By Gaye Drady
Lostock Dam, NSW, is one of the scenic Hunter Valley’s hidden gems, providing opportunities for quiet water activities and caravanning on the edge of state forests and national parks.
A sealed road leads off the New England highway at Singleton and travels 60km to Lostock through some of the prettiest scenery in the valley. Farmlands scattered with historic homesteads and ageing sheds are bordered by mountain ranges.
Lostock Dam sits on the upper reaches of the Paterson River on the rim of Barrington Tops National Park and makes a wonderful country retreat. Visitors to Lostock usually either have an angler or two in their midst (fish available in the dam include golden perch, bass and catfish), or are seeking a civilised campground from which to explore the surrounding forests.
There are also campers simply looking for a peaceful scenic hideaway where they can relax or wander at their leisure.
You won’t find any noisy jet skis or smoky high-powered boats normally found at inland lakes because a water speed restriction of 8kt ensures that these much-maligned machines have no place in this little corner of the country.
Therefore, the hordes of weekend and holiday tourists craving loud and fast outdoor activities are elsewhere.
In comparison to many other freshwater impoundments Lostock is small, but if you explore it by boat it is bigger than it looks. Small boats are ideal for fishing or exploring the dam.
A gravel boat ramp is located on a point of gently sloping land, making boat launching simple. This is also an attractive spot for a picnic with casuarinas and young eucalypts scattered around the shoreline providing shade, with fireplaces, tables and a tap.
At the road’s end you’ll find the main picnic area with a well-maintained amenities block containing flush toilets and cold showers. A large open sunny area slopes down to a tree-studded picnic ground with more wood-fired barbecues, tables and taps.
From the dam wall lookout you can view water cascading from the 90m wide spillway into a concrete discharge shoot that feeds into a rocky creek.
The Paterson River then meanders through a narrow valley, slowing down and widening out as it emerges onto farm flats.
Lostock Dam Caravan Park is not on the dam shores but is only a short walk away. This country park has a ‘miles from anywhere’ atmosphere.
Powered and unpowered sites, flush toilets and hot showers, laundry, public phone, ice, gas, fireplaces and overnight vans are available.
No specific wheelchair facilities are provided but the grounds have only a gentle slope. Dogs may be allowed at the manager’s discretion.
At the bottom of the park there’s a gate leading down to the creek. Latch the gate behind you if you go for a stroll – after all this is the bush, and cattle wander by the river too.
The surrounding forests will delight nature lovers. The upper Allyn River within Chichester State Forest is a great place to start your forest rambles with clear crisp mountain streams, rainforest walking trails and grassy picnic areas, just 50km from Lostock Dam and accessible to all vehicles in dry weather.
The picnic area has gas barbecues, pit toilets and tables, and is just across the river from the Allyn River Rainforest Walking Track.
Mount Allyn and the Burraga Swamp Walking Trail is only a short distance from the Allyn River Road, and a 4WD is recommended but not necessary in dry weather.
Chichester Dam has excellent day-use facilities with four picnic areas and a lovely creekside and country setting, and is only 65km via sealed road from Lostock Dam.
There are several walking tracks and birdlife is prolific.
A short distance from Chichester Dam via an unsealed road is Jerusalem Creek Falls with a grassy peaceful picnic area and river cascades, which is a great spot to listen and watch for lyrebirds. There are pit toilets and tables.
Getting to Lostock is easy. Turn off the New England Highway at Singleton, 220km north of Sydney. A 60km sealed road leads to Gresford, and the road from Gresford to the dam is hilly in places but suitable for caravans. Fuel and supplies are available in Gresford.
Lostock Dam Fast Facts
Getting there: From Sydney, take the New England Highway and turn off at Singleton, 220km north. A 60km sealed road leads to Gresford. The road to Lostock Dam is hilly, but suitable for caravans.
Lostock Dam Caravan Park, (02) 4931 7118.
Dungog Visitors Centre, (02) 4992 2212.
State Forests Hunter Region; (02) 4927 0977.
National Parks and Wildlife Service Gloucester: (02) 4987 3108.