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The Adelong workings showing the circular buddle on the left. It contained water which rotated in order to agitate the mixture of ore and dirt, this resulted in the heavier and denser material - i.e. the ore - collecting at the centre of the pit, from where it could be retrieved.

Adelong Falls Gold Reserve viewing area
The ore road runs across the back of this photo, with the chimney on the back left. Towards the creek are the races, tailing pits and waterwheel locations
This photo is centred on the lower water race and the rectangular formed building on the left is the remains of the upper waterwheel with the office directly to its right
Close up of the buddle
Looking down Adelong Creek

Adelong Falls Gold Workings Reserve

Latitude -35.296073, Longitude 148.0568

Located in the Snowy Valleys Region of NSW, nearest town Adelong.

Link to Detailed Map

Adelong is situated 14 kilometres west of Tumut. Payable gold mineralisation, both reef and alluvial, was first discovered at Adelong in the year 1857, and the total yield of the Adelong field, over a productive life of nearly 100 years, is estimated to be about 21,234 kilograms. As such, Adelong ranks as one of the major gold-producing districts in NSW.

Adelong Falls is a spectacular setting for its historic gold mining settlement. There are three nature walks which explore the innate beauty of the area as well as its historic remains and gold mines. The Battery complex, with its antique mining equipment, provides an excellent opportunity to see how reef gold was mined in the 1800s. The ingenious application of raw materials and the use of topography to enhance the gold extraction process, also make this a stand out gold mining site in NSW.


Much of the area is underlain by granitic rocks which then go on to form part of the Maragle Batholith. These rocks are designated Wondalga Granite; while at Adelong itself a prominent norite intrusive body occurs. To the west of Adelong is a belt of intermediate to mafic igneous rocks and sediments which extends from Batlow in the south to at least as far north as the Snowy Mountains Highway. Quaternary alluvial sediments are prominently developed along Adelong Creek. The most important gold deposits in the area were those in the immediate vicinity of Adelong, the majority being fissure lodes associated with basic dyke emplacement within the Wondalga Granodiorite.

Physical Description

The 28 hectare Adelong Falls Reserve comprises steep, openly timbered, rocky slopes that fall sharply into Adelong Creek and Sawyer's Creek. A distinctive feature is the presence of a large number of Xanthorrohea (grass trees) especially in the southern corner.

The Falls themselves are situated on Adelong Creek, 1km north of Adelong. The creek passes through a narrow gorge about 300 metres in length and drops about 30m in height over that distance. It is here that the remains of the Wilson and Ritchie Battery are located, approximately 200m along the cascades. Archaeological investigations in 1985 showed that the Battery ruins are part of a larger, dynamically accrued complex of remains that extend past the boundary of Adelong Falls Reserve.

The Battery site comprises: two water wheels with associated weirs, races and aqueducts; a 24 foot buddle (an inclined trough in which crushed ore is washed with running water to flush away impurities); a series of holding tanks; a small quarry; a reverbatory furnace with separate brick stack; a weighbridge; a works office; a cottage with a terraced garden; a metalled entry road with stone revetments; three paths and an unidentified terrace.

Immediately downstream of the curtilage are the weir, sluice and race that powered Gibraltar's works. An unknown battery stood on the upstream margin of the curtilage at the mouth of Sawyer's Creek. Both banks of that creek have been mined for its entire length. Approximately 500m upstream of the curtilage are the stone abutments and iron pegs of a large dam. The spillway and sluice stand on the right bank, connected by a race to the water wheels of the Battery. The owner's house stood atop the ridge on the left bank opposite Sawyer's Creek, overlooking the site.

The materials and techniques used in constructing the site (including the dam and the owner's house outside the curtilage) are essentially uniform. Rough hewn granite, quarried on site, was used for all walls with the exception of the brick stack that terminates the furnace flue. Both concrete and lime mortar were used but timber was utilised sparingly: mainly for races, flooring and mountings. Corrugated iron was the common roof cladding of the time.


Reef mining was well underway on the Adelong Goldfields by 1859. It was at this time that William Ritchie and Scottish-born David Wilson established a 'Reefer Battery' at Adelong. In the late 1860s they moved the Battery to its present location at Adelong Falls (Winston-Gregson 1993: Appendix 3). The Battery and associated processing works were designed to extract gold from bearing ore by hydraulic separation and mercury attraction. The ore was crushed in a stamper battery until it was fine enough to be washed over mercury treated plates which attracted the gold particles. Tailings from this process were then treated in a Chilean Mill and sluiced. These tailings were then ground and passed into a buddle, designed to further separate the heavy metal by agitation. A furnace was also present on the site to allow gold and mercury from the first sluicing to be separated. (Winston-Gregson 1985: 58) This multi-tiered extraction process was designed to ensure maximum return.

The location of the Battery made clever use of the topography. Its position within the cascade zone of Adelong Creek provided an immediate head of water. The slope of the bank where the works stood enabled ore to pass through by gravity feed, reducing the need for mechanical feeders. It also allowed a strong furnace draft via a smoke flue laid up the hillside like a covered drain. The major road linking Adelong to the reefs crossed Adelong Creek at the head of the cascades, ensuring a constant stream of traffic past the Battery. (Winston-Gregson 1988: 33-4)

The Battery opened on 17th July, 1870. The thorough processing techniques and fortuitous position ensured it was an immediate success. In 1881, operations were expanded when the partners bought an existing battery at the head of Sawyer's Creek. They built a dam at the original 1858 Battery site and dug a race to a water wheel at the newly acquired battery. This was a substantial undertaking involving an aquaduct over Sawyer's Creek and a long flume across the hill. At various times there were experiments with silver traps and cyanide processing but the basic design was so good that it always prevailed. These works ran from 1870 to 1910 and they remain one of the most successful operations on the Australian goldfields during the last part of the nineteenth century. (Winston-Gregson 1993: Appendix 3)

Since 1980 the works have been accessible to the public as part of the Adelong Falls Reserve. In the early 1990s, significant conservation works were undertaken on the extant remains (including the stabilisation of standing walls and the clearing of vegetation), to attempt to regain the integrity of the original relationship of the site with its surrounding landscape (Winston-Gregson 1993). A number of mining companies have commenced operations in the area since 1986. Since May 1991, the Republic Mineral Corporation has continued to explore the gold lode in the Adelong Falls area immediately surrounding the Adelong Falls Reserve.The following is a good link for further information on the Adelong Goldfields as well as the source notes from the beginning of this article.

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