Tuesday, 24 November 2020

November 10 Snowy estuary revisited - the other half

Under deep cerulean skies! We finished walking the estuary of the Snowy. What a delicious day it was - sun and sand, lapping water and ocean breezes albeit strengthening as the hours wore on. It was low tide so the vista was totally different to the first half of our walk four days earlier.  

Mud map of the estuary walk

On these two walks we’ve passed through banksia woodlands, salt marsh and critically-endangered littoral rainforest. It’s a precious and fragile environment as is the snowy itself. Since the 1990s the flow and health of the river has been the subject of an intense environmental and political debate. Such a mighty river - we need to protect it. 

What goes down! But we had to get down off the escarpment. 

Across French’s Narrows 

Tall sand dunes protected the backwater of the estuary from the wild Ninety Mile beach. They are vegetated with saltbush, spinifex and pig face. 

Ninety Mile beach on the left and the estuary on the right. 

This Banksia man opened one eye as I passed to check out the intruder. 

Part of the walk is boardwalk, other parts are mattingover sand and the rest was bush or beach

Lots of pretty creatures accompanied us on our walk 

Myoporum acuminatum, commonly known by a number of names including mangrove boobialla. It’s one of the figwort family and is endemic to eastern Australia. 

A heath plant of some species I think

We squelched along the sand to capture as much breeze as possible. Glorious days but getting hotter. 

This opposite the mouth of the Snowy was our turning point on both walks - last time the water was lapping at this tree. 

I spotted this poking out of the samphire. It looked very bamboo-like. I imagine at this tender age it would be edible. 

An Oyster Catcher looking for tasty morsels where last time this was all under water. 

A cute beach cubby

Pretty native geranium

We saw lots of flowers mostly small as they have to withstand strong salt winds. Native geraniums, wee pale-green bells of the appleberry, coast beard-heath.  And this is dainty pinks of sea rocket.
Marshy edges were interest places to scan for plants and insects and other creatures

We saw a few bright pink trigger plants along the track on our way back to the car (we return via the track rather than on the sand as we were a little weary. 

We’ve tasted the merest pinch of its wild and remote journey from the slopes of Mt Kosciuszko to where it empties into the sea. Through gorges, churning rapids and broad confluences with other rivers and creeks which join its headlong rush to the sea. It’s a might river. 

November 8 A wonder-filled, gorgeous, gorge-full day!

It was indeed a day of gorges cut through the landscape by either the Snowy or one of its tributaries. 

First we made a chance stop along the road when we spotted W-Tree Falls off to the left. We climbed over the safety railing and walked to the falls for a look see and I was soon looking for Streaked Rock-orchids. We searched around rocks and boulders but nary a one did we find but we did see other lovelies - leathery ferns and Violet Daisy bush. We were in the Mount Dawson-Plum Gully warm temperate rainforest. Quite lovely. The W-Tree creek - yes that is its name, flows into the Buchan River and eventually reaches the Snowy. 

Further upstream we pulled off the road to walk to the Tulloch Ard lookout (fascinating name which I think means the high hillock and evidently was the Clan MacKenzie's war cry and slogan). This overlooking the Snowy and in the Snowy River National Park. The NP is awe inspiring encompassing some of Victoria’s most rugged and remote country. 

Mountain Grey Gums, Messmates, pepper gum, wattles, bush pea, ferns and vines as you descend to the Tulloch Ard lookout

This mammoth tree is showing healthy regrowth. 

On the lower slopes where it is more exposed to drying winds and sun, Red and White Stringy barks, Silvertop Ash. 

The view of the river valley was breathtaking 

Burnt out forest on the other side of the valley

A steepish track took us down to a absolutely stupendous view - that’s right ‘down’ then we had to walk back UP! But we were ‘up’ for it - but only just. 

Sticky hops bush

Sweet mauve daisies nodded as we passed by on the track 

I love the myriad colours of the new growth 

These stems were the most beautiful shade of mauve

We heard a Rufus Whistler somewhere in the trees and called it closer by playing its call on my bird app (that’s been a real boon)  curious little  fellow (Lindsay’s pic)

Somewhat desiccated fungi growing on wombat poo. 

This blob is a Tubifera ferrugino slime mould and was growing on a burnt out tree stump. May not be pretty but everything has a purpose on the forest. 

