The Wiilman Bilya walk trail is part of the Wambenger Trails, a $10 million Royalties for Regions project of the McGowan Government aimed at making Collie a nationally significant trail town. Work is well progressed to complete the 5-night 81km Wiilman Bilya loop walk trail, which circumnavigates Wellington Dam in the heart of Wellington National Park. The trail is expected to be completed by the middle of 2022.
The trail is named after the traditional Noongar group (Wiilman) and the Noongar word for river (Bilya). The Wiilman people have a strong connection and responsibility to care for this area.
Like its sister projects, the Dwellingup Adventure Trails (DAT) and the Great Southern Adventure Trails (GSAT), Wambenger Trails has been designed to grow and sustain a visitor economy that will increase visitor numbers, create sustainable employment, increase the visitor spend, encourage repeat visitors and extend the average length of stay in the region.
While many of the individual trails in the Wambenger Trails project make up networks of mountain biking (MTB) and cycle trails, the Wiilman Bilya is envisaged to become an iconic multi-day hike that will showcase the beautiful water vistas of Wellington Dam and the surrounding jarrah, marri and yarri (blackbutt) forests.
With a budget of just over $1 million the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) project team have produced some wonderful, thoughtful and site-appropriate infrastructure that will be enjoyed by the trails community for many years to come.
The WA Hiking Strategy 2020-2030 identified the development of loop trails, rather than out and back trails, as the style of trail preferred by hikers. The lack of loop trails was identified as a potential barrier to participation.
The Wiilman Bilya loop is easily accessible from Collie, as well as from the Wellington Dam carpark and Potters Gorge campground and is connected to the Bibbulmun Track by a spur trail that branches off the Bibbulmun Track close to the Yabberup campsite.
“The Wiilman Bilya walk trail fills a gap in WA’s trails offering by providing a multi-day loop walk that lets you start and finish in the same place”, said DBCA Project Manager, Glenn Willmott. “It’s a beautiful forest walk with water views and designated camp sites that cater for a range of people. It can be broken up into a two-night hike or a longer five-night adventure. The new trail will provide even more encouragement to visit Collie to enjoy the new Wambenger Trails network”, he said. “It has been great to be involved in building the Wiilman Bilya trail, it will be a great asset to the Collie community and encourage trails tourism that will bring significant benefits to the town”.
There are four purpose-built campsites along the Wiilman Bilya trail spaced between 15 and 20 kilometres apart. Hikers can book a campsite at DBCA’s Potters Gorge campground and choose from a variety of accommodation venues in and around Collie. There is also the option to utilise the Bibbulmun Track’s Yabberup campsite for an extra day.
Each purpose-built campsite incorporates a large, roofed shelter with weather side walls. A water tank is filled with runoff from the colour bond roof, and a sealed vault drop toilet is situated away from the shelter.
Hikers will need to be self-sufficient, carrying their own tent, food, water and supplies. Although there is a water tank at each campsite, hikers should not rely on these as a source of drinking water and need to be able to treat tank water where it is available. Cleared tent pads will be constructed around the shelters to accommodate up to seven tents.
One outstanding design aspect of the Wiilman Bilya walk trail is the spectacular 94 metre Kaneang Wiilman swing bridge over the Collie River.
Constructed of weathering steel and designed to hold up under the pressure of a 1 in 50-year flood event, the bridge provides great views along the scenic Collie River.
The bridge’s concrete footings feature a mural by local artist Natalie Veal, which depicts local plants and animals and a geometric pattern that represents the natural and cultural connections that exist in this ancient landscape.
This impressive piece of infrastructure will enable hikers to access trail networks on both sides of the Collie River and can be accessed from the Collie town site.
DBCA Project Manager, Jordon Gibbs said, “While it has been awesome to be involved in the whole Wambenger Trails project, the construction of the new bridge over the Collie River has been a real highlight. The unique design has been a great collaboration between DBCA, engineers and builders to get the best outcome”.
There are multiple options for walking the Wiilman Bilya trail. Hikers looking for a shorter option that includes a vehicle transfer/pickup can walk one side of the Wiilman Bilya trail, east or west of Wellington Dam, and enjoy a 2 night-3 day walk adventure that can be done over a long weekend.
Bibbulmun Track walkers can use the Wiilman Bilya and Arcadia campsite spur trail as an alternative route to the main Bibbulmun Track alignment when leaving or approaching Collie.
It is envisaged that the length and the style of the Wiilman Bilya trail will be very attractive to Outdoor Education school groups and that they, along with groups such as the Scouts and Bushwalking Clubs, will make good use of this trail.
DBCA are planning to have the Willman Bilya walk trail completed by the middle of 2022.
For more detailed information on over 700 trails across Western Australia visit TrailsWA.
We acknowledge the Wiilman and Kaneang people of the Bibbulmun nation as the Traditional Owners of the land through which the trail passes.
© Trails WA Projects 2022