ProjectsThe devastation from the 2019/2020 bushfires destroyed much of the forests in the Grose Valley as viewed here from Evans Lookout in Blackheath, Blue Mountains, Australia.

After a horrifying few months of bushfires sweeping across the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, the rains eventually arrived at the beginning of February and the fires were no more. As communities and the environment began to recover, there was a considerable push from tourism and media organisations to rebuild tourism as quickly as possible. I was approached by News Corp to assist with some images for a series of online articles form News.com.au tagged #holidayherethisyear.

You can view the articles here.

https://www.news.com.au/travel/australian-holidays/nsw-act/dont-delay-your-stay-a-complete-travel-guide-to-visiting-katoomba/news-story/07bdeae22389fa75f8055ca0f5c9415d

https://www.news.com.au/travel/australian-holidays/nsw-act/dont-delay-your-stay-a-complete-travel-guide-to-visiting-blackheath/news-story/1d3b55f3878b73fc8274b23561e4dc10

https://www.news.com.au/travel/australian-holidays/nsw-act/dont-delay-your-stay-a-complete-travel-guide-to-visiting-katoomba/news-story/07bdeae22389fa75f8055ca0f5c9415d

After observing and experiencing the veracity of this destructive few months, and experiencing fist hand the impact it had on the Blue Mountains vital tourist industry, it was a great pleasure to assist in capturing some images that would show how the Mountains were already recovering, or even show the peculiarity of the disastrous damage across the valleys and world heritage views the Blue Mountains is famous for.

A post bushfire scene at Govetts Leap in Blackheath, Blue Mountains, Australia. The 2019/2020 Grose Valley fire that wiped out huge areas of the vast eucalypt forests stretching across the Valley. While these views were made famous for the images of fire falling into the valley and the fire line creeping across the valley floor, not much attention was paid to the aftermath. Areas in this view, especially at the base of the small peak we call Lockleys Pylon, have been so devastated, the trees will never recover and this risks changing the ecosystem, favouring ground dwelling bracken rather than the dry sclerophyll forests the Grose Valley would normally be host to.

The devastation from the 2019/2020 bushfires left its scar across the Grose Valley in Blackheath, Blue Mountains, Australia.
Onlookers view the devastation from the 2019/2020 bushfires across the Grose Valley at Govetts Leap in Blackheath, Blue Mountains, Australia.

The peculiarity of “disaster tourism” has led many to come to the mountains to either view the fires from open lookouts such as Echo Point, or come now the fires are out and view the damage across the valleys and these World Heritage views. Incredibly we know, in time, that these areas will recover to a degree, and that fire is an active part of the ecosystem in these wilderness areas, but it is still devastating to see the blackened ground, the destroyed trees, the devastated¬† ferns and even seeing some of the trees and flora normally lining this viewpoint, cut down by the fire fighting teams to help protect the infrastructure at these lookouts. At this place, one of my favourite trees, a beautiful Mountain Blue Gum that sat atop the lookout, that I have photographed on many occasions, has been cut down leaving just a stump behind.

The view from Evans Lookout in Blackheath shows the Grose River snaking through the valley below, a catchment area for the rains that fell extinguishing the fires, where this river system forms a tributary alongside the Nepean River, where it forms the Hawksbury River at Yarramundee, eventually making its way out to the ocean off the East Coast of Sydney and the Central Coast. Once the fires had cut their swath through the trees and flora in the valleys, the Grose River became full of blackened ash and soot flowing in from the slopes where trees have burned, and it was seen at Yarramundee just how black the waters became as they flowed into the Hawkesbury and beyond. Once again, a demonstration of how these fires have downstream impacts on systems that flow for hundreds of kilometers.

The devastation from the 2019/2020 bushfires destroyed much of the forests in the Grose Valley as viewed here from Evans Lookout in Blackheath, Blue Mountains, Australia.
The devastating bushfires and their impact visible in the Jamison Valley, Katoomba, Blue Mountains, Australia. The remaining greenery amazingly untouched by fires where the brown scars of the fires path across the Kedumba is visible.

The view from Eagle Hawk Lookout in Katoomba immediately after the fires were extinguished shows the blacked base of Mount Solitary where the Ruined Castle fire cut a swath across the valley floor. Incredibly this area was subject to a huge hazard reduction burn two years earlier, famous for images of Mount Solitary looking like a volcano exploding as the Rural Fire Service and National Parks and Wildlife Service dropped incendiaries atop the mountain to manage a potential 65 year fuel load. Yet only 2 years later, it was still subject to huge and devastating impacts of the fires. Those fire fighting teams did an amazing job of keeping the fire at bay at Causeway Creek running along the base of Mount Solitary, protecting the clifftop homes, infrastructure and places like Scenic World from being impacted by these catastrophic bushfires.

Images in this article were captured in the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area and I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of this country, Gundungurra and Dharug and pay my respects to elders past, present and ongoing.

I would also like to acknowledge the exemplary work carried out by the Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute in the studies and initiatives they manage to help study, learn, understand, conserve and protect this incredible environment.

Finally we must all acknowledge the incredible work carried out by the fire fighting teams to keep these devastating bushfires from causing significant damage beyond what was already a calamitous few months with many lives and properties of residents impacted, as well as the catastrophic impact to wildlife whose homes were within these burned areas. Those agencies and organisations are The NSW Rural Fire Service, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and NSW Fire and Rescue.

If you are looking for other Blue Mountains Imagery, take a look at my Blue Mountains Portfolio. Or come and join us on a Photography Tour of the Blue Mountains World heritage Area.