the party at "Pot Hill" - the terminus of the Waratah Ridge road. Bob sault writes "The "Dope" in Four Dope Creek was as much to do with people being silly enough to go canyoning on a cold, rainy, unpleasant day. Doug drove that day, and was in the usual hurry to get back to Sydney for church." The first party down in October 1982 consisted of Bob Sault, Ian Wilson, Tony Norman and Doug Wheen (SUBW).(VS&M; No 2 - 1983)

Banks Canyon - named by Bob Sault and Doug Wheen (SUBW) because it is unusual in having nearly all its canyon formation in the higher Banks Wall sandstone (the top layer of the Narrabeen Group - most canyons form in the bottom layer - the Burra Moko sandstone) Bob Sault writes "Like "Four Dope Creek", "Banks" canyon was a play on words. The "bank" was the side of the road that Doug crashed into on the way out (not the sandstone formation). It was only Doug and myself on that trip. We were originally going somewhere else, but Doug crashing the car made us unsure of its reliability, so we changed the trip to something nearby. We only had one handline between us, which suggests we had not intended on looking for new canyons that day. Doug completely wrote off the car in a separate accident a few weeks later I believe." However Doug Wheen has emailed:

I am sure that others have probably long ago commented on various minor errors and clarified some inaccuracies- however I almost choked at the scandalous inferences regarding my driving as highlighted in the Banks canyon history note. Indeed I did hit a bank on the road near the prison farm, causing minor damage. This was due to driving too fast and losing control in some sand. However I am pleased to say the car needed only minor repairs and lived to be traded-in approx 8 years later. You will be hearing from my lawyers!

Dead Tree Canyon - named after a dead tree in the middle of an abseil in the canyon. First done the day after the initial trip down Crikey Canyon by Bob Sault and Ian Wilson (SUBW). (VS&M; No 2 - 1983) Bob Sault writes "My recollection was that Ian and I were the first to do Dead Tree Canyon (perhaps it was the day after a trip down Crikey -- it was certainly on a Sunday after a day out canyoning in that part of the world). When I returned a number of years later, it was amazingly easier. There were several dead trees (still covered with leaves)choking the canyon the first time. The tree abseil was particularly unpleasant to fight your way through. Later that day, Ian just caught the last train from Bell, whereas I just missed it." Ian Wilson adds "The info on Dead Tree is correct - Doug dropped us off at the end of Pot Hill (Waratah Ridge) Rd after we had done Surefire I think."

Keyhole Canyon (also known as Harmonic Convergence Canyon - named by Brad Phillips (SUBW) because he visited the creek (late 1980's?) on a day that there was an unusual "harmonic convergence" celebrated by assorted new age people.) Doug Wheen has recently emailed:

Perhaps of more interest I would like to add to your Harmonic convergence info. I presume you refer to creek at 527083 ROCK HILL 1:25000 sheet, which flows north into Nayook. Given the proximity to the Sandy Cave ck canyons I had thought this ck was worth a look as I did not know of it having been done. I knew that it had been crossed lower down by you, Tom, Bob etc via Daniels pass, but reasoned the canyon could be higher in Banks Wall formation, particularly as the creek has the typical appearance at the 840m contour level.I drove the old blue honda up to natural bridge with Brad who was the only one around that day- 26/9/87 from my trip records.For some reason we started very late- left the car at about 2pm and did the trip via the hut. As I recall we could not agree on a good name, although I have always thought of it as Keyhole Canyon as this is how it starts. There is about 1/2-3/4km of good canyon with an abseil and a couple of swims as you may know. We climbed out just on dark and walked back to the car with some difficulty as we were without torches. I subsequently heard from others that Brad was promoting the name of harmonic convergence for a canyon he and I had just done and I was left to presume this was the same ck. However I've never been too fond of the name. I had also thought that given its proximity to the hut, it could be that a prior claim may be forthcoming. Ever since we found the very old bolt in Fortitude canyon I have been a little wary of claiming too much. I think some of the articles in Press On also re-inforce the idea that some of our early walkers may have done bits or all of some of these creeks without necessarily knowing or documenting exactly where they were.

