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Stewarts River


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It’s a great feeling setting off on a ‘Sunday drive’ on a Saturday in the cool of the morning with the promise of a lovely paddle awaiting you at journey’s end. Last Saturday was one of those mornings with a pleasant drive down to Johns River complete with George Thorogood & the Destroyers pumping out their classic blues/rock on the CD while the early sunlight was rolling out gently, gradually enveloping  the passing rural landscape in a soft light ( I passed Bad Billy around Kew; he biked it down also enjoying the cool early morning ).  Turning into Wharf Rd. at Johns River you get off the beaten track & a lovely avenue of pine trees ushers you to the banks of the Stewarts River. The air was cool, the light subdued amongst the trees & the water looked secretive & inviting through the vegetation. Stewarts River feels hidden as you have to be on it or alongside it to know it is there. While access is awkard it is well worth the effort as the river is a secluded stretch of water which meanders gently for approx. 5 kms through rural land before flowing into Watson Taylor Lake which opens up before you in all its  panoramic splendour.

At the start of the paddle we headed up towards the railway bridge, a more narrow section with trees leaning across the water & azure kingfishers darting through the bushes. David spotted several together which is unusual as we are lucky to see just one or two individually on most paddles. Dappled sunlight created pools of light on the surface & enhanced the Impressionist like reflections of the trees. Due to the lower level of water up here there was a bit of a swampy smell, but this disappeared once we moved off downstream. There were plenty of fish jumping around & birdsong up in the tree tops. Along the way, nestled amongst trees right on the riverfront was a house that looked like the perfect artist/writers retreat, complete with verandah for morning coffee & an evening wine. It is a visually relaxing & soul cleansing paddle.  Beautiful stands of tall timber are all around, corridor like in some parts, & the occasional fallen tree limbs & graceful tall white trunks added to the overall landscaping effect. It was easy to fall into a steady rhythm which felt in tune with the surrounds. All things considered it is a classic paddle that ticks all the boxes.

Before long Watson Taylor Lake opened up before us with North Brother in the distance. It was absolutely breath taking with water like glass stretching back towards Dunbogan. We all took a moment to just take in the vista ( & a photo opportunity!! ) before drifting out onto the lake itself. We paddled around to our right past Washtub Bay, which was too shallow to navigate,  on to Bensons Inlet, where I spotted a huge Osprey up in the trees, & on to a little sandy beach where we stretched our legs & enjoyed views back across the lake. We then paddled across to & around a small island before heading back up the river & enjoying the river views in reverse. After loading up we had lunch at the little park in Johns River.

Thanks Greg for leading this paddle & to David, Stephen & Bill V for joining us.
The Stewarts River is described as a perennial stream which rises on the northern slopes of Big Nellie within the Coorabakh NP west of Hannam Vale, flowing east by south & then east being joined by the Camden Haven River before reaching its mouth at Watson Taylor Lake. It descends 132m over its 62kms course.

Cheers
Caroline

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Wilson River


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Hi everyone,

Seven of us enjoyed perfect conditions on our Wilson River paddle last Sunday. The water was smooth as satin & a slightly overcast sky shed a different light on the riverscape, creating a different mood. This is a paddle where it does not have to be bright sunlight for it to be beautiful. A dull light seems to enhance the different hues of green & what some might pass off as ordinary becomes extraordinary by virtue of the light & shade, texture & composition.
There are some beautiful scenic stretches along the river’s course, ranging from the tall, vertical white trunks of the river gums which seem to march up the slopes, masses of cascading vines adorning some trees, grassy islands dotted here & there to the backdrop of darker green hills which seem to wrap around the river.

With a good run in tide we had no trouble negotiating the shallows above the cluster of little grassy outcrops round about the half way mark. This is such a pretty part of the river & it was nice to just be able to soak it all up without scouting around all the time for rocks beneath the kayaks! I was surprised how overgrown our regular morning tea/swimming spot has become with most of the river rocks at the water’s edge camouflaged by grasses & weeds. While most got out for a leg stretch, Stephen, Bill V & myself pushed on through a few obstacles & were rewarded with the call of bellbirds, cows that looked like they had been painted into the landscape & some lovely reflections. It feels wonderfully remote up here & as Stephen commented it is these extra experiences that make it all so worthwhile. I spotted some delicate little waterlily flowers nestling atop giant lily pads; they had fringed edges, almost like some orchids. Our paddle back to Tele Point was just as enjoyable with the sound of birdsong up in the trees, a light breeze & sunlight throwing a spotlight on the white tree trunks. Bill W was waiting for us, enjoying a cup of coffee & the weekend papers after paddling up from Riverside. The day had warmed up & we had lunch under the picnic shelter.