A short walk close by took us to an old Mountain Grey Gum which was a giant - you can just see Lindsay’s head at the bottom of the pic.  But then it was back in the car to go further upstream to Little River Falls and Gorge, the deepest in Victoria. Tributaries like Little River, and Suggan Buggan, drop over the hard volcanic rock cliffs creating magnificent waterfalls and deep gorges. 

Little River falls were huge and thunderous 

Little River Gorge. After a steep descent - again! We came upon this view. It was breathtaking.  The gorge is 4km long and is up to 500m deep. On the right of the pic you can see where Wulgulmerang Creek plunges 300m down the gorge wall.

Some 400 million years ago when Australia was still part of Gondwana, this area saw intense and explosive volcanic activity.  The plateau you can see above the gorge is thought to be part of an ancient plain which was uplifted when Australia and Antarctica separated.

Steep drop!

Suggan Buggan mallee clinging to rock face as do some pretty flowers.

We have explored as many spots as we could actually get to along this mighty river which travels ~400 Km from the slopes of Mt Kosciusko to the sea at Marlo. Through gorges, churning rapids, places around Buchan where it has carved great caves and chambers in the rock, a place where there is evidence of human occupation dating back 20-30,000 years. We have seen wider, sometimes lazy places where other rivers and creeks join the Snowy on its way to the sea or meandered in long lazy loops. 

The places we have been are: MacKillops Bridge, Little River gorge and falls, Raymond Creek Falls (when I took my own fall - eek, fortunately with no permanent damage), Balley Hooley, Woods Point, and of course a number of points closer to the estuary. Sadly not for want of trying we couldn’t get in to Long Point, Basin Creek Falls. Managed to wander a little at Ash Saddle but couldn’t make it to Betts Creek where the creek join the Snowy. We didn’t do badly for all that. 

November 6 Marlo - mouth of the Snowy River

We have been exploring the mighty Snowy River “where the gorges deep and black ...

resound to the thunder of their tread” (horses not ours! thanks Banjo but more of that later), and its extensive estuary. First on its western aspect at Corringle where we walked the waters edge until we could find no footholds and could go no further. In the photo above Marlo is nestled across the water. 

A little way inland we passed its huge drainage lake, Lake Wat Wat (Corringle) into which Ewing Morass, a short way along the coast to the west, drains. The whole of the coastal area down here seems to be swamps and lakes where it isn’t sand dunes and rocky promontories. But I wanted to tell you about exploring closer to the mouth of the Snowy to the east. 

We’d just walked onto the beach from a track winding through the rainforest. 

The so -called track was very narrow. 

Someone had left the Skelton of a beach cubby made from logs washed down the river. 

Must have been Mermaids washing day!

Some days later we headed to Marlo to walk part of the 10km estuary walk. I loved this walk because most of it was along the very edge of the water. When I say the very edge I mean no more than half to one metre sand strip on a rising tide! Yikes - we had to retrace our steps later on that rising tide. But hey it’s only water. 

Huge logs lined the shore of the river 

Pied oyster catchers

We walked as far as that next point but then it was pretty much all water

The mouth of the river. 

Silence except for lapping water and the occasional call of the Pied Oyster Catchers and terns and not far off the thunderous roar of the sea on Ninety Mile Beach beating back on the Snowy as it forced its wedge of salty water upstream on the tide. Here the river is held back somewhat by large sand dunes but there’s no stemming the tides. Bass and grayling depend on this mix of salty and fresh water to reproduce. Ah the cleverly wrought balance of nature!

You could see the action of the tide in whirls of foam. 

We were heading to get around that rocky headland with hopes that there would be a little  dry strip 
Time and tide convinced us to turn back eventually and we retraced our steps westward until it almost became a matter of taking a swim. Seriously we were wading in water, climbing through tree trunks and roots, and through reeds. Rather an adventure at times. A solitary fisherman (actually turned out to be two) looked at us mouth agape as we squelched through a reedy patch. He’d watched our progress through the tangled shore and said ‘that was a bit of an adventure’ - probably thought we were mad. With another rocky promontory looming ahead we fortunately found some steps up off the beach and back into the rainforest that clings precariously to the coast. 

This patch of rainforest is the southern part of a littoral rainforest that hems the east coast of Australia right up to Cape York. This southern patch is critically endangered; for heavens sake can we please hang on to the vestiges of our precious flora! From there it was only about 200m to the beast - and food!

It had been a magical few hours and were going back there again in a few days to tackle the walk from French’s Narrows.