Trained as a surveyor, Lawson kept accurate records of compass readings and times and distances travelled, which made it easy for others to retrace the explorers' path. The first road over the mountains, surveyed by George William Evans and built by William Cox in 1814-1815, closely follows the explorers' original trail.
In his journal Lawson documents the daily routine including the trial and error strategy by which they found their way through the rugged terrain.
Lawson's pride comes through his words as he describes vistas previously unseen by Europeans. As a military man he also recognised the value of the Blue Mountains as a potential retreat for the colony, should Sydney ever come under coastal attack.
In July 1815, William Lawson is reputed to have taken the first stock across the mountains. From 1819 to 1824 he was commandant of the new settlement at Bathurst, and made several further journeys of exploration in that area. He died at Veteran Hall, his grant at Prospect, in 1850.
Transcript: Journal of An Expedition Across the Blue Mountains, 11 May - 6 June 1813, by William Lawson
Mr. Blaxland Wentworth and myself with four men and four Horses- Laden with Provisions etc- took our Departure on Tuesday the 11th May 1813. Crossed the Nepean River at Mr. Chapman's Farm Emma Island at four oclock and proceeded SW.Two miles. Encamped at 5 oclock at the foot of the first [Nioji] of Hills-
Wednesday morning 12th May at 9 oclock Struck our Tents and ascended the First Ridge of Hills.
Steared S¼ SW¼ WSW¼ W½ NNW¼ fell in with a Lygoon ful of Large Bushes plenty of good water N by W 1¼ Miles NNW½ N½ at 1 oclock saw Groce Head bearing N by W about 7 Miles distance NNW½N by W½ W¼ WNW¼ Mr Blaxlands Horse fel with his load Encamped at 4 oclock at the Head of a deep gully The land we passed over this day very poor and scrubby,-
Thursday Morning 13th May 1813
At nine oclock again proceeded W½ NW½ came into Forest Land supposed to be about 1000 Acres- with great Quantitys of Indigo growing much such land as Lane Cove- found several Camps of Native Huts- W by S½ NWx½ our progress Stoped by an extreem thick scrub obliged to alter our Course SE½ NNW½ Terminating in deep Rocky gullys impossible to proceed came back to NWx- NE½ NW¼- determined
to cut a Road through this thick bush the Next morning Encamped at four oclock in Forest land found plenty of good water-
Friday Morning 14th May at Half past Nine oclock- left our Camp and Horses with Two men to guard them and Mr. Blaxland Wentworth and Self proceeded to cut away the brush for our Horses to pass and to Examine the Course of the Mountains- kept on what we judged the main Ridge between the Groce and western River. Cut a Road about five miles through a thick brush this is a very poor Rocky and Sandy Country I ever saw with great quantitys of Honey Suckle growing and the gullys extremely deep. Returned to our Camp at five oclock
Saturday Morning 15th May at Half past Nine Oclock left our Camp and proceeded to cut a Road through the brush where we left off the proceeding day Cut about Two miles further on the same Ridge of mountains very Rocky and Sandy no feed to be seen for our Horses Returned to our Camp at five oclock-
Sunday 16th May
Rested and arranged our plans for proceeding on Monday Morning
Monday Morning 17th May at Nine oclock Struck our Tents and loaded our Horses with our provisions and about Two Hundred weight of grass for each Horse and proceeded by the path we had cut the two proceeding days our Course WSW½ W¼ NW¼ WNW½ W1/8 NNW¼ W by N¼ SW½ W¼ SW¼ Groce Head born N by E. Mount banks NW by W W½ SE¼ WSW¼ SW¼ SSW¼ SW¼ S¼ SW¼ W¼ SSW¼ WSW¼- Encamped the Mountains very Scrubby and Rocky obliged to go for water into a very Steep gully abt. Six Hundred feet deep our Horses had no water this Night
Tuesday Morning 18th May left our Camp at nine oclock under charge of Mr. Wentworth and one man Mr. Blaxland and myself with three men proceeded a Head to examine the Ridges of Mountains, and make a Road for our Horses to pass- Returned to our Camp at five oclock.-
Wednesday Morning 19th May At half past Nine oclock. Struck our Tents and proceeded WSW1/8 W½ w by S¼ here is a very narrow pass not more than fifteen yards over, with Steep Rocky gully on each side- ascended a High Mountain W¼ NW¼. Mount Banks bore NW. Groce Head NE. Prospect Hill E by S. Seven hills ENE Windsor- NE by E from this Mountain we had a beautiful View of the whole of the Settlement here we found a Large heap of Stones piled up. No doubt it was done by Doctor Bass some years ago as he went in this Direction- and did pile a heap of Stones at the end of his journey, the mountains here are very Rockey. Encamped at the Head of a small lygoon covered with Rushes. This we
found very acceptable for our Horses we had something else to give them- here we got plenty of good water, went a head to Examine our Road for next day.
