Murrah Lagoon

Last June, we had a wonderful day out, exploring the Murrah River and Murrah Lagoon by canoe. We had long wanted to visit this area, as there is nothing more alluring than places, which are difficult to access. In our first two years in Candelo, there was a problem with the access road via Goalen Head, so a visit to Murrah Lagoon entailed a 2.2 km long walk via the beach, north from Goalen Head and back, which really required a full day outing….unless you had a canoe!!

Having recently initiated our canoe locally with a paddle down Back Lake, Merimbula, we were ready and raring to go!! Here is a closeup photograph of Murrah Lagoon and Murrah River from our map.BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0316But first, a little factual information about the Murrah River! The Murrah River drains an area of 195 square kilometres of the South Coast of New South Wales, just north of the Bega Valley. The upper catchment consists of two creeks: Dry River and Katchencarry Creek, which drain from the steep headwaters of the escarpment, meet at Quaama to form the Murrah River, which then progresses 5 km downstream to join Pipeclay Creek, a tributary from the north, which drains the rounded foothills. The Murrah River then flows 12 km through the bedrock-confined valley and state forest to the lowland plains, where the valley widens and the river comes under a tidal influence.BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0324BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0322We dropped the canoe in at the bridge crossing on the Tathra-Bermagui Road, 10 km south of Bermagui at low tide, wading and dragging the canoe for the first stretch of very shallow water, past river regeneration work, with huge wooden pylons shoreing up eroded river banks,BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0332BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0335BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0330BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0699 to a huge gum on the bend of the river, where we joined the main part of the river.BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0342BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0347It was a beautiful paddle down the river, past Striated Herons and Great Egrets,BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0354BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0391 to the lagoon with its perfect reflections,BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0352BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0372BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0394BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0398 and mouth of the Murrah River, where it meets the ocean,BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0433BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0452BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0518 the Murrah Headland and Murrah Beach.BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0418BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0417BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0442 We walked across to the beach to join this lucky Pied Oyster-Catcher and looked north to Murrah Head,BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0428 and south, past farming properties, to the giant black boulders of Goalen Head.BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0423BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0421BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0420 The water was so crystal clear and and a deep deep green.BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0443BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0460BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0583 We dragged our canoe up onto a tiny sandy cove.BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0446BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0467Tucked in behind the headland, on a sheltered slope, right on the river mouth, is Thubbul, the holiday home of well-known architect, Philip Cox, and his partner, journalist Janet Hawley.BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0439 Philip bought the property 45 years ago and built a series of pavilions (detached contemporary bungalows), connected by a central walkway and surrounded by an English style garden, within a spotted gum forest with an under-storey of macrozamias. Other native vegetation includes: Yellow box, ironbark and swamp mahogany; banksias, casuarinas and westringeas; and a variety of heath, reeds and grasses.BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0464 The low buildings and garden blend so well into the landscape that they are in fact very private and have a low impact on the natural environment.BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0546For more information, please see: http://www.abc.net.au/local/photos/2013/01/31/3680300.htm or read A Place on the Coast by Philip Cox and Janet Hawley 1997.  See: https://www.abebooks.com/book-search/isbn/0186430337/.

BlogMurrahReszd50%GetFileAttachment (3) It is such a lovely position for a beach holiday home. Keeping to the beach, we skirted the edge of the rocky platforms to eat lunch out on the headland. In the first photo below, we are north of Murrah Headland, looking back to Thubbul.BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0481BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0540BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0516 We looked north to the water tank and tall pines on the headland at Bermagui in the distance;BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0503 back over the beautiful Murrah Lagoon,BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0565 and south to Goalen Head.BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0555BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0529 The geology on the Far South Coast of New South Wales is so impressive and I love the native westringa!BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0525BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0507 What a wonderful place to spend your holidays!!BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0567BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0495Soon, it was time to return, so we headed back in the canoe, passing a long-time free camping site behind the beach, and negotiating the various channels back to the bridge.BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0611BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0612 It only took one hour and we were very fortunate in that the tide was coming in, so there was no wading at the end.BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0652BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0636BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0657BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0656We decided to explore a little up the river beyond the bridge, past river oaks and grasses, where we saw Pied Cormorants, Chestnut Teals and  Black-Fronted Dotterels!BlogMurrahReszd25%IMG_0667BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0689On our return to the bridge, we had stopped midstream to chat to a man in a kayak, who had been camping at the free campsite on the lagoon.BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0661 He told us a bit about the area and informed us that the Goalen Head access to Murrah Beach (via Hergenhans Road off the Tathra-Bermagui Rd) was now open, so we drove down there on our way south:BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0701BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0704 past beautiful coral trees (Erythrina)BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0732BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0731 to the end of the road and the southern end of Murrah Beach, where a cheeky Yellow Robin greeted us.BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0729BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0707BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0705BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0724 I loved these photos of the grass seedheads and the lichen-covered rocks and black boulders of Goalen Head to the south in the golden late afternoon light.BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0713BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0712BlogMurrahReszd20%IMG_0708It is so good to know that we can now walk up the beach to the headland, though we will always remember our beautiful canoe trip down the Murrah River!

