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If you ever find a pickle bottle with gold in it, chances are it once belonged to goldminer Joseph York. Joseph, who died aged 82 in 1898, was rumoured to have hidden his stash while working at the small goldfield named for him, Yorkies, at Long Plain, in what is now Kosciuszko National Park in southern New South Wales. 

The culturally significant Long Plain is one of the vast, naturally treeless plains in northern Kosciuszko NP. Formed by the frost-hollow effect (see “Frost Hollows”, page 40), the plains are surrounded by timbered hills. Long Plain is the traditional home of the Walgalu people, but many language groups converged there for the summer bogong moth harvests, ceremony, intermarriage, and trade. It also has a rich and varied European history.

Most of Kosciuszko NP is of some importance because it’s the catchment area for several significant rivers. Long Plain is no different; the Murrumbidgee River begins near Peppercorn Hill, at the northern end of the plain. Image credit: Nic Walker

The diggings at Yorkies were worked again in the 1930s by locals Tom Taylor, Bill Harris and Billy Jemmett. They used water races (trenches) to bring water from a local creek to the site, fed by gravity through pipes and a nozzle to hydraulically sluice the paydirt. Photos of the men’s huts in 1932 show primitive structures of timber and calico. In the 1940s Billy Jemmett moved on to isolated fire-tower duties – a solitary lifestyle – in the Brindabellas; apparently, he was happy with his own company. 

I led a tour to the area in 1989 that visited the ruin of Jemmetts Hut. The site offered up corrugated iron, boards, flattened kerosene tins and dozens of rusty food cans. 

Long Plain Hut, built in 1916, is still used today by National Park visitors and is maintained by volunteers and National Park staff. Image credit: Robert Mulally

Although buildings have disappeared from the diggings, Long Plain Hut still stands on the western side of the plain and is relevant to the major theme of the area’s history – summer grazing. It was built in 1916 for grazier and physician Dr Alfred Campbell, of Ellerslie Station near Adelong in NSW. Built from timber processed at Jack Dunn’s Cumberland Mountain sawmill, the commodious hut originally had a shingle roof, which was clad with iron in the late 1920s. 

One of Dr Campbell’s children, David, was born at Ellerslie in 1915. Later famous as a Canberra-region poet, David was a grazier, sportsman and outdoorsman, and saw active service as a pilot in World War II. His 1943 poem “Winter Stock Route”, first published in The Bulletin magazine, beautifully conjures both the winter and summer landscape and seasonal change in activity. It’s easy to assume Long Plain played a significant part in the period of his life spent on skis and horseback that inspired the poem.

Poet and grazier David Campbell, depicted here in a 1964 portrait by Graeme Inson, was born at Ellerslie Station, and found creative inspiration at Long Plain. Image credit: National Library of Australia

The grazing lease was held by others after the Campbells; stockwork continued until the termination of high-country grazing in the late 1960s when the area was declared a national park. One place of colour and action was the Rules Point Hotel. Located near the southern end of the plain, the hotel began in 1910 as a guesthouse run by George and Ida Harris. They were joined by Mrs Zillah F. Cooke, and a publican’s licence was obtained in 1915. Buildings were of weatherboard and iron and the hotel interior was lined with pressed tin. Zillah’s sister, Mrs M. Bruce, eventually replaced the Harrises, after which Gordon McDonald then ran the place. The hotel licence was lost in 1936 and the business reverted to a guesthouse. Harry and Edna Prosser operated it until the 1960s. Acting as the area’s social hub, the greatest claim to fame of the Rules Point guesthouse was as the setting for the annual sports day. That was when the horse culture expressed itself, especially among the summer stockmen. There were races, jumps and rodeos, with proceeds going to the Tumut Hospital. Duncan Prosser told me how men would come “from all over the mountains” for the big event, which lasted several days. (The hangovers lasted longer.) Dances were held in the large garage adjacent to the pub, with local Bert Russell and his band providing the music for many of them. Rules Point was demolished in the 1960s and only few foundations remain.


Long Plain is one of several frost hollows in Kosciuszko National Park and its surrounds. Also known as cold air drainage basins, frost hollows are naturally occurring treeless plains that form when frosty air accumulates in low-lying areas and prevents the growth of tree seedlings. The frost-prone plains are surrounded by an inverted treeline of black sallee and snow gums, which grow on ridges above the valley. Long Plain is about 30km long, stretching from Bullocks Hill in the south to Peppercorn Hill in the north, the latter being the headwaters of the Murrumbidgee River. In winter the plain is blanketed in snow, but in summer it’s a vibrant mix of alpine daisies, eyebrights and sunrays.

Grazing, which was vital for the area’s economy, began in the 1830s and further up the plain a large slab building had been built by the 1860s. This was extended with a weatherboard hut before 1908. Sheep magnate A.B. Triggs sold the lease in 1912 to Frederick Campbell of Yarralumla, a major shareholder of the Riverina property Cooinbil who also owned nearby Coolamine in the mountains. Frederick was looking for extra summer grazing in the mountains, and the hut became known as Cooinbil. Many of the leases were held by big western NSW properties until the 1940s, when they were split up and redistributed to smaller local graziers. This happened at Cooinbil too, and grazing continued until its termination in the late 1960s. Today, Cooinbil is a significant hut at Long Plain, visited by bushwalkers and horseriders, as well as skiers in a good year. 

In 1987 an adjacent black sallee tree fell onto the hut causing considerable damage. Volunteers now care for the building, and for many other historic huts. Falling trees are not the only risk for the high-country huts; bushfires are a constant threat and, sadly, those close to roads are often vandalised. Long Plain Hut has certainly suffered its share of deliberate damage. Much repair and continuing maintenance work at Long Plain and elsewhere is carried out by the dedicated volunteer caretakers connected with the Kosciuszko Huts Association, and by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

It is near the northern end of Long Plain that the Murrumbidgee River has its birthplace. The river starts its convoluted path near Peppercorn Hill, which is about twice as high as Canberra’s Black Mountain. Quite close to that birthplace was another of the area’s old huts, Pethers. Built in the late 1800s for Arthur Pether of Goobarragandra station, the hut was built of logs, a rare building material in the region. Located on the western edge of the plain and marking the alignment of the original track, there are a few remains today. A grave nearby has been marked by local historians.

Whispers of a long history make Long Plain an important place in Kosciuszko NP.