Sunday, April 22, 2007

Jupiter Creek Diggings

Did some walks (too short to call them hikes) at the Old Echunga Diggings at Chapel Hill on Diggings Road, Echunga, and at Jupiter Creek. Both are gold mines of the 1850's and 1860's. The Heysen Trail and the loop walk at Jupiter Creek share the same trail, the Heysen Trail passing by 1869 Beatrice Chimney and parallel to the 1930 New Phoenix Tunnel. I walked through the 80m tunnel - with a torch - and climbed the ladder in the shaft at the end. I'm not too fond of small tunnels (well, small spaces in general) but this one was easy. Both mining fields are covered in shafts, particularly Chapel Hill where the shafts are noticeably smaller in both radius and depth, being about 10m down to gold. The Jupiter Creek shafts are fewer in number, yet much larger and deeper (up to 50m deep).

The Jupiter Creek loop walk can be found in the Sunday Mail's publication WalkSA (2006), pp 42-43.

The following is condensed from the Battunga Country website:

A map of the area is also available on their

Old Euchunga Diggings (Chapel Hill)
After the discovery of gold in Victoria, many South Australians left the colony in search of the elusive “lucky strike”. In an effort to stem this mass exodus, the South Australian Government offered a £1,000 reward for the discovery of a payable goldfield. The first claim for this reward was made for gold discovered at Echunga.

By the turn of the century, with an area extending from Chapman’s Gully to Jupiter Creek, the Echunga Goldfields had become South Australia’s most productive, though few made a fortune. The goldfields could not compete with the richer fields in Victoria and by 1853 the goldfields were described as being ‘pretty deserted’.

Small amounts of gold continued to be found over the years and there was a renewed interest in the old diggings when there was a change in the gold standard and prices rose during the depression years of the 1930s.

The total production of the Old Echunga Diggings is estimated to have been around 3,100kg.

Jupiter Creek
The second major diggings in the Echunga area opened up after gold was discovered at Jupiter Creek in 1868. By September 1868 there were about 1,200 people living at the new diggings and tents and huts were scattered throughout the scrub. By the end of 1868 though, the alluvial deposits were almost exhausted and the population dwindled to several hundred.

As with the Old Diggings, small amounts of gold continued to be found over the years with three distinct periods – from 1884-1890s, 1904-1907 and during the 1930s.

The Diggings Today
Since being ravaged by bushfires, the diggings are gradually being reclaimed by natural bush and these once bustling areas are now deeply silent. Nevertheless some relics still exist. Visit the old diggings at Chapel Hill and follow the sign-posted path to find some of these relics then on to Jupiter Creek to follow the Heritage Trail which interprets successive phases of mining at that site. It includes the 1869 chimney associated with the Beatrice Gold Mining Company, sluicing dam (1906) and the New Phoenix Tunnel (1930).

Both sites are registered as State Heritage Items.

No comments: