Letters from Mr. Dale, giving a summary description of the country passed over in going to Mount Bakewell, and, also, in an Expedition to examine the Country to the North and South of that place

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Letters from Mr. Dale, giving a summary description of the country passed over in going to Mount Bakewell, and, also, in an Expedition to examine the Country to the North and South of that place  (1831) 

LETTERS FROM MR. DALE, giving a summary description of the Country passed over in going to Mount Bakewell, and, also, in an Expedition to examine the Country to the North and South of that Place.

Mount Bakewell, September 19th, 1831.


I beg leave to report to you, for the information of his Excellency, the arrival at Mount Bakewell of the expedition which he was pleased to honor me with the conducting of across the Darling Mountains.

In crossing the range, our progress at first was more slow than was anticipated, in consequence of the heavy rains which for the first three or four days retarded our movements; but the weather having since become favourable, we were able to travel more expeditiously, and the party arrived here on the morning of the 16th, (the 11th day after our departure from Guildford) in good health and spirits.

From the nature of the country, I was induced to alter in a slight degree the line of direction which it was first proposed to follow, and it was satisfactory to find that the course pursued brought us directly to Mount Bakewell, the distance of which was found by the measurement to be forty-two miles from Green Mount, which nearly agrees with what I had previously estimated it at. It is considered that the line which I have now marked out, is favourable for a road, it having passed through several fertile valleys where there was an abundant supply of water, and over considerable tracts of level ground; the only serious obstacle being a broad branch of the Helena, across which we were obliged to throw a bridge.

Since my arrival here I have, in conjunction with Mr. Bland, fixed upon a spot, which was considered most eligible for the purpose required by his Excellency. The place chosen is nearly at the distance of two miles south from the summit of Mount Bakewell, while the high land approaches within a few hundred yards of a broad and deep reach of the river. This spot was selected after a careful examination of the ground adjacent to the mount, as it appeared doubtful whether a constant supply of water could be procured except in the river.

Having now refreshed our horses, I purpose to-morrow, in compliance with the wishes of his Excellency, to proceed, accompanied by Mr. Moore, to the southward, towards the source of the Avon, which, when I shall have accomplished, I hope, on my return to Mount Bakewell, to be able to trace that river the desired distance to the northward.

I am, Sir, &c. &c. &c.
To J.S. Roe, Esq.,
Surveyor General, Perth.

Perth, October 14, 1831.


I have the honor to transmit to you, for the information of his Excellency, the result of an expedition, which was undertaken by his direction, on the 20th ultimo, for the purpose of examining the country, to the extent of fifty miles to the north and south of Mount Bakewell. As nothing of importance has been discovered, that would render a journal sufficiently interesting, I shall confine myself to a brief outline of our excursion, referring you ( should a more detailed account be required) to the notes which I have kept on the occasion. Having already communicated to you my observations on our route as far as Mount Bakewell, I proceeded from thence on the 20th ultimo, accompanied by Messrs. Moore and Thompson, and one soldier, to explore the country, according to my instructions, for fifty miles to the S.S.E. towards the source of the Avon River; in five miles, after having visited a singular cavern, (alluded to on a former occasion,) we crossed to the opposite or eastern side of that river, at a ford where it was about three feet deep, and running in two channels to the north. The country here was of an open forest character, being lightly timbered with different varieties of the eycaliptus or nut tree, (which I have previously described, and which abounds to the eastward of the range,) resembling, in its growth, the apple, and in its scent, the sandal wood; the casuarina, and several species of the wattle. The soil on the low lands was a red loam and clay; on the uplands and more elevated grounds, there was a sandy loam of a hazel colour, in some places of an extremely friable nature, and covered, generally, with a luxuriant vegetation. The same description of country prevailed to the distance of twenty miles, to the south of Mount Bakewell, when we crossed a vein of eight or nine miles of hard and barren looking clay; the water, in the course of the river, being brackish, and in some places salt. The appearance of the soil, however, gradually improved, as we approached the intended site of Ashbourne, and continued to present the same character, till we bad penetrated as far as sixty miles to the S.S.E. of Mount Bakewell, when we turned to the westward for twelve miles, over an undulating grassy country; and after crossing a large tributary stream, from the S.E., we again fell in with the river, flowing to the north; it was at this place, about twenty feet broad, and seemed to have its source at a considerable distance to the southward.

During our progress down the left bank of the river, on our return to Mount Bakewell, the aspect of the country was similar to that which we had observed to the southward of Beverly; where, as we had before noticed a singular interruption to the stream of the river, we stopped to ascertain the cause, and found, upon examination, that it was absorbed in a sandy bed, and had ceased to flow, just above where the apparent channel was occupied by a long pool of salt water. On finding this termination, our attention was directed to what had previously been considered a tributary stream, which joined what was supposed to be the main branch, about eighteen miles from Mount Bakewell. Having from this returned to the settlement at York, and procured a fresh supply of provisions, we again proceeded to the junction or the two branches of the Avon, and found the soil, for 15 miles up the right bank of the western one, in general of a better quality than that on the corresponding space of the eastern branch. The river here appeared to issue from springs in the low grounds, but on ascending a hill we observed a continuation of its valley among the Darling Range. Its course having led us very much to the westward, our direct route in returning was far back from its bank, and passed over a sandy district to within eight or nine miles of Mount Bakewell, when the country assumed its grassy and undulating character. On the 3rd, after having allowed our horses sufficient rest, we left the settlement to examine the country, according to my instructions, for 50 miles to the N.W. This line for 18 miles from Mount Bakewell, conducted us, at some distance from the Avon, over a good pasture country, and afterwards for twelve miles along its banks, when its valley became more contracted and the hills more precipitous, though the soil still retained the same character. The river here turning abruptly to the N.N.W., we crossed it, and continued our line over a rocky country, gradually rising into Table Land, and descended into a rich valley; on proceeding one mile further, we came to an extensive swamp, containing a large body of water, and having several marks of cattle on its margin. From this swamp we traversed a sandy and level plain, in which we observed numerous pools of fresh water; it was bounded on the E. by high hills, which appeared to us to be a continuation of the Darling Range; and on the W. by hills of more moderate elevation.

Estimating our distance now to be fifty miles from Mount Bakewell, we altered our course to due W., and passing over a sandy district of fourteen miles, we arrived within sight of the plain, which extends from the Darling Mountains to the sea coast, between fifty and sixty miles to the N. of Perth.

Proceeding from this, in a southerly direction, along the base of the range, we crossed several small streams issuing from fertile-looking valleys,. and at the distance of nine miles arrived at a river, which, from its direction, and the body of water it contained, seemed likely to be where the Avon discharges itself upon the plain. Having ascended for four miles before we could ford it, we found the soil on its banks rich, and the vegetation luxuriant.

The remaining part of our excursion to Mr. Bull's, at the head of the Swan, afforded nothing worthy of observation, with the exception of a district of two miles in extent, and ten distant from that place, where limestone shewed itself in many places on the surface.


Havings upon two former and distinct occasions, given a description of the soil and nature of the country to the eastward of the Darling Range, little now remains to be observed upon.

The only singular feature we met with, being an inland lake of fresh water, or perhaps a reservoir of the river, about 30 miles to the S.S.E. of Mount Bakewell, it varied in its breadth from sixty to seventy yards, and was five or six miles in length. Upon this we saw an immense number of ducks, swans, and other water fowl. We also found a small and beautiful animal, which appears not to have been before discovered: its size was about that of a squirrel, and its colour of a yellowish cast, with light and dark shaded stripes across the hinder part of the back; its tongue was very long in proportion to its body, for which reason we supposed it was an Anteater.

It may also be worthy of remark, that numerous parties of natives were seen, and in no instance was any molestation offered, and in general they evinced a very friendly feeling.

I am. Sir, &c. &c. &c.
(Signed)R. DALE,
Ensign 63d Regiment.
To J.S.Roe, Esq.,

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