Short Creek Canyon - explored by Chris Cosgrove (SUBW) on a solo walk in Dec 72. He returned later (Jan 73) on another solo trip and completed three abseils(!) but had insufficient rope for a fourth abseil. He returned in March 74 with Tim Herborn (SUBW) and Nick Bendelli (UNSWBWC) with "three ropes, bolts, and miles of sling". They found two abseils. Nick Bendelli placed two bolts above the second drop. (Kameruka Vol 13 No 1)


Photo - Abseil into Heart Attack Canyon

Heart Attack Canyon - named after an incident on the Friday night of a trip. The first party (3 Jan 1976) down (C Cosgrove, T Willams, R Bradstock, B Allen, J Lucas - SUBW and Kameruka B.C.(The original leader Dave Noble was unable to attend due to an injury)) were camped on the steps of the then Bell Cafe because of a transport rendezvous mix up. They were awoken very early by a local wanting to use the public phone to call for assistance for a local heart attack victim.(Kameruka Magazine Vol 15 No 1 - Sept 77). The canyon had earlier been pointed out to Dave Noble, Tom Williams and others by Ted Daniels on the NPA trip of 1-3 Nov 74 (see Inverse Canyon below) from the ridge between this creek and Rocky Ck. Dave Noble and Keith Maxwell went down the canyon on 28 Feb 76 and went out via the now usual exit gully. You can find more information here from Dave Noble's article in "Press On Regardless".

Inverse Canyon - named by an NPA party, 1-3 Nov 74, consisting of Ted Daniels, Tom Williams, Tom Sinclair, David Kelly, Vince Murtagh, Joe Mack, John Alexander, Alex Preema and David Noble. They went up the creek from the bottom - hence the name. You can find more information here from Dave Noble's article in "Press On Regardless".

Surefire Canyon - named after an early attempt to visit the creek(9 Jan 76). Tom Williams (Springwood Bushwalking Club) exclaimed when he was being picked up on the Friday night of the trip that he knew of a creek that was a "surefire canyon". The party (Dave Noble, Ian Hickson, Ross Bradstock, C Cosgrove (SUBW) and Tom Williams) were unable to do the canyon then because of heavy rain and the effects of several flagons of Royal Reserve port. Dave Noble did a solo reconnaissance of the creek on 29 Feb 76 and confirmed the presence of canyon. Tom Williams, Dave Noble together with Tony Haigh (KBC) and Ted Daniels (NPA) finally did the trip down the canyon on 23 October 1976.(Kameruka Magazine Vol 15 No 1 - Sept 77). Ted Daniels recorded the descent on Standard 8 cine film. Later on the same afternoon there was a rare (partial) solar eclipse. You can find more information here from Dave Noble's article in "Press On Regardless".

Ball Race Canyon - visited (24 Oct 76) by the party above after doing Surefire canyon they climbed onto the plateau to visit a canyon that Ted Daniels knew about. Named after the level of water in one of the sections of canyon. (Kameruka Magazine Vol 15 No 1 - Sept 77)

Tiger Snake Canyon - visited on a joint SUBW - Ramblers trip on 11 Sept 77. The creek was investigated from Deanes Creek. Bob Sault, Steve McDowell and Dave Noble had gone on ahead, found the canyon, but found themselves trapped in a chamber of the canyon by a stired up tiger snake in a narrow part below. Keith Maxwell, Rose Adams and Hugh Patterson, who were downstream, helped the party escape by throwing articles of their clothing on top of the snake to confuse it. (The clothes were later retrieved with the aid of a long stick). A Ramblers party did the canyon properly from above on a later trip and also found the miniature canyon above.(Kameruka Magazine Vol 16 No 2 - July 78). You can find more information here from Dave Noble's article in "Press On Regardless".

