The Chapman River Regional Park ride is in Geraldton, about 400km north of Perth. Although it is not old rail trail, it does cross a rail bridge from the oldest government owned rail line in W.A., so I have included it on my website anyway.

There is a gravel track following near the river, but also numerous single tracks weaving between this track and the river. The single tracks can contain some short, steep drop offs, some tough limestone-filled rock gardens, and some sand all thrown (be prepared!). But it also gives you some lovely views of the river and little tree lined billabongs. If you are in Geraldton, I can recommend it.

Here's what it looks like:

For safety reasons, the locals tend to ride clockwise direction on even days, and anti-clockwise on odd days. This trail is also shared with walkers, so keep an eye out for them and always give way. There is an extension of the ride that goes on a passed the car bridge at Strathalbyn (the one I crossed on the GPX) for perhaps 1.5km with a narrow bike-only bridge used to cross the river.

At the end of 2016, the City of Greater Geraldton won a $250k grant to instigate some recommendations from a Master plan that was carried out in 2014.  This will involve proper signage, as well as some repair and development of the trail to make it sustainable. Some lesser ridden tracks will also be closed off. The time frame for this is uncertain, but the aim is to make the ride more user friendly. Standby for updates.

To get the full ride gpx, select the "Route Sheets" tab above, and click on the gpx download buttons for each.

I drove North on Chapman Road, and turned right into the carpark of the Chapman River Regional Park – it is  just after the roundabout ( if you cross the river you have gone too far). Head as far from Chapman road in the carpark and you should see the old rail bridge – my starting point.

The Northampton line was built in 1876 for carrying lead and copper from Northampton to Geraldton, a distance of 34 miles (55km). It started at the Geraldton train station, the first government railway station in Western Australia, when the line went straight down Marine Terrace. When a new station was built on Durlacher St (later to become the District Engineers Office), the original train station became the Geraldton Mechanic's Institute Library, with a second storey added in 1908. In 1979 to 2000 the building housed the Geraldton annexe of the WA Museum. When the WA Museum relocated, the old station building was restored in 2014 as the City of Greater Geraldton Visitor Centre. A third station was opened in 1911, which is still served today by Transwa road coach services to Perth, and used for weekend markets.

This was the biggest of the thirteen bridges on the Northampton line. The original timber trestle bridge from 1876 was built with timber from the Mason and Bird mill (see a separate ride) near Perth, and christened "Louisa". It was replaced in 1920 by this existing bridge ("Bridge 9077"), although it was not demolished until 1924. The current bridge was last used in 1957.

The day to day operation of this railway included a locomotive hauling several goods wagons, as well as passenger carriages, with a brake-van at the end. It carried lead and copper ore from the Northampton mine, bales of wool, sandalwood, general goods and first and second class passengers. A one-way trip took about three hours.

The carriages were built by the Metropolitan Railway Carriage and Wagon Company of Birmingham, England. They each had one first class and two second class compartments, seating six in first class on comfortable padded seats and sixteen on the wooden benches in second class. Oil lamps provided the lighting. The coachwork and frame was made of teak,  while the interior and roof was made of pine.

I rode out on the South side first. There is an obvious gravel track about 50m from the river, and also numerous single tracks weaving between this track and the river. I took the single track, as they looked undulating and smooth, although sandy in parts. It got a lot tougher pretty quick! There were some short, steep drop offs, some tough lime stone filled rock gardens, and some sand all thrown. I am mainly a XC rider, plus I had all my cameras with me, so I showed a bit of caution and rode carefully.

There are no obvious route markers, so I was navigating by following:
- the trail with the most tyre tracks!
- keeping the river on my left going out and coming back.
- an occasional blue reflective marker
- some yellow marker tape tied to bushes
but I still think I went all over the place on various trails.

On the north side of the river, there seemed to be a track following a fence line in parts, with lots of other tracks running between the track and the river. Again, they looked inviting, but they weren't always. However, the North side was shorter, generally easier riding, and had some really nice spots overlooking the river. The last kilometre or so in particular was very nice – sweet compacted trail right next to the river filled with water, surrounded by shady trees and with birds everywhere – nice!

The Chapman River's 1160 km² catchment is mainly agricultural area, meaning it has high level of fertilisers and eroded soil. It then flows through urbanised area, so the river is quite degraded. The river generally does not flow in summer, but always flows with winter rains. From the river mouth to about 1.5 km upriver, the river is estuarine , and always contains some water. The mouth itself is usually closed by a sandbar , but this opens if the river is flowing, increasing the river salinity. The sandbar closes after the flow has receded. Following heavy rains in 1986, it is estimated that 39,000 tons of suspended sediment into the ocean down the river.

My start point is near Spalding Park. It houses the Batavia Coast Miniature Railway Society, a volunteer based group that operates the miniature railway.  The Miniature Railway runs along a 500 metre outdoor ride-on-track operating on the first Sunday of each month from 10am to 3pm. They have a variety of locos including two steam powered, two diesels, and two traction engines. Locomotive G58, or known as 'Jardee', is modelled on the original G58 used to work near Quinninup. Cost for two laps around the track is $1 for children, $2 for adults. Passengers must wear fully enclosed shoes for rides.

This ride is close to Geraldton, so I think I had mobile phone service for the whole ride.

This page is the property of Follow My Ride, a website detailing off road cycle tracks near Perth and in Western Australia. This page is on the Chapman River ride.