The Hairy Man of the Kowmung River

Many yowie witnesses claim the creature resembles a large upright, hair-covered ape or gorilla, but a few describe the animal as being much more human-like. One of the best reports of this type came from Sydney man Gary Jones.

Although he was only sixteen or seventeen years old when he encountered the strange creature in June 1989, he is confident his recollection of its weird appearance is accurate. The encounter happened fifteen kilometres south of Katoomba, NSW, in the heart of the wild Kanangra-Boyd National Park.

The Cropster interviewed him in 2003 and the edited recording can be found below.

“We [Gary and two life-long mates] often go trout fishing in this area called the Kowmung junction, where the Kowmung joins Coxs River just upstream from Lake Burragorang. It takes us six and a half hours to get there – that’s half mountain bike riding and half bushwalking. We stash or bikes in the scrub halfway and walk the rest because it is so steep. The last 1600 feet of the descent takes you about an hour and ten minutes because you have to tack down. It’s very remote and there’s a lot of wildlife down there: dingoes, wombats, ‘roos. In the upper Kowmung you can see platypuses.”

Kowmung River. Wikimedia Commons Image, Photographer Mountain Ash.

“We got down to the river at about 2.00 or 2.15, fished for about an hour and a bit, and started collecting firewood. So we were going along the river bank just up from the junction and my mate said ‘Check that out!’ or something and, lo and behold, on the other side of the river about thirty metres upstream was a gentleman who was not wearing any clothes and who was basically as hairy as you could possibly imagine. At the beach I’ve seen blokes with really hairy backs … well, if you can imagine the worst case scenario – but all over. And I said, ‘Oh, it’s a bloke’, and we had a short conversation and then walked up to get level with him.”

As well as having such a striking appearance, the hairy creature, which had its back to them, was standing in a most unusual pose: “He had one foot up on the bank and one in the water. He was doing the splits – but one leg was higher than the other. It’s a very steep bank and the water there is about four feet deep. He was sort of reached over, stooping down, drinking out of his right hand. So he had his left shoulder and that part of his back towards us. He didn’t see us because we were behind him and on the other side of the river. And there’s a rapid current flow, the current moves the river stones and it’s quite noisy.”

“We walked up to directly opposite and we were only the width of the river, fourteen metres maximum, from him when he saw us and stood up. There was no hesitation. To stand up from that angle you’d have to be fairly well-conditioned … he showed no strain, no effort. He just stood up, very strong and straight, upright.”

“He was very tall, probably six foot six or seven inches and had long legs. I weigh 100-112 kilos. He would have had 10, 15 kilos on me, but he wasn’t fat. This person was solid and his shoulders were big. He could have been a footballer – really wide shoulders. Very muscly; a short neck.”

Interestingly, Gary did not consider the creature’s arms remarkably long: they seemed no longer, proportionately, than those of a large man.

“Its hair was a very dark brown, the same colour all over, until you got to his face … . Have you ever seen a black dog when it’s been in the sun too long – it gets that reddy tinge to it? That’s what his head and beard looked like. The beard and head hair were matted; it looked disgusting – you know – like some of those dreadlock-type things. The hair on his shoulders [ and torso, arms and legs] was about five to six centimetres long [2 inches] … it was thick cover.”

“The only spots that were not covered with hair were the soles of his feet [which he glimpsed as the creature walked away]. And they were discoloured with dirt and mud, so there was really no way to tell what his skin colour was. Even his buttocks were covered in hair. I didn’t see the inside of his hands, but I’d assume there would be no hair there.”

“He had deep eye sockets. His hair seemed to extend all the way down to his eyes, and his beard all the way up to his eyes. I’d never seen a face like that before. It didn’t look like a monkey or an ape or anything. Quite a long forehead, probably twice the height of my forehead. His head looked more pointed than, say, mine, but all the hair made it difficult to tell.”

“I could see the eyes. They were dark, I couldn’t tell you what colour, but they were set well back. I saw … thickset lips; they were a dark colour.”

“He stood right up and looked right at us. He had no expression – just blank. Didn’t show any fear; made no sound. It was quite weird. And then he turned and took off.”

