What a top day last Sunday was. It was great that 17 of us enjoyed perfect conditions on the water in Limeburners. Greg’s group of 13 enjoyed a
13.5 km meander through the lagoon areas & Shallow Lake while Bill’s four had a great 27 km return paddle down Limeburners Creek to Saltwater Lake. This area has a great history dating back to pre European settlement ( the known period of Aboriginal occupation is 5 – 6000 years ), through to the exploitation of middens for lime for building purposes in the penal colony to the development of the oyster industry in the 1880’s.
In 1971, Limeburners became the first nature reserve established on the north coast of NSW. In 2010, 9,223.3ha, including the reserve, was declared a national park. Since then an area of 8360ha within the park has been declared wilderness under the Wilderness Act, 1987. (Wilderness areas are defined as large, natural areas of land that, together with their native plant & animal communities, are essentially unchanged by human activity ). One of the major reasons for the declaration of Limeburners as a national park was to protect a butterfly found only in the Port Macquarie area. This unique hybrid butterfly, Tisiphone abeona joanna, is dependent on the Ghanian ( mangrove ) swamps of Saltwater Lake. The park also includes an endangered plant species…Allocasuarina defungens ( see photo ), a dwarf heath casuarina, a species of casuarinaceae or ironwood native to the north coast of NSW.
Most of Limeburners consists of extensive wetland. 70% is identified as coastal wetland & there are eight wetland areas identified within the park. Limeburners includes the coastal strip around Big Hill & Point Plomer headlands, the hinterland country surrounding Saltwater Lake & sections of the heath woodland sandplains west of the Maria River Rd. The park also includes Saltwater Lake, part of the bed of Limeburners Creek & a number of islands within the creek & part of Barries Beach & North Shore Beach down to the mean low water mark.
After departing Tom Dick’s Hole Bill’s group paddled down to & across Shallow Lake & then paddled into the creek proper. The smell of mangrove blossom & birdsong greeted us almost immediately & we saw a majestic sea eagle, osprey & at least 10 azure kingfishers darting just above the surface of the water at breakneck speed. Schools of little fish skittered across the water while in the canopy glossy green elk ferns hugged their tree hosts. I spotted a tiny, fluffy thumbnail orchid on an old branch & the whole environment looked green & healthy. Two young swans stayed just ahead of us for some distance until they found a hiding place amongst the mangroves. We had a quick morning tea stop just past the old camp before the final run down to the lake. The usual obstacle course of fallen timber in this section was not as bad on this paddle & we noticed lots of downy feathers all along the banks. The reason for this became clear when we reached the lake as we were greeted by lots of swans gliding about, adults & juveniles. While paddling out on the lake, Ken & Bill spotted a deer flying across the shallows…as if walking on water…from the island to the mainland. It is always both humbling & exhilarating to emerge onto the lake, after the seemingly endless twists & turns of the creek, & to sit there in splendid isolation enjoying both the beauty & remoteness in the knowledge that very few people get to experience it. But time & tide wait for no one so we did not linger long. As the old scout camp has been dismantled & is now overgrown, we paddled back & had lunch at what used to be Roger & Barb’s morning tea spot. It would be an understatement to say we missed the sight of Roger in his battered old hat & the smell of his billy of green tea brewing on a little campfire. Good memories on what was their favourite paddle. The creek environment changes constantly from closed in areas with old, over hanging trees to corridors of river & grey mangroves, casuarinas, gums & dense back vegetation to open seagrass meadows. Closer to the lake the vegetation thins out, the tree trunks are skinnier & the sky more visible through the foliage. The lake bursts through the tree line in all its vastness & is always a sight to behold. It will always be the classic paddle, or as Ken commented….that’s what I call a paddle.
Thanks to Greg & Bill for leading the paddles & we hope everyone enjoyed their day. Limeburners is special & we are so lucky that it is still in such pristine condition.
Information gleaned from the Limeburners National Park Plan of Management. I have included a photo of a hand drawn map of Limeburners with early placenames which I obtained from the library. Also, a photo of the endangered dwarf heath casuarina.