Thunderstorm Canyon - visited on a joint SUBW - Ramblers trip on 20 Nov 77. The party was Bob Sault and Dave Noble (SUBW), Bruce Bowers, Ian Crawford, Robin Owens and Chris Neilson (Ramblers). A thunderstorm took place whilst they were rigging up the ropes on the first pitch. (Kameruka Magazine Vol 16 No 2 - July 78). You can find more information here from Dave Noble's article in "Press On Regardless".

Galah Canyon - visited on a joint SUBW - NPA trip in early 77. The party was Chris Cosgrove and Ted Daniels. Named after its close proximity to Galah Mt. (Kameruka Magazine Vol 15 No 1 - Sept 77). You can find more information here from Dave Noble's article in "Press On Regardless".

Photo - Galah Canyon abseil.(Photo by John Oxley)

Rocky Creek Canyon - visited on a joint SUBW - UNSWBWC trip on 4 Dec 76. The party was Bob Sault and Dave Noble (SUBW) and Nick Bendelli and Dave Firman (UNSWBWC). Named after the name of the creek it was in. (Kameruka Magazine Vol 15 No 1 - Sept 77). Between the first discovery of Surefire Canyon and Rocky Creek, there had been SUBW exploratory trips to the major tributaries of Annie Rowan Creek with mixed success. The more obvious Rocky Ck was ignored, temporarily, because stories indicated that it had been investigated and no canyons found. On the December 76 trip, the party completed a daywalk from the headwaters of the creek (from near the Barcoo Swamp). On the way down the creek they found an upper section of canyon with a 20m abseil. This has later been called "Sheepdip Canyon." On the walk, the party had planned to climb out of Rocky Ck at the sidecreek that is now used as the standard entrance. They arrived at this point at about 5pm. Dave Noble and Bob Sault went all the way through the remarkable constriction (hoping to find some "Claustral type" abseils) and also went a fair way up Budgary Ck looking for a sister canyon before retracing their steps. You can find more information here from Dave Noble's article in "Press On Regardless". Much later, Dave Noble was talking about the upper constriction to the other Dave Noble (the NPWS ranger). The other Dave, assumed this canyon was in the small creek near the Galah Mt carpark (instead of Rocky Creek itself) - and went looking for it. The result was he found Twister Canyon. It was only recently (2000) that the first Dave Noble, when talking to the second, asked him how he found out about Twister Canyon - he replied "You told me about it" - but he hadn't!

The River Caves Canyon - It was first discovered by Russel (Rus) May and John Norris in the late1940's (1948-1949) and they called it the "Water Tunnel". They approached by walking down Budgery creek which was then called Buggary Creek and Mt Buggary. John Norris also named Mt Norris near Deep Pass. They also built the Deep Pass hut. They first went to Mt Barakee by jeep in 1959. (Information from the "other" Dave Noble)

Contradiction Canyon - visited by a Springwood B.C. - SUBW party (Bob Sault, Dave Noble, Ross Bradstock, Tom Williams) on 26 Nov 77. Named because the members of the party kept on contradicting themselves in a Monty Pythonish manner on the way to the creek (no they didn't!).(Kameruka Magazine Vol 16 No 2 - July 78). Ross Bradstock's account of the trip has been reproduce in "Press On Regardless".

Breakfast Creek Canyon - visited by the above party on the way to Contradiction Canyon (26 Nov 77). Named because none of the local maps had a "Breakfast Creek" Most good maps have a "Breakfast Creek", a "Cedar Ck" etc. The party had visited the canyon just after breakfast - early surveyor Lt Col Clews had named nearby "Dinner Ck" after the place where he had dinner as well.(Kameruka Magazine Vol 16 No 2 - July 78)

Hartleys Mistake Canyon - A Kameruka Bushwalking Club party (Ted Hartley, Keith and Terri Seddon) visited this creek and the next one further upstream during a trip in winter 1977 in an attempt to get onto the plateau nearby. As both creeks were canyons, they didn't find their pass out and as a result were overdue. Keith Seddon named both creek "Hartleys Mistake Canyons". A party consisting of Keith Maxwell, Rose Adams, Tom Williams, Dave Noble, Stephanie Davenport and Bob Sault went down the canyon on 22 Oct 77.(Kameruka Magazine Vol 16 No 2 - July 78). Earlier, in 1972, a MMS party of Keith Jones, Barbara Cameron-Smith, Greg Retallack and others explored the top of the canyon and descended the first abseil before retreating the same way.