For more on the Murrah River and the surrounding Mimosa Rocks National Park, including its early history, please see  http://www.clw.csiro.au/publications/technical99/tr54-99.pdf.

It is also probably worth, checking out the NPWS Management Plan for Mimosa Rocks National Park, just to the south (Goalen Head), for a review of the local native flora and fauna. See: http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/research-and-publications/publications-search/mimosa-rocks-national-park-plan-of-management and http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/planmanagement/final/20110246MimosaRocksNPfinal.pdf.

Next week, I will be introducing our Drawing and Art Library!

 

Sapphire Dreaming

The Far South Coast of NSW, from Bermagui to Eden, is known as the Sapphire Coast and it is easy to see why, when you view that blue, blue sea with rolling green farmland running straight down to the beach and discover hidden gems like Hidden Valley, which lies just to the north of Bunga Head and Aragunnu, which I covered in a previous post ‘Summer Dreaming’, and which is also part of Mimosa Rocks National Park.BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 11.24.44This magical stretch of coastline from Goalen Head in the north to Bunga Head in the south, can be accessed via Hergenhans Rd, 2.8 km off the Tathra-Bermagui Rd. We first visited this area last May and were blown away by the spectacular beauty of the place. The track through the paddock leads down to Bunga Beach and a small creek, which leads back to Bunga Lagoon.BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 11.39.36BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 11.40.49BlogSapphire dreamg20%ReszdIMG_8742BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 11.45.48Across the creek is a large rocky outcrop, which serves as a wonderful vantage point from which to plan your explorations. To the north, Goalen Head (1st and 2nd photo below) and the south, Bunga Head (3rd and 4th photo below).BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 11.49.54BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 11.50.14BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 11.50.43BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 11.46.19We  started by walking down Bunga Beach South to Hidden Valley and Bunga Head, then returned along an old farm track to Bunga Beach North and Goalen Head.

Bunga Beach South is a sandy beach 1.3km long, and is a breeding site of Hooded Plovers (Thinornis rubricollis). We saw a National Park sign the other day, which said there were less than 50 Hooded Plovers left in NSW! Here are a few photos of our journey down the beach. The rocks and their weathering patterns were amazing!BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.16.34BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.14.04BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.16.10BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.14.41BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.13.38BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.17.01BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.19.41BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.23.54BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.29.40BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.36.32BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.42.07The Southern end of the beach is 370m long and  has a small creek at its northern end, which feeds into Hidden Valley. Bunga Head lies to the south with its hexagonal columns and dramatic cliffs.BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.59.00BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.49.11BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.50.09BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.54.59BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.51.39Hidden Valley is well-named, as it is tucked in behind the northern side of Bunga Head and can only be accessed on foot via an old farm track through regenerating bushland from the Bunga South car park at the end of Hergenhans Rd or via Bunga Beach South. There is an informal old track (3km) over the 127m high Bunga Head, but it is not easy to find and is not promoted by NPWS, due to cultural sensitivitiesBlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 13.01.06BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 13.09.47Hidden Valley was an old farm and its old sheds, toilet and rainwater tank still remain. Past clearing, grazing, fencing and the establishment of exotic pastures, earthen dams and vehicle tracks have destroyed much of the natural