First found in 1834 by stockman John Bowman, who was searching the Yarrangobilly River area for stray cattle. Bowman found the cattle sheltering by the huge entrance to an unknown cavern, now known as Glory Arch. Other caves were subsequently discovered by graziers and by 1890 the caves had become quite well known and developed into a popular tourist attraction.
The Jillabenan Cave is regarded by enthusiasts as being equally as beautiful as any cave in Australia. Formed some 2 million years ago, Jillabenan Cave is suitable to tour for all fitness levels with just 20 steps and only 73 meters in length.
Jersey Cave is my personal favourite (see general tip) but they all offer something different in the way of experiences.
The thermal pool was built over a hot spring and maintains a permanent temperature of 27 degrees through all seasons. A small wooden pool was originally built over the thermal spring in 1896 and the existing concrete pool built in 1969 when Yarrangobilly was a detention centre.
Algae grows quickly in the warm water and the pool is regularly cleaned. Even with cleaning, the sides may be slippery so take care when going for a swim. You do need to walk to the Thermal Pool, with a choice of a 1.4 km river walk or the shorter, but steeper, 700 metre walk down the dirt road. Either way you go, the walk is well worth the effort and a dip in the warm clear water invigorating. In fact, there's 100,000 litres of fresh water pours through here daily.
You may even hear the wonderful sounds of the Eastern Banjo Frog, sometimes called a Pobblebonk. Listen for the unmistakable banjo like bonk or plonk. The thermal pool is a breeding ground for the Eastern Banjo Frog and is a good indication of the health of the environment and cleanliness of the thermal pool's water.
Remember that even if you take the easy walk it's still uphill on the way back.
It starts beyond the visitor centre and all directions and information can be had there before you start the walk.
From my notes at the time:
"The second day saw us at Yarrangobilly Caves, the main goal for me. You wouldn’t take your caravan down the dirt road but a standard motorhome would be okay. I’d been there, scary this, about 50 years ago with my father and when we arrived at the entrance to Jillabenan Cave it was just as I remembered it. Inside there’s only 80 metres of walkway but it’s littered with varied and quality formations and we had an excellent guide named Neil.
Rosemarie enjoyed the self guided Glory Hole that we did next however, saying that it gave her a “better cave experience”. It certainly was large with over 200 steps and was spooky at times as you could hardly see where you were walking. You almost expected at any time that you might get dive bombed by bats......or aliens!
We walked to the Glory Hole, the original settlement here. Poignant reminders of the past still peeped through the vegetation but the interpretive signs told the full story of hardship.
Henry Harris was a butcher who emigrated in 1857, followed by his wife Harriet and three children a year later. When gold was discovered at Kiandra they moved there and plied his trade after the birth of their fourth child in Sydney and, along with another three born in the Snowys, they all lived to adulthood.
They settled on acreage at the Glory Hole and their house evolved to a 5 bedroom affair over the years. Henry died in 1898, aged 77, in unusual circumstances; apparently, after being frostbitten while riding to and from Yaouk, he succumbed to cellulitis. Harriet died six years later from natural causes.
The house was abandoned when the Harrises moved in 1910 and was used by trappers and prospectors until vandals and then bushfires eventually destroyed it entirely.
Still, it was interesting, and by the time we were finished our pool antics we’d already had enough entertainment for the day.
The walk past the Thermal Pool only takes about 45 minutes return and follows the Yarrangobilly River for a short time.
The caves were discovered by graziers in 1861 and by the 1890s the caves, although difficult to reach, were becoming a tourist attraction. In 1891 Charles Kerry discovered a cave which he named after the Governor of New South Wales, Lord Jersey.
The caves were closed from 1966-1968 while prisoners from Cooma Gaol modernised the facilities. The caves were rewired, the Glory Hole was made a self-guiding cave, new steps were built, and the old shed at the Thermal Pool was upgraded and improved. The area was reopened in 1968 by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife with the house where Leo Hoad had lived converted into an Information Centre and the Guest House converted into accommodation for Park Rangers.
Fondest memory: I figured Jersey must have been a bit special because I could never get in so, this trip I waited an extra day and booked in advance. So pleased I did.
Lorraine and I thought it was the finest cave we had ever seen. Although only 135 metres long with 217 steps it has such excellent examples of a wide variety of formations I would recommend this. Unfortunately the fun police have been in here and the last section, where you used to be able to climb beside some special stalagmites, has been deemed unsafe.
I thought the helictite (random formations) were fascinating; I've never seen so many in one cave.
If you want to take pictures, be advised beforehand that a tripod is a must; otherwise you'll only be left with flash pictures (which aren't the best in caves) or fuzzy blurred shots.