Before Christmas, Bill & I did a ‘reccy’ paddle up to the head of navigation on the Upper Maria River.
While many of us have, in the past, paddled up to the lovely deck where we enjoyed a cuppa & a stroll amongst the elk ferns, or a bit further up to ‘John Brown Flat’ ( named for when John Rennes encountered a Brown snake on this piece of Flat land!!!), not many have paddled right to the end, including me.
It is remote & untamed up here, simultaneously beautiful, impenetrable & relatively inaccessible as only wild areas are. However, the prolonged drought has left its mark on this pristine area, most noticeably amongst the wonderful elk ferns, many of which are faded, wilted or dying in the tree tops. Even the normally luxuriant grasses along the river’s edge seem to be browning off.
The whole return paddle from Connection Creek ( approx.. 30 kms) took us about 4 hours with a break at John Brown Flat. When we reached the fork at the top we took the left hand side (the right was choked with fallen timber) which, many years ago, was the site of ‘Mariaville’, & the head of navigation for the early European settlers travelling to Kempsey & the Macleay region. These settlers travelled by way of water transport from Port Macquarie via the Hastings, Wilson & Maria Rivers to this spot. From here they continued on their journey by wagon along Rifle Rd. & Settlers Way ( which are still within the Maria River NP) into Kempsey. While ‘Mariaville’ was surveyed in 1872, no substantial township was ever constructed. Remains of what was believed to be a dwelling were found & recorded in the 1970’s.
A little bit of history for those interested.
The Maria River National Park ( through which the upper reaches of the river meanders) was created in January 1999 & covers 2385ha. It lies within the Hastings/Macleay Important Bird Area; most of the area was formerly part of the Maria River State Forest.
The Maria River rises on the eastern slopes located in the Kumbatine NP near Kundabung. It descends 132m over its 62km course. It was previously known as Maria River South Branch Scribbly Creek (NSW Government Geographical Names Board).
A detailed assessment of the upper one third of the Maria River was carried out to determine if it qualified for ‘wild river’ status. This status requires the river to remain in substantially unmodified geomorphic & hydrological condition & therefore of high conservation value. Sadly, despite meeting many of the required criteria for such classification it was not recommended because this part of the river occurs in 5 different tenures. However, it still looks & feels like a ‘wild’ river up here.
The Maria River NP contains 11 significant vegetation species & 9 threatened animal species. Its natural value includes stands of red bloodwoods, tall grass trees & scribbly gums.
If anyone is interested in undertaking this paddle, please contact Bill to discuss tide requirements as water height is a critical factor due to several obstacles.
(Information from the Maria River NP Plan of Management)