Last Sunday twelve of us paddled Bob’s Creek from the Queens Lake picnic area in the reserve adjacent to little Wellington Creek.
In what seems to be the new ‘norm’, our paddles are scheduled with the proviso…’smoke & bushfires permitting’!!.
Being on the water can give a false sense of reality of prevailing conditions, & this paddle was an example of this. While paddling up the creek was pleasant & seemingly benign, the whole area is tinderbox dry & the atmosphere has a highly combustible feel to it. The vegetation is parched & fragile looking with trees having shed foliage to survive. Fallen branches & crispy leaves crunch underfoot & the slopes down to the lake & the creek are covered in leaf litter. Many trees bear the black scars of previous burns.
Despite these observations, Bob’s creek was relaxing & scenic as it meandered along. Although the creekside ( & lakeside ) vegetation is dry, the vistas are lovely with towering trees & graceful natural landscaping. The light, as a result of the continuing smoke haze, had a faded & washed out feel to it, the colours not as vivid as on previous paddles. As you looked up into the canopy, many of the trees had large clusters of dead/dying leaves waiting to fall, while down below in the understorey the grasses & other plants were far from vibrant. Towards the end of the navigable section of the creek a large tree right across the creek brought this paddle to a halt. Also in this area, just below the surface & lying haphazardly, limbs akimbo, are huge fallen trees , reminiscent of giants felled in some ancient battle. It was like perusing a disturbed graveyard.
This area has an interesting back story.
The parks comprising the Queens Lake Nature Reserve & the Queens Lake State Conservation Area are relatively long & narrow, stretching approx. 12 kms from north to south & covering approx.. 2449 hectares. Official dedication of the Nature Reserve occurred in stages commencing in January 1999; the State Conservation Area was reserved in July 2003. Most of the parks within it were previously part of Queens Lake & the Burrawan & Cowarra State Forests. The parks lie within the traditional Country of the Birpai People The parks are underlain by a range of rock formations of sedimentary, igneous & metamorphic origin, some up to 350 million years old. The parks protect stands of several threatened ecological communities & the habitat of approx.. 170 species of native animals, including 19 threatened species.
Based on written accounts from the first half of the 19th century, the parks once supported a strong population of Aboriginal people, particularly in & around the shores of Queens Lake. Four Aboriginal sites are currently recorded in the parks & there are believed to be many more within the general area.
In the 1820’s lime was extracted from the area to support the construction of the penal colony in Port Macquarie. The parks also supported a timber industry for 170 years.
In 1818 John Oxley camped for a night somewhere near the current picnic area near the mouth of Waterloo Creek ( where we launch). The boat ramp at the creek’s outlet is one of the few remaining sites where the heritage of the early timber industry can still be seen. Oxley traversed the northern & western shores of the lake & described the construction & use of canoes & bark huts by the local Aboriginal people. He described hunting in bark canoes, one of which he stated was large enough to hold 9 men & resembled a boat. In 1844, botanist/explorer Clement Hodgkinson commented that Aboriginal people living in this part of the east coast had plenty of food, claiming ..”a few minutes fishing would provide enough food for the whole tribe” . No detailed descriptions of local indigenous peoples around the lake were published after Hodgkinson’s 1845 report. It is thought likely that the traditional lifestyles around the lake & adjoining forests were completely disrupted around 1870 when intensification of both settlement & the timber industry occurred. The lime burning industry also modified the landscape & it is believed likely that this contributed to the displacement of the Aboriginal community from culturally important & resource- rich sites.
Management of the parks today is undertaken in conjunction with the Bunyah & Birpai local Aboriginal land councils (Information derived from the Queens Lake Nature Reserve & State Conservation Area Draft Plan of Management) Hope the above information is of interest. I hope bushfires do not ravage this beautiful area over the next few dangerous months.
Thanks Peter for leading the paddle.