The One Tree Bridge is a reminder of the history of the One Tree Bridge Conservation Park and the Manjimup area. It was created by chopping down a giant karri tree to lie across the Donnelly River and building planking on top of it.
You can see the original log bridge on dry land on the west bank of the Donnelly River, right near the Graphite Road bridge that replaced it in 1971. The section of the log that can be seen today is part of the 1904 original, while the jarrah planking, curbs and railing on top of it dates from 1933 when the jarrah planks were burnt in a bush fire and replaced.
Origins and History of One Tree Bridge
Before One Tree Bridge was constructed, the way across the Donnelly River was a dangerous rocky for about half a kilometre upstream from where the bridge.
One Tree Bridge has somewhat mysterious origins, with a couple of different stories that explain its beginning. The most reliable history (as researched by Dave Evans) is that it was constructed in 1904. The main reason that it was necessary was the opening of a graphite mine on the western side of the Donnelly River off Henley Road, close to where One Tree Bridge is today. The products of the mine were transported by bullock wagons and there needed to be some way for them to cross the river to the eastern bank in order to get over to Manjimup.
The creation of the bridge is testament to the ingenuity of local pioneers. Rather than engineer and construct a bridge from scratch, one single huge tree growing close to the riverbank was selected, then skillfully felled to lie across the Donnelly River. Planks of jarrah were then used to create railings and a flat platform on top of the logkt. This created the base for a bridge strong enough for bullock teams and their wagons to cross on their way to the new Donnelly River graphite mine.
The men who chopped the tree down were Hugo and Walter Gibblet, local pioneers who owned a block of land on the western side of the Donnelly River.
The graphite mine was short-lived as it was found that the type of graphite was not commercially viable. But even still, the bridge was an important link between the Manjimup to the east and the farmland on the western side of the river. Many of those farms began from the 1921 Group Settlement on land near One Tree Bridge, and an alternative story for the bridge’s origins is that it was constructed in 1921 specifically for the Group Settlers.
In 1933 the bridge was partially destroyed in a bush fire, so the jarrah decking was replaced by new jarrah decking planks and railings.
In the mid 1940’s the bridge was deemed dangerous, but there existed no other option for crossing the Donnelly River. A replacement bridge was built in 1948 next to the original, and rather than remove it, One Tree Bridge was left to ruin. It eventually fell down into the river and stayed there from 1964 to 1971.
1971 was when the latest incarnation of the Graphite Road bridge was built, and a remnant of the original old log bridge was hauled out of the river and “placed as a memorial to people’s engineering ingenuity of the early twentieth century”.
You can still see the original One Tree Bridge today. You’ll find it surrounded by a low wooden fence in a clearing on the western side of the Donnelly River, on the northern side of Graphite Road. This forest clearing is a nice picnic spot with bench and campfire facilities.
Photo by David Newton on Panoramio
Parking spaces are over on the other (south) side of Graphite Road, where there’s a toilet block and information shelter. Read about the karri forest and the surrounding conservation park, plus a little bit of local history of the Donnelly River Valley and South West Region featuring one-time resident and great Australian poet Adam Lindsay Gordon. Note: on my last visit (July 2015) there was some construction work going on around the information shelter, but I’m not sure if they’re changing it or just renovating.
To get from the carpark to One Tree Bridge you can follow a short walking track next to the river that becomes a wooden walkway passing underneath the Graphite Road bridge.
Following the walking trails (part of the Bibbulmun Track) from the car park further south along the river you’ll soon reach Glenoran Pool, a great place to go swimming in summer, and the adjacent picnic area. Or you can drive straight up to it if you’re feeling lazy.
If you follow the track north, a short distance upriver you’ll get to some rapids in the Donnelly River.
Bushwalks Beginning at One Tree Bridge
- One Tree Bridge Loop Trail: Two walking trails lead from the One Tree Bridge clearing through the forest to the Four Aces. Join them together for a delightful loop walk.
- Bibbulmun Track walks: Walk the Bibbulmun Track north or south for a short stroll or a full day or even multiday walk. The track follows the Donnelly River for a long way in both directions.
Location of One Tree Bridge and How to Get There
From Manjimup drive 21km (approximately 20 minutes) from north of the town centre west along Graphite Road. Look for the carpark immediately after crossing the Donnelly River bridge.
From Nannup, drive for 37km (approximately 30 minutes), first taking Brockman Highway south out of town then turning left onto Graphite Road and heading southeast. If you cross the Donnelly River bridge you’ll know you’ve gone too far!.
One Tree Bridge is about a half hour drive south from Donnelly River Village.
More Special Places to Visit and Things to Do in the One Tree Bridge Conservation Park:
Last Updated: 15th July, 2015.
First posted on 13th July, 2015 by Bonny.
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