“Now, the bush was thick forest, but towards the edge there was that prickly native scrub that cuts and scratches you.. A normal person would push past it or go around, but he didn’t even stop – he ran straight through it.”

“If you look at someone who’s done weights. They have wide shoulders and, like, a “V” shape … that’s how it looked [from behind]. And solid buttocks – you know how the buttocks of sprinters get really big? That’s what was like – but with hair all over.”

“Our first instinct was to go across and check this bloke out, but when we rock-hopped across we found we had to struggle up onto the bank [that he had simply stepped up onto]. On the bank where he’d been standing there was a really, really strong smell, like ammonia or urine. The closest thing I’ve smelled was a fox in season, or maybe if you go past the bat cage in a zoo.”

“He had probably a fifty metre head start on us, but we could hear him running in the distance and we followed him up the ridge. That gradient is incredibly steep but he could move uphill very, very quickly. I used to play football and we were all quite fit, but we were buggered after going only about 800 or 900 metres. We didn’t have any chance of catching him. On that slope there are loose rocks underfoot and we could hear them rolling and crashing as it moved away ahead of us. We were puffing and panting and we could hear it puffing and panting in the distance. I couldn’t have run faster than I did in those conditions, we were cut and scratched from the bushes and we weren’t making any ground on it at all.”

Kanangra-Boyd lookout over Kanangra Walls and Mount Cloudmaker. Wikimedia Commons, Photographer DX1.

“At this stage it would have been 3.15 or 3.30 and as you get up that side, because the sun sets to the west, you’re on the inside of the valley, so it gets quite eerie … so when we got up there on the ridge we could still hear him in the distance. The urine smell was getting very strong. We got to a small clearing and it got worse. And that’s when your mind starts reeling. You think, “What is this thing? It doesn’t smell too good. Are we going back to where it lives? What could happen?”

“It dawned on me that if we kept going it might be dark before we got back to camp and we didn’t have torches. I said, ‘Look, it’s gonna get dark’ and one of my mates said, ‘Yeah, let’s get out of here – we don’t know whether there’s others.’ Walking down, we kept looking over our shoulders thinking, ‘Is that thing following us?”

“On the way down, on the bushes that had cut us – there was his hair. It had stuck on the bushes as if a horse had gone through – big chunks of hair. Just normal hair; it was coarse, a dark brown colour, about five or six centimetres long [2 inches]. It may have come off his arms or legs … even his buttocks were covered in hair. I wish I’d been smarter and grabbed some of it, but we honestly thought it was some feral guy.”

“When we got back to where he’d been standing, there was that really coarse river sand and there were definite footprints. His feet were probably size eleven, not absolutely huge. You could see five toes; there was a definite heel and an arch.”

“It wasn’t until we got back across the river and sat down and chatted, saying, ‘What was it?’ that one of my mates said, ‘It’s a yowie’ and I said, ‘No, I think it’s just a wild man.’”

“For the rest of the trip we were a bit worried, particularly that first night – every stick that broke or any noise outside the tent, we were quite alarmed. We stayed three days. When we were fishing during the day you could hear, on the ridge line, rocks moving, and we all had the feeling we were being watched – felt eyes on us. It was extraordinary … . We felt uneasy, stayed fairly close together.”

“We’ve been back there most years since and every time I’m half expecting to see this person, or hairy man – which we now think might be a yowie.”

Although Gary finally uttered the “Y” word towards the end of the interview, it was clear that he was reluctant to accept that the creature he saw, though wild smelly and hairy, was anything less than fully human. Readers will have noticed that although he sometimes referred to the creature as “it”and “this thing”, he more often used terms like“he”, “him”, “hairy person”, “hairy man” and “wild man”.

When pressed on the matter, he explained that he was, by nature, “… probably the world’s biggest sceptic. I’d heard about yowies [but] I thought this person had sort of left society and become hairy because he wasn’t wearing any clothes … had evolved to become hairy … or it could have been some wild race of man that was undiscovered – because where we were was about as remote as you could get. It was human.”

It is interesting to note that Gary’s mate, an equally credible witness, was left with a slightly different impression: that the creature was distinctly subhuman and was most likely a yowie.

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