Saltwater Creek & Lagoon at South West Rocks

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Well the rain held off long enough for Bill V, Bill & myself to enjoy a very special paddle last Sunday on Saltwater Creek & Lagoon at South West Rocks.

This unassuming little creek is accessed from the beach just below the surf club & is a real gem. It is one of 130 estuaries in NSW & is classed as an ICOLL (Intermittently Closed & Open Lake or Lagoon ). Estuaries like this ( & Killick Creek at Crescent Head ) form the foundation of the coastal food chain & provide important habitats for a variety of marine & terrestrial plants & animals. There are 24 naturally occurring vegetation communities in this area.

The water is a darkish colour as a result of tanin from the melaleuca & other trees growing along the creek, & sometimes in inundated areas. It contrasts with the pale sand & rocks of the beach at its opening. Dunes & rising, sometimes rocky terrain features on the eastern side of the creek with flat areas on the town side. Initial views up towards Arakoon & the hills disappear as the trees close in, only to open up again when you emerge into the lagoon with Hat Head National Park in the distance.

Back in the creek the melaleucas have to be the contortionists of the tree world. Twisted trunks with flaking bark &  buckled boughs reach out across the water like bleached skeletons. Tall feathery topped grasses swayed in the breeze, forming moving corridors while the more rigid grass of the saltgrass meadows formed a dense carpet in places. We paddled under three footbridges & easily manoeuvred our way through the  arbour, enjoying the reflections, the seclusion & the myriad shapes of the fallen trees…a gallery of timber sculptures. I spotted several azure kingfishers darting through the foliage as well as groups of ducks & a lone swan trying to keep ahead of us. As we emerged onto the lagoon, which was teeming with birdlife, we encountered at least 30 black swans. But my biggest thrill was sighting a cormorant rookery on one of the little islands. I almost missed it as their nests & the birds themselves were perfectly camouflaged in the maze of white, bare branches of drowned trees.
We spent about two hours paddling along the creek & around the lagoon, exploring all the little ponds & shallow areas. It is an oasis in what is a popular sea change township.

After our paddle we adjourned to a sunny table at an outdoor café on the main street & indulged in coffee & their all day breakfast.


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