Finding a road to the West
Following previous expeditions, which had tracked the rivers upstream before running into sheer cliffs and insurmountable problems, three men set out on Tuesday 11 May, 1813, with a plan to find a passage to the western plains by following a line of ridges that ran westward between the river valleys.
They were Gregory Blaxland, William Lawson, and William Charles Wentworth.
Gregory Blaxland, who arrived in NSW in 1805, and had a farm at South Creek and was keen to find new pasture for his sheep. He had undertaken several excursions to find a way over the mountains, before petitioning Governor Macquarie for permission to form an exploration party.
Blaxland was joined by William Lawson, an experienced colonial officer with lands at Prospect, NSW and William Charles Wentworth a locally-born European who had been educated in England and returned in 1811. All three explorers kept journals.
The expedition also included a local guide, three convict servants, four pack horses and five dogs. The exploring party had a daily routine. Each morning they left two servants with the horses and supplies in camp. The men then navigated their way through the thick scrub for about 4 - 5 miles, marking the trees on either side of the trail, before turning back and cutting a path for the horses to follow the next day.
It took 21 days for the explorers to find a way through the 50 miles of rugged terrain to Mount Blaxland. From there they could see a vast expanse of forest and grass land stretching before them, rich enough to 'support the stock of the colony for the next thirty years.' (Blaxland, 1823).
But by this time they were running out of food and their clothes were in a bad way, so they returned following their own trail which took them only a third of the time.
The following year, Governor Macquarie, commissioned William Cox to constructed a 'cart road' over the mountains to Bathurst - some 101 miles - which took, using convict labour, six months. When the road was finished, Cox insisted that the convicts be pardoned for a job well done, and each given a small grant of land.