Bigfoot Canyon - the other Hartleys Mistake canyon. Named by Tim Hager (Catholic Bushwalking Club) who led a trip down this creek - probably in 1978.

Firefly Canyon - visited by a SUBW/Springwood B.C. party (Tom Williams, Lyall Closs, Dave Noble and others) late in 1979. They camped upstream of the canyon and noticed many fireflies in the area

Looking Glass Canyon - named by a Catholic Bushwalking Club party that used this creek as a (tricky) route to Twilight Canyon. One member Steve "Gus" Henzel (also SUBW) lost his glasses on a ledge in the canyon - and was later seen looking for his glasses - hence the name. This was probably in 1980.

Twilight Canyon - named by a Catholic Bushwalking Club party (probably early in 1980). The same party that had climbed out of Looking Glass Canyon earlier on the same day (Waysider reference missing from my library)

Newnes Canyon - also called "Starlight Canyon" by some commercial parties and "The Amazing Wallaby Tunnel" by John Atkinson (VS&M; no 11 1992). It was refered to as Newnes Canyon by Tim Hager in 1977 (The Waysider 147 May/June 1977). The canyon was probably discovered by an SUBW party of Helen Whitfield, Karl Robertson, Dave Beattie and Gerry O'Byrne in 1963. A SUBW walks report of the trip by Dave Beattie can be found here reproduced in "Press On Regardless". This report contains a sketch of the canyon formation just below the tunnel (near where they abseiled in). From the report - it seems the party did not venture into the tunnel. A much later SUBW party (John Atkinson, Bob Sault, Airdrie Long) were possible the first party to explore (from below) the tunnel section. They returned on a later trip and abseiled into the tunnel. John Atkinson's report of the trip is reproduced in "Press On Regardless"

Bells Grotto - also called "Glow-Worm Tunnel Canyon". Presumably named after the Archibald Bell of Bells Road fame. It was used as an alternative walking route around the tunnel by passengers (to avoid the smoke on the way up). (The Shale Railways of NSW, Eardley and Stephens, ARHS, 1974)

Little Dingo Canyon- First visited by a Catholic Bushwalking Club party ( Martin Doyle, Michael Doyle, Greg Foley, Thomas Carroll, Mark Burton, Joe and Ted O'Gara and Michael Gorman. 29 Dec 79) Named "because the canyon was small and we heard the cry of a dingo earlier in the day" (The Waysider, No 160, Feb/Mar 80)

Photo - John Atkinson on the 3rd abseil - Danae Brook

Kanangra Canyons

Danae Brook - named by Myles Dunphy (late 1920's). A species of Eucalypt grew on the plateau above the creek ( and near Mt Cloudmaker). These trees had a striking gold coloured bark. They were all wiped out by a bushfire in about 1929. In Greek mythology Zues appeared as a shower of gold in front of Danae, before raping her.(M J Dunphy - pers comms). Col Gibson has full information about the first descent of this canyon.

Carra Beanga Creek - named by Myles Dunphy (?). First descended by Rona Butler and Aart Vervoon, 1963/4 (KBC Walks Secretary report - 1964)

Kalang Falls First descent by Col Oloman and Gerry O'Byrne, circa 1960. See Col Oloman's article "Canyons Recalled" from "Press On Regardless" for more information.

all text ©David Noble 1996-2001. Special thanks to Colin Gibson for much useful information and sources. Also thanks to Bob Sault, Ian Wilson, Dennis Rittson, Dave Lambert, The "other" Dave Noble, Dave Dash, Col Oloman, Gerry O'Byrne, Athol Abrahams, Bryan O'Halloran, Keith Jones, Paul Hinkley and Rick Higgins for corrections and additional information.

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