Thursday Morning 20th May
At Nine oclock struck our Tents and proceeded in the Road we had cut the day previous, course SE by S½S¼ SSW3/4 W by S1/8 NW1/8 W1/8 NW½ SW¼ WNW1/8 NW by N¼ NNW½ WNW½ Encamped at Twelve oclock at the Head of a small Lygoon about 3 Acres covered with Rushes and well supplied with fine water- our Horses just existed on this sort of food,- proceeded on to Examine and mark our Road for to morrow- scarce any animals and very few birds to be seen- The Mountains here are very Sandy and Rocky covered with thick brush returned to our camp at five oclock
Friday Morning 21st May Struck our Tents and proceeded in the Road we had marked though a thick brush the preceeding day NW by N¼ W by NW¼ WNW¼ SW½ W¼ NW by W½ WSW¼ miles- Encamped at Twelve oclock at the Head of a Swamp about 5 Acres covered with Rushes with great plenty of fine water Mr. Blaxland Wentworth and self proceeded a head to examine and mark our Road through a thick brush returned to our Camp at five oclock-
Saturday 22nd May Struck our Tents at Nine oclock and proceeded in the Road we had marked the preceeding day WSW 1 mile SW1/8 NW by W1/8 W1/8 W by N1/8 SW by W1/8 NW by W1/8 SW by W½ WSW1/8 NW1/16 W¼ SW¼ W1/16 SW by W1/8 W¼
Reached the summit of the Highest land we have yet been on the crown of this Mountain is about 2000 Acres of a heath much the appearance of some of our Heaths in England, Steared S. 1 Mile SW½ over part of it, and Encamped by a fine stream of water. Here
we had a fine view of all our Settlements, our progress was here stoped by an impassable Clift from going either South or West- Mr. Blaxland Wentworth and Self left our Camp with a determination to get down some parts of this broken land. But found it impracticable in some places 500 feet perpendicular here we saw the course of the Western River and that broken Country at Natai the back of the Cow pasters. No doubt this is the Remnant of some dreadful Earthquake- Prospect Hill bore E. Groce Head NE Hat Hill S.E. by S. the appearance of Hat Hill from this Situation has Two Heads-
Sunday Morning 23rd May at Nine oclock Struck our Tents and proceeded NE by N 1Mile NNW¼ N1/8 NW¼ W¼ WNW½ NNW¼ N¼ NNW¼ - Encamped at one oclock at the Head of a Large Lygoon with a fine Run of water went on to Examine and mark our Road for
for next day-
Monday Morning 24th May
Struck our Tents and proceeded N by W1/16 NW1/16 NNW¼ NW½ W1/16 WSW¼ SSW¼ S by E¼ S by W¼ SSW1/8 S½ W 1mile WSW¼ SSW¼ NW¼ Encamped at Twelve oclock at the head of a Large Lygoon plenty of fine water Mr Blaxland Wentworth and Self proceeded a head to Examine and Mark our Road and returned to camp at five oclock-
Tuesday Morning 25th May Struck our Tents at Half past Nine oclock and proceeded W by N1/8 SW1/16 W1/8 W by N¼ NNW¼ W1/8 SSW¼ WSW¼ NW by W½ W¼ NNW1/8 SW by W¼ NW½ N½ NE¼ Encamped at two oclock at the Head of a Swamp plenty of fine water- and proceeded on to Examine and Mark our Road returned to our Camp at five oclock the Mountains much the same we have already passed over very Rockey with thick Scrub.