Thanks Stephen for leading this paddle.

A little bit of information on the Wilson River & Telegraph Point for those who are interested.

The Wilson River rises on the south east slopes of Mount Banda Banda in Willi Willi National Park flowing south east to its confluence with the Maria River near Telegraph Point. It is 69 kms long & descends 559m. It is named after Lieutenant W.E.B Wilson, engineer & inspector of works with the first settlement in Port Macquarie. Telegraph Point gets its name from the telegraph line which crossed the river in 1869. The river played an important role in the logging of the surrounding forest & there are the remains of several old wharves, the most well know being Log Wharf after which the reserve is named. The first land grants issued in the area (the region was formerly known as ‘Prospect’ ) were in 1832. The present day bridge over the Wilson & above the reserve at Telegraph Point replaced an old single lane timber bridge. There also used to be a railway station at Tele Point but it was closed in February 1983.

Cheers
Caroline

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Stingray Creek, North Haven


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Our paddle last Saturday was on Stingray Creek, North Haven.

Twelve of us enjoyed the morning on the water & Greg led us on a different route, veering west to explore a large, meandering lagoon then rejoining the creek for awhile before veering west again into another large bay just before the entrance to Queens Lake. A good run in tide enabled us to paddle these large, expanses of water, the first home to lovely sandy shallows which nurture juvenile & sapling mangroves, the second sheltering oyster leases.
Stingray Creek is part of the Camden Haven river system. The Camden Haves rises in the Great Escarpment & Comboyne Plateau & flows east for 72.4kms, descending 698m. It is described as a small but scenic river which broadens considerably as it nears the coast. It becomes part of an expansive & interesting waterways system including Watson Taylor Lake. It then joins water from Queens Lake, travels through North Haven & Dunbogan before entering the Pacific Ocean at Camden Head. It is referred to in Wikipedia as ” an open & trained intermediate wave dominated estuary”.

We started our paddle under the ‘new’ North Haven Bridge over Stingray Creek. This bridge cost $26 million to construct & was officially opened to traffic in February 2017. The original bridge over the creek was built in 1925 & was described as a “pack-horse” punt pulled by hand. After this old punt sank, travelling to & from Laurieton reverted to a rowing boat until 1931 when the Humpty Back Bridge was opened to the public.

Our paddle was very easy on the eye & some enclosed sections were quite ‘dreamtime’ with tree covered hills in the background descending down to lower areas of different  vegetation types. There were some lovely old mangrove trees along the way & shallows dominated by  mazes of the pale, spindly trunks of younger trees. Despite knowing that the local suburbs were just behind the tree line, you could feel a quiet solitude & sense of isolation in many sections with simply trees, water & hills all around you.

After exiting the second bay area we headed back up the creek, past two little side creeks which lead back to the lake but were too shallow to navigate. We pulled up for a leg stretch next to one of these creeks on a lovely sandy spot with a grassy area, shade & lovely views back up the main creek. Several black swans were gliding around & I spotted a beautiful white bellied sea eagle surveying our progress from on high. Bill checked out the lake but it was too shallow to get around to Limeburners without going right out towards the centre.
After loading kayaks etc back at the bridge we headed to the café under the North Haven Surf Club where we enjoyed ocean side refreshments of coffee & a variety of burgers which were very generous in their proportions!!

Thanks Greg for leading this paddle & showing us a different part of Stingray Creek.

