Location: Luke Pen Walk, Albany
Distance: 7.2km one way
Trail Marker: Start, Middle & End only. Download KML file below
Duration: 3-4 hours
Cost: $0, free entry
Date Hiked: 4th October 2018
Kml Map File: Please click here.
In preparation for our move south very soon, we ventured to Albany for a week so I could research and walk all the local walking trails within the Albany Region and sure was excited when I heard about this one as I love trails that involve walking near water.
The Luke Pen Walk follows the Kalgan River much to hubby's delight as he could fish while I hiked so we got ourselves organised and made our way to the northern end of the trail where I was dropped off, the plan to walk downstream, just the one way as I am not really a fan of return trails. I do see huge potential in this trail though as a canoe and walk trail. Can you imagine canoeing up the river and then walking back down, would be a rather delightful experience soaking in the beauty the river has to offer.
This walk is named after Dr Luke Pen, a man passionate about rivers, and the services provided to humanity by them. Luke researched and wrote many publications on Western Australia rivers and their restoration. More info can be found on the trailhead interpretive sign at the top of the river by Upper Kalgan Bridge. A detailed map and local information is displayed here .
This trail is also known a one of Trails WA's 'Top Trails'.
Starting off at the trailhead, the trail heads down to the banks of the river, to a large river pool known as Wheeldon Pool which is a popular swimming and picnic place. I have heard that Kalgan crossing is possibly the oldest human meeting place but have to confirm that info.
The river is rich in Aboriginal history with 20,000 years of bringing people together. The Noongar people of the region gathered by this river to fish, socialise and hold ceremony. Today, local people and tourists do much the same. I could definitely feel a spiritual presence as I made my way down to the water and was really looking forward to walking this trail.
It was the perfect time for me to be visiting with wildflowers bursting with colour every which way I turned.
As I began to make my way along the trail, it was easy to see why they say it is a Grade 3 trail with lots of steep inclines and declines presenting themselves already and I knew it would be a pretty decent afternoon workout.
The river sure does have a lot of side creeks, streams and wet areas running into it. I seriously don't think I have crossed so many bridges before in one walk but it did provide some beautiful little wetland areas to the side and small waterfalls.
As I grow older I really do begin to appreciate even more the finer details of all that is in nature. Fallen trees, Fungi and Moss all spark the excitement within and I am sure you can see from all of my trail blogs that I tend to get a bit trigger happy. Nature is an easy canvas and I find myself being drawn back to photography. Loved landscape shots in highschool, became a school photographer in my early twenties but lost the desire to photograph people, nature is providing me with some pretty nice inspiration right now.
It wasn't long before I came across this gorgeous old cottage home surrounded by pines trees. Unfortunately I don't have much information on this cottage's history as I am waiting for my Kalgan River book to arrive but am really looking forward to finding out.
As tempting as it is to want to get a closer look, please respect the land owners rights and take note of the Private Property sign.
I found further remnants of history a little further down on the riverbank. Some old machinery, a jetty and the remains of some sort of boat launching rails lay near as well as a recently used small dinghy, a sign of regular visitation to the area, and why wouldn't you. It really is a beautiful place and they say the Kalgan River is full of good size bream, in fact while I was walking Dave and Sophie were fishing remember. Sophie caught one but was a little too small and Dave forgot to take a pic so we will call that the one that got away.
I took some time out here to reflect on the area, such peaceful still waters, the surface only breaking from local birds getting their afternoon feast below. It was easy to sit back and imagine a time when the local Noongar people hunted and fished for their meals. Apparently there are remnants of fish traps hidden behind one of the islands but going by the picture on the maps they lie on the other side of the river so not accessible unless your in the water, another good reason to paddle up first.
It is evident with amount of steps that the banks suffer from a fair bit erosion. Thankful to the volunteers who must give up a fair bit of their time maintaining the trail. Crossed over another bridge and found what looks to be an unused jetty pier on the other side.
The next section I walked through must get quite muddy in winter as a wooden boardwalk has been laid out for walkers to cross.
I noticed more and more exposed rock in the river which made me think of "Dreamtime' and I remember reading the dreamtime story about how the Kalgan River was formed. The story speaks of a husband and his wife who lived in the Porongurup ranges. The husband beat his wife terribly but she escaped from him by stumbling through the thick bushland. As the wife ran through the bush, her digging stick trailed over the Earth and cut open the soil behind her forming the path of the Kalgan River.
I am unsure how high the river gets but this seemed to be quite low considering it was winter and with the amount of rain we have had. I don't believe this part of the river is affected by tidal movement but I could be wrong.
I continued on and came across what looked to be an abandoned damaged dinghy, didn't really look river ready. I also passed an area that looks as thought it had just had a big cleanup as many felled trees were alongside the trail.
On approach to the half way point I came across another interpretive information board, again showing an informative map and other useful information. This is accessible by car, an option for those not wanting to walk the full distance.
The information on the right panel of the interpretive sign provided some great insight into the rivers history.
Lots more vibrant colours appearing throughout the next part of the walk.
This next section had me a little on edge as the trail pretty much disappears underneath the long grass. It was a little warm and my thoughts did turn to the slippery slithering kind of wildlife I really didn't want too see. Thankfully I had long pants on so felt a little more at ease but walked through quicker than I normally would lol
The trail continues a lot closer to the farmland here and whilst I didn't see any cattle I could definitely hear them.
I really need to learn to get my butt into gear as before I knew it darkness started approaching and I was still 1 - 2km from the end. I did start the walk quite late in the day and was caught out a bit as I didn't expect darkness to hit so early. I also lost signal around this area so my message to Dave telling him I wasn't too far away didn't send. I did tell him I would be about 2 1/2 hrs and I was exactly that but it didn't stop him from worrying about me. New trail, new area, no signal and some creepy dudes rocked up acting a bit weird in the boat so he was concerned. I actually saw them on the river at one point and must say that silly thoughts went through my mind haha
Thankfully I was distracted by this beautiful little footbridge with a tranquil waterfall flowing underneath. Trail bliss!
Pressing on, it wasn't long before I neared the end, with the mudflaps coming into view as well as the last island.
But it was the sight of the Kingfisher Shelter that signalled I was just meters from the end of the trail.
The Kingfisher Shelter is an amazing metal art display depicting the beautiful Kingfisher bird with it's wings spread wide. Initially I could not find any information about the artist who created this amazing sculpture but was recently contacted by a lady who had read this blog and reached out to let me know that it was in fact her brother Timothy Booth who created it 22 years ago along with some of the other metal installations in 2016. Timothy lived on East Bank Rd and loved all things to do with the Kalgan so she felt he would of enjoyed reading about my experience. Sadly Timothy passed away in 2017 at 60 years of age from mesothelioma.
RIP Timothy Booth
Literally just around the corner I found the trail end with the final interpretive sign and toilet block.
Dave and Sophie were still fishing, making the most of the dying daylight that quickly dissipated the moment I arrived.
Managed to take a quick pic of the red artwork panels but once again no information anywhere as to who the artist might be or what the artwork represents.
Well that's my review of the Luke Pen Trail, the first of many in the South West. Hopefully it inspires you to get out and check it out.
Maybe even hire a Canoe and paddle up and then walk down.
Please feel free to tag us in your adventures and let us know how you enjoyed the trail.
We acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we walk, the traditional lands of the first nations people & wish to acknowledge them as traditional owners paying respects to their Elders, past & present, and Elders from other communities who may be here today.