Blue Mountains History

In 1788 the original name of the Blue Mountains was recored as “Carmarthen Hills” and “Landsdowne Hills” by Governor Phillip. In the proceeding years the distinctive blue haze that surrounds the area saw the name changed to the Blue Mountains.

Australian Aborigines were the first inhabitants in the Blue Mountains, although we currently are not sure how long these people had inhabited the area we can say it was 1000’s of years before English settlement. Evidence of the Aboriginal Daruk tribe can be seen with the Aboriginal art carved into rocks in the area.

The 6 Foot Track is not just another walk in the Blue Mountains but it’s an historic journey of a 2 metre wide track that was built in 1884. The original track begins at Explorers tree in Katoomba and snakes it’s way along 46 kilometres of trails to Jenolan Caves. Built for the growing tourist trade that Jenolan caves offered in the 1880’s.

The track that was constructed was six foot wide, this allowed two horse drawn drays to pass each other with out shunting one cart off to the side in oder to pass. Carts, stages and coach transport of that era was rather uncomfortable with hard steel spoked wheels that left many passengers with bruises, motion sickness and a sore back side. The speed and ease of travel enticed travellers on to the transports with average speeds of that era achieving 8-11 Kilometres per hour. Roads were vitally important to speed of travel and comfort of passengers and the six foot track was deemed important for the Jenolan cave tourism trade. The track was built at a cost of around ₤2500. The track become known as the Six Foot track in 1937.

We now retrace much of the track from the amazing limestone valley in Jenolan past the modern day farmlands, granite creek beds and walk under the towering sandstone cliffs of the three sisters to the world class tourist site of Scenic World.

During the 1870’s Katoomba was little more than a small scattering of houses that where centred around one main road. The 1880’s saw dramatic change as the settlement become known as Katoomba forged ahead with a hotel, railway station, coal mine and visitors from the Sydney Society seeking recreation. By the 1890’s the tourism and coal mining dominated the economy and this little village prospered into a larger town equipped with a post office and finally a court house in 1895.

Pre and post the Great War tourism saw the establishment of guesthouses with Sydney siders spending time and money on the Blue Mountain recreation industry. The Katoomba Council’s Offficial Tourist Guide in 1912 cover page boasted the 3 sisters at Echo point in what has become a world renowned natural attraction.

Bush walks become popular as local tourism saw the development of tracks and pay ways such as the Furber’s Steps at Katoomba, the National Pass at Wentworth Falls and the track to the bottom of Govett’s Leap at Blackheath. The Giant staircase was dreamed up by James McKay in 1914 that planned to link Echo Point with the Federal Pass was originally scoffed at however the local council set about the development of the project. The staircase was developed in two stages one that began in 1916 however after 1/4 of the way through it was deemed to hazardous and difficult hacking the steps out in the cliff face and judged too costly being brought to a halt. 1930 saw Katoomba Council make the decision to re-commence the work and to construct a platform lookout at Echo Point. This was all in the hope of developing tourism and attracting overseas visitors to the area. The official opening of the attractions took place on 1st October 1932.

Coal mining saw the development of steep cable driven rail cars and coupled with the tourism is responsible for the prosperous township take place. The steep rail car that become known as the worlds steepest train ride was used on the weekends as a form of transport to give tourist a thrilling ride up and down the Megalong valley with out hiking up and down.Mining ceased in the early part of the twentieth century and Katoomba continued to grow with its tourism and the magnificent sights of the Blue Mountains.