Caroline

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Blackmans Point


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Hi everyone,

Last Sunday two groups comprised of five paddlers each checked out the Maria River between Blackmans Point & Hacks Ferry…a section of the river that tends to be omitted from our paddling schedule. The five of us who launched from Blackmans Point paddled up river & into the back channel between Boomerang Isl. & the mainland, past The Hatch, into the top lagoon & on up to big log where we pulled up on a white sandy beach ( yes, it’s true!!!) for a quick leg stretch before being driven back into our kayaks by hordes of ravenous mozzies. Just a little bit of background information. Blackmans Point is thought to be named after James Blackman who travelled with John Oxley on his journey to Port Macquarie in 1811. The ferry that used to operate from here across the Hastings River to the Fernbank Creek ramp was the vehicular transport point between Port Macquarie & areas to the north prior to the opening of the Dennis Bridge in 1961. This resulted in a major change to the Pacific Highway route impacting people in Port. With travellers no longer having to use the ferry to cross the river, the ferry was closed & Port was officially by passed. As well as the bridge the project included a 10 km deviation of the Pacific Highway & a 3km connecting road from the old highway to the new ( Hastings River Drive). There were often mishaps on ferry crossings & I have included an old historic photo which shows a car from Sydney that ended up in the river after bumping open the gate!!

The Aboriginal name for Blackmans Point is “Goolawahl”. It is alleged that a massacre took place here between European colonists & combined members of the Biripi, Dhungutti & Gumbaynggir peoples. There is a plaque & three rocks at the Point acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land. I have included a photo of this plaque complete with inscription. I could not locate an English translation for Goolawahl but further north is Goolawah National Park, a narrow strip of mainly beachfront land which runs from the outskirts of Crescent Head to Racecourse Headland where it links up with Goolawah regional Park. Goolawah means ‘yesterday’. I do not know if it is connected with the Blackmans Point ‘Goolawahl’.

We continued our paddle in perfect conditions which was great for Bill V who was giving his new Time Traveller its first long run. We had a great run in tide, calm water & a light breeze. It was interesting to paddle a different section of the river which in this area consists largely of farmland & treelined banks & the odd old shack here & there. It was quiet & peaceful as we had the river to ourselves. We paddled into the small creek which is the only one between the lagoon at the top of The Hatch & the Anabranches at Hacks Ferry. It started with a lovely small bay from which the mangrove lined creek ran off & while it was secluded & pleasant, once again after a cursory look around, voracious mozzies drove us back out into the main river. As we exited the other group were coming towards us. Not long after the light drizzle got a bit heavier & we paddled up to Hacks with an increasingly overcast sky & the rain casting a veil of water vapour over the river ahead; a bit of a mysterious look & another mood of the river. Although not heavy rain, it was enough over the distance to wet us all thoroughly & as it was still drizzling when we got back we had to abandon our planned picnic by the river. A shame as it is a great spot with a big long table. (As Murphy’s Law would have it, the rain stopped & the sun came out about 30 minutes later!!) Not much information is available online about Hacks Ferry except that it was named after the Hack family who owned land on the east bank of the Maria River. The ferry, which linked the east & west banks of the river, was probably built in the late 1800’s. I am still hoping to find some old photos of the ferry…maybe in the local history section of the library.
Thanks Greg for doing the car shuffle for the longer paddle & for leading his group.

Hope you enjoyed the outing.

Cheers
Caroline

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Herons Creek


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Hi everyone,
After closely monitoring the wind forecast for Sunday, 13 of us set off from Lakewood to paddle tranquil Herons Creek ( sorry about the mud & weed but at least we were well protected from the SW wind).
We paddled the short distance across Queens Lake to the entrance & then enjoyed a pleasant 14kms return paddle in this lovely part of the world. It is a wide creek for the most part..as wide as some rivers… flanked by tall trees interspersed with glimpses of properties along the way. Some of the homes have enviable private water frontages to the creek. A big osprey flew ahead of us at one point & there were black swans on the lake, their cries haunting on the wind.
As we got to the far reaches of the creek the going got more difficult with submerged tree trunks lurking just below the surface & other fallen timber. We turned around & paddled back to the 5 kms mark where we got out for a snack & a leg stretch. Bill & I paddled down a little side creek which was very picturesque but choked with fallen timber.
Back on the water we headed for Lakewood & into the S Westerly which was cooling as despite the overcast day, it was still hot out of the breeze. When we got to the opening onto the lake we travelled across in small, tight groups pointing up into the wind which was not too challenging.
Back at Lakewood we negotiated the mud & weed again & after washing down the kayaks & loading them, enjoyed lunch in a shady spot beside the lake with a bit of a cool breeze.
Thanks to those who joined us; we hope you enjoyed the day on the water.
Cheers
Caroline

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