[page 14] Wednesday Morning 26th May. Struck our Tents at Nine oclock and proceeded WSW1/16 NW¼ NNE¼ NW½ N by W¼ NW¼ NNW½ N¼ NNW1/16 N1/8 N¼ at Twelve oclock Encamped at the Head of a Large Lygoon went a head to Examine our Road. Returned to our Camp at six oclock.
Thursday Morning 27th May
Struck our Tents at nine oclock and proceeded NW by N1/16 N3/8 NNE3/4 N1/16 NW1/16 NE1/16 NW1/16 NE1/16 NNE½ Crossed a large Common N3/4 NNW½ SW1/8 W½ NNW½ WNW1/8 NNW¼ N¼ NE1/8 Encamped at one oclock at the head of a lygoon found plenty of good water proceeded a head to Examine and Mark our Road- Returned to our Camp at five oclock,-
Friday Morning 28th May At half past Nine oclock struck our Tents and proceeded NW1/8 N¼ WSW¼ N1/16 WNW¼ N1/8 NNW¼ WNW¼ NW¼ W1/8 NNW1/16 NW1/2 NW by N¼ N¼ W1/2 NNW ¼ NW ¾ NNE 1/16 WNW 1/8 NW ½ N 1/8 Encamped at five oclock on the top of a High Mountain obliged to go about 3 miles for water.
Saturday Morning 29th May at Seven Oclock began to descend a High Mountain reached the foot at nine oclock got into a fine Country and proceeded NE ¼ NNW 1 ½ miles went through a fine meadow Encamped beside a fine stream of water we have now Entered a fine grazing Country
Monday Morning 31st May. At nine oclock proceeded S W 3 miles west 2 miles. We are now traveling in a fine grazing Country Crossed two fine streams of water One of them running from the west to other from the NE There is no doubt but these two Streams run into the Western River- Traveled on NW ¼ NNE ¼ SSW ½ Encamped on the side of a fine stream of water it running very fast here is a great Extent of fine Forest land and the best watered Country of any
I have seen in the Colony went five miles to the westward- our shoes worn out and provisions nearly Expended Obliged us to Return home the same Course we came this Country will I have no doubt be a great acquisition to this Colony and no difficulty in making a good Road to it, and take it in a Political point of View if in case of our Invasion it will be a safe Retreat for the Inhabitance with their Familys and that for this part of the Country is so formed by Nature that a few men would be able to defend the passes against a large body- and I have every reason to think that the same Ridge of Mountains we traveled on will lead some distance into the Interior of the Country and also that a Communication can be Easily found from this to the Head of the Coal River where to my knowledge is a Large extent of fine grazing Country and it having water carriage from thence to Portjackson which will be a great consideration
Tuesday Morning 1st June
Struck our Tents at Nine oclock and proceeded Home E 1 Mile S 1/4 - E 2 ½ - NE. 2 ½ SSE ½ SE.1/4 - Encamped at the foot of the Mountain we came down on the 29th May-
Wednesday Morning 2nd June at Seven oclock proceeded to ascend the Mountain course ½ mile west Reached the Summit at Ten got in our old Track home came Ten miles- Encamped at five oclock
Thursday Morning 3rd June
Struck our Tents and proceeded home Came seventeen miles Encamped at Five oclock
Friday Morning 4th June
Struck our Tents and proceeded home came Eighteen Miles Encamped at four oclock
Saturday Morning 5th June
Struck our Tents at Seven oclock- and proceeded Ten miles arrived at Emmu Island at four oclock - Encamped on the banks of the Nepean River opposite Doctor Jamison's Tavern
Sunday Morning 6th June
Crossed the Nepean River and arrived at Mr. Blaxlands Tavern at Two oclock - all
in good health.
W Lawson Lieut. N.V. Company