Located approximately 45 kms north of Bathurst, and on the banks of the Turon River, is the quaint village of Sofala which can lay claim to being the oldest surviving gold rush town in Australia.
Gold was discovered in the area in 1851 and a tent/shack city sprung up along the Turon River. The town’s development began with the first Royal Hotel and a general store built in 1851. Reportedly the population peaked at 10,000 in September, and dropped to 5,000 by Christmas, further by 1855 when new gold discoveries were made at nearby Wattle Flat. Today it is a charming place to visit. At its entrance is the restored Sofala Footbridge, erected within the Joyce Pearce Memorial Park, next to the Turon River.
There is a lengthy history on the footbridge illustrated at the Park. The bridge had its origins in England prior to 1860. In 1882 it became the first bridge over the River Turon and connected the police compound on the north side with the court house, gaol and village on the southern side. Use of the footbridge declined over the years with the new police station being on the southern side and the vehicle Crossly Bridge being constructed. The footbridge eventually fell into disrepair, and was later restored.
During a record flooding of the Turon River in 1986 the bridge was swept away and it wasn’t until 2010 it was restored for the second time and placed in its present position. Many people were involved in this restoration. One was Joyce Pearce who raised funds to help with the work required. She passed away in 1998 and the Memorial Park acknowledges her efforts in the early stages of the project for restoration of the footbridge.