Maroondah Reservoir Pictorial Heritage 1862 to 2011

The Blacks' Spur

Historical Timeline
The First Weirs1878-1891
Construction 1915 to 1929
The Yarra Track
The Blacks' Spur
Heritage Pictures 1872 to 1926
Images of 1957
Gallery of 2011
Interesting Features
Maroondah Reservoir Park
Walking Tracks
Present day Maps
Old Maps
References and Bibliography

Enter subhead content here

Town of Fernshaw in 1880

Blacks' Spur (or Black Spur) gained its name from the route taken by displaced Aboriginal people from northern Victoria on their way to a mission settlement at Corranderk near Healesville.

The Blacks' Spur section of the Yarra Track, between Healesville and Narbethong, was a strategic coach route for miners and settlers going to the eastern goldfields. 

Due to its high scenic values, the Blacks' Spur also became a popular tourist destination and sought after location for notable early photographers in Victoria, such as Nicholas Caire and J.W. Lindt. The meandering course of the road, its sharp bends, gentle gradients and avoidance of crossings, are typical of nineteenth centaury mountain roads used by horse drawn vehicles.

The Blacks' Spur route today includes two sections of road, old and new. The current road is wide, sealed and in excellent condition. The old alignment, is about seven kilometres long and follows Myrtle Creek along the western side of the spur, then traces the contours around Melbourne Water Management Roads 9 and 24 and back to the Maroondah Highway at St Ronan's Well. For about half its length the surface of the old road is covered in crushed bluestone, and the remainder in bitumen.

Leading up to the Hermitage are a series of springs, converted into 'wells', and once used as watering places for both humans and horses. The best known of these is Saint Ronan's Well, while another, Majorie's Bower, is marked with a plaque. Fernshaw is located at the base of the Blacks' Spur, at the intersection of the old and new alignments. At regular intervals along the spur small quarries have been cut into the hillside, most likely to provide road building materials. A former hotel site is located near the summit, and is indicated by an extensive bottle dump. The gradient of the spur is quite steep, passing through ferns and myrtle beech trees.

This is a spectacular forest road built by 'stusso' workers in the 1930s and soldiers. A section of the major State Highway passes through mountainous terrain, extensive areas of state forests (including mountain ash forest) and the Maroondah water catchment in the south, to cleared agricultural land north of Buxton. The highway passes through several small townships closely associates with forest history. Features include the Maroondah Catchment, Black Spur, Saint Ronan's Well , The Hermitage, Seal Rock, and passes along the western side of Cathedral Range.

The Maroondah Highway out of Healesville was originally known as Fernshaw Rd, and was built in the early 1930s, on the alignment of the Yarra Track. In 1927, as part of the Maroondah Reservoir works, it was sealed as far as the Graceburn Weir aqueduct. In 1937, it was rerouted on the eastern face of Black Spur, from Fernshaw to Narberthong, and sealed.  The original road still exists, most of which now lies within the Melbourne Water restricted access catchment. It is known as Management Rd 24 and may be seen through a Melbourne Water gate directory opposite the Fernshaw picnic ground.


The northern end of this original road still exists for public access – it may be reached from an opening off the Maroondah Highway directly opposite the Mt Dom Dom Picnic reserve at the Black’s Spur Summit. This is also the access point for the Mt Monda Walking track This old tarred road may be followed for about 1 km to its junction with the highway, at St Ronan’s Well.


1882 Road satisfactory to Fernshaw

1873 Road satisfactory for coaches to summit

1875  Jessie Morley’s Track existed as part of original Yarra Track

1884 Cobb and Co.coaches from Healseville to Fernshaw operating

1912 Vehical traffic to Narberthong reported

1916 Bus service started from Melbourne to Wood's Point via Healesville

1930 New road built around western flank of Blacks' Spur – old road blocked from public access

1937 Road sealed from Graceburn Weir Aqueduct

1946 Morley's Walking Track reponed after several years of neglect (Fernshaw)



A bus service was introduced from Melbourne to Woods Point. This operated with two 12-seater Buick Charabanks, taking four and a half hours from Melbourne.



An organization known as the Acheron Railway League had been formed, which agitated for building of a railway from Benalla to Healesville, via Mansfield and Thornton, over the Blacks' Spur, to link up with the Melbourne-Healesville line which was to open in 1888.


1888 to 1890

In this era, there were many deputations from the League to the Government, and community meetings were held, for building a railway from Healesville to Narberthong, but the Government was unmoved.



The proposal was for the new railway to be extended all the way to Wangaratta, but this never eventuated.



Another proposal called for a 2'6"railway over the Blacks' Spur, to carry timber, stock and passengers, but this, too, was rejected by the Government of the day as too expensive and was abandoned.



A new proposal was for a broad gauge (5’3”) railway over the same route emerged, but this, too was rejected on 1921..



A 3’6” narrow gauge railway was proposed, to run from Healesville to Woods Point, to be known as the Upper Acheron District Connecting Railway. Surveys were carried out but the project was abandoned – the new Maroondah Highway partly followed the proposed railway alignment.



The building of the Reservoir meant the loss of many beauty spots in the Watts River Valley, along the Myrtle Creek, which had been previously reached by walking tracks.


These included

  • Jessie’s Bower – from Blacks' Spur Rd
  • Raspberry Gardens – from Fernshaw
  • Rustic Bridge – from Blacks' Spur Rd
  • Etta’s Glen – from Blacks' Spour Rd
  • Mathinna Falls – from Fernshaw


Trout fishing had been very popular in the Watts River, but this ceased when the surviving part of the valley became a prohibited area within the catchment zone.


Town of Fernshaw in 1874

Town of Fernshaw in 1877

Buick "bus" at Narbethong in 1930

Town of Fernshaw c.1890

Methinna Falls in 1880

Metthina Falls in 1880

Your reactions, comments, and suggestions about this site would be appreciated, to