Overland Journey to the Ovens and Melbourne No. XI
15 April 1854 The Sydney Morning Herald
In consequence of the very flattering accounts which we received of the new diggings but recently discovered on the Adelong Creek, we were induced to pay them a visit, more especially as the distance from where we were camped did not exceed thirty miles.
The road to the Adelong Diggings, or more properly speaking, the Tumut road, turns off from the main line about five miles beyond Gundagai.
For a considerable distance it passes along the banks of the Adelong Creek, which for several miles from its junction with the Murrumbidgee, is lined with fine broad alluvial flats, very richly and abundantly grassed.
On some of these flats are small farms, rather neatly laid out, though by no means extensively cultivated.
I could not help thinking, as I had often thought before, that there must be something radically wrong in the system which allows so much valuable land to lie idle, whilst we are mainly dependent on foreign countries for our supplies of bread stuffs.
About six or seven miles onward the road turns off suddenly to the eastward, leaving the creek to the right.
The country along here is very hilly, but the land is fertile and covered with abundance of good pasturage. In all directions high mountains burst upon the view, and you begin to wonder how it is possible that any vehicle can pass over such a country.
After travelling uphill for several hours, we found ourselves descending gradually until we reached the Gilmore Creek, a tributary of the Tumut River, with very high and, at some places, precipitous banks on each side.
Near this the road to the Tumut township takes a sudden turn to the right, and the road to Adelong follows up the course of the Gilmore for a few miles, and then falls into a broad watercourse, which takes its rise in the Adelong mountains to the north-west.
Having travelled for three or four miles along this watercourse, we arrived shortly before sunset on the second day after leaving Port Phillip road, at the base of a very high mountain, or rather range of mountains which overlook the principal part of the diggings.
Here we camped for the night, as we could see no possibility of getting the cart over the mountain without assistance.
The road is almost impassable even for an empty vehicle, owing to its sidling character, and the abruptness of the ascent. We were not certain, moreover, whether we should find these diggings sufficiently attractive to induce us to remain, and as we were only a mile distant, it was ultimately arranged that the horse and cart should remain where they were and that two of us should proceed to the scene of operations on the following day and report upon the best course to be adopted.
The accounts received from different parties during the day were by no means favourable, but as similar reports had been circulated of some of the richest diggings, we were determined to satisfy ourselves by personal inspection.
The night was rather showery, but as we managed to get our tent pitched, we did not experience much inconvenience in consequence.
In the morning, myself and another of the party proceeded to the Adelong Creek, where we found several tents pitched, and two or three groups of parties at work.
Most of the tents had been but very recently pitched, and on making inquiry we found that most of their occupants, like ourselves, had only visited the diggings for the purpose of acquiring information, and had very little hope of being induced to remain.
Of those persons whom we saw, very few were actually at work.
Of the remainder, some were washing their clothes, some baking or cooking, and a few prospecting or looking out. Judging from outward signs, we could discover no disposition on the part of any of the diggers to remain.
Everything wore a transitory and unsettled aspect.
The information we received from the first two or three parties we spoke to was far from encouraging; but learning that there were groups of parties working at short intervals for five or six miles upwards, we resolved to proceed a little farther, and judge for ourselves.
Adelong Creek at the diggings is very different from what it appears near its junction with the Murrumbidgee.
Very high precipitous banks on both sides forming an angle with the bed of the creek, take the place of those low, broad, and well-grassed flats, which mark its course in the outset.
Rugged mountains, studded with large masses of granite rocks, tower in thrilling grandeur on both sides, and the small but rapid current of the Adelong wanders over an extremely rocky and uneven bed, more in the form of a cataract than a stream.
Large boulders of granite and slate, that is large masses of rock worn into an oval or circular shape by the water action of ages, frequently choke up the channel, and give to the stream a zig zag shape, which is not without its advantages to the gold digger, inasmuch as it is in these angles or points, thus rescued from the bed of the creek, where the richest deposits are generally found.
Having travelled for about five miles up the creek, and procured all the information which it was possible to get from the various parties at work, and from a careful inspection of what was being done, we satisfied ourselves that the Adelong, whatever it might be in the summer time, was not the place where we should winter.
The diggings then (March, 1853) were all in the bed of the creek, and would therefore be subject to inundations during the rainy season, and in the absence of dry diggings, we of course foresaw that mining operations would at times be entirely suspended.
That dry diggings would sooner or later be discovered, either on the Adelong or its vicinity, was by no means improbable, as the indications in some of the gulches and watercourses in the ranges were generally admitted to be exceedingly favourable.
It was our impression at the time, however, that no dry diggings of any importance would be discovered on the banks of the creek, owing to their steepness; and I am not aware that anything has occurred since to alter this impression.
The next day I and another of the party returned to the diggings, for the purpose of taking two or three prospects, the issue of which was to decide whether we should remain or not.
For this purpose we selected what were generally reputed to be the richest localities; and although we found gold, it was in such small quantities as to give us no hope of our being able to make it yield more than ordinary wages.
It is true that a few parties were said to be doing remarkably well, and I have no doubt that the majority were making good wages but the character of the diggings, on the whole, was not such as to induce us to remain, especially as we had already made preparations for prosecuting our journey to the Ovens.
At the same time, I would be sorry, upon these limited data, to express any adverse opinion of the general capabilities of the Adelong as a gold bearing district, seeing that the diggers at the time I allude to were merely in their infancy, and the surrounding country had not even been explored.
On the contrary I think it is highly probable that a rich gold field will yet be discovered in that neighbourhood.
The facts already made known of gold having been discovered not only at the Adelong, but on the Gilmore, the Tumut, and several other places between Tarcutta and Adelong, go to prove that the whole of this country, for hundreds of miles, is auriferous a conclusion which I believe is also borne out by the scientific explorations of that eminent geologist the Rev. W. B. Clarke.
The next morning we resumed our course, and on the evening of the second day camped once more on tho beautiful alluvial flats of the Adelong near its junction with the Murrumbidgee, and at the point where the Port Phillip Road crosses it.