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Pink Cliffs Geological Reserve

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Pink Cliffs Road, Heathcote VIC 3523

Explore other locations around this area using our interactive map


  • Beautiful geological features
  • Hydraulic sluicing site
  • Walking track
  • Information signs
  • Lookouts
  • Picnic table
  • Climbing spot for kids
  • Dogs allowed on lead
The Pink Cliffs Geological Reserve is a remarkable area to visit on the edge of Heathcote. 

Once a hydraulic sluicing site, mining activity in the late 19th century washed away the top layer of earth and revealed the dramatic, colourful cliffs on display today. 

Hydraulic sluicing at this site was carried out in the 1870's - 80's under the direction of James Hedley, a pioneer in the development of sluicing and dredging in Victoria.

What is Hydraulic Sluicing?

Monitor for the hydraulic sluice at the Forest Creek Historic Gold Diggings, Castlemaine VIC

Hydraulic sluicing is a mining method which employs high pressure jets of water to blast away large areas of earth, and wash it down to be run through a sluice box. 

Gold gets caught in the sluice and the remaining slurry is washed away. 

This method of mining is extremely effective, but causes significant environmental damage and impacts waterways along with agricultural operations. 

Hydraulic sluicing at the Pink Cliffs Geological Reserve was halted in 1890 due to such damage being wrought on the local landscape. 

You can see more great examples of hydraulic sluicing sites at:

Visiting the Pink Cliffs Geological Reserve

A gravel parking area sits alongside Pink Cliffs Road, and has a picnic table, Parks Victoria signs, and the beginning of a 30 minute scenic circuit walk around the reserve. 

The Parks Victoria signs state that dogs are permitted on leads, along with a list of restrictions intended to protect the natural, historical and cultural features of the reserve. 

Visitors must not: litter or dump rubbish, remove firewood, remove soil or rock, or use vehicles off road.

Walking track at Pink Cliffs Geological Reserve

The walking track takes you on an educational circuit walk, showcasing the stunning geological features of the Pink Cliffs Geological Reserve as well as providing information signs and lookout points along the way. 

The walk is well signed and directs visitors to both a lower lookout and upper lookout over the stunning pink cliffs, which are located at the back of the reserve. 

Signs at the lookouts ask visitors not to pass the fences, and to keep off the large area of pink cliffs. 

The ground here is extremely fragile and walking or climbing over them will cause a lot of damage and unnecessary erosion. 

Please observe the cliffs from the lookouts only, in order to preserve this significant site for years to come. 

There is another smaller section near the front of the reserve where you can get a closer look at the geological curiosity. Kids will have lots of fun climbing on the rocks and cliffs throughout the rest of the reserve. 

More information and history

Information signs at the Pink Cliffs Geological Reserve display the following text: 


Prior to the discovery of gold, this area was open box forest growing on red-brown soil over a layer of gravel. The first nuggets of gold were found in 1852 and sluicing began using the creek to wash the gold-laden soil.

In 1887 Hedley and the Hon JA Wallace began experimenting with hydraulic sluicing by pumping, instead of relying on the pressure gained from the gravity fed water race.

In 1887 sludge in the creek became a significant problem and The Sludge Inquiry Board was formed. In 1890 the Heathcote Sluicing Company's mining lease was not renewed due mainly to the decisions made by The Sludge Inquiry Board.

The colour kaleidoscope you can see today is the remaining granite sliced through with reddish brown cracks filled with quartz. 

The surface fine granite was washed by percolating ground water containing sodium, chlorides and carbonates, which helped to dissolve the iron ore minerals and weather the granite.

In the process, the granite became stained with iron rich solutions, the colour intensity being directly related to the amounts of iron ore minerals within the cracks. 

Erosion has proceeded at such a rate that the present surface still resembles a moonscape. 

For further information call into the Heathcote Visitor Information Centre, cnr High (main street) and Barrack Street, Heathcote.


"The water was conducted to the sluicing site in an open channel which followed the contour of the ground to a well constructed flume, made of three sawn planks about twelve inches wide and one inch thick. 

Then it went into a heavy canvas hose, to increase the pressure and at the end of the hose there was a nozzle made of stout galvanized iron tipped with cast iron." - JO Randall, 'McIvor'

In 1865 the McIvor Hydraulic and Gold Mining Co began constructing a water race from the headwaters of the McIvor Creek near Mt Sugarloaf at Tooborac, to convey water 'at a sufficient elevation to command the whole McIvor gold field'. 

The race anticipated to carry six million gallons per day, to operate 60 sluice heads. 

Initially only seven miles (about 11 km) was to be constructed. This required tunnelling for short distances, construction of flumes or aqueducts accross gullies as well as the formation of the race walls. 

The engineering feat of creating the fall of the water along the length of the race was measured using a beer bottle containing water as a 'level'.

In 1874 Thomas Hedley continued the water race to bring water to a holding dam he constructed in Long Gully (known now as Hedley's Dam) and on to Red Hill - a distance of 26 miles (about 42 km)


In 1865 there were around 1200 European miners and 70 Chinese miners on the Heathcote goldfields.

Miners came from Great Britain (England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland) and Europe (Germany, France, Italy, Scandinavia, Croatia, Russia and Spain). 

There were also Cornish miners and others from South Africa, China, South America (Chile) and North America. 

Some of these men were colourful characters - sailors leaving their ships, young men leaving their jobs or farms to seek their fortunes. 

Dutch and Irish miners would fire pistols in the air at night to indicate that they had guns to defend their gold. As a result, large numbers of pistol balls are still found by fossickers. 

Many of the women who accompanied their husbands or fathers to the goldfields proved to be excellent businesswomen, setting themselves up as bar owners or washer women, or providing hot meals to the many hungry miners at the end of the day. 

As access to gold became more difficult and the alluvial gold became scarce, many of the miners moved on to other goldfields or became employees in the growing deep mining operations that grew as surface gold became scarce. 


  • Bushwalking is an excellent way to get outdoors and exploring nature.
  • Evidence of the mid-late 1800's gold rush can be found throughout the Victorian goldfields in the form of abandoned mine shafts and tunnels, mullock heaps, buildings and ruins, circular puddling troughs, remains of cyanide vats, and quartz kilns.
  • There are many great places throughout the Goldfields that offer gorgeous, panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.


Leave a comment

Ted Goldlike
Prospecting and Fossicking is also a great outdoor activity, You are bound to find gold in the people you meet, while getting outdoors, and with good luck you may also find a real nugget. But you must first get a Miners Right ($17 for 10 years (2021)) This document gives you the right to pick up and claim minerals for yourself. Remember You need land owners permission to be on their land, Some National parks are off limits, Love the Bush, Don't litter, and fill in your holes. Have a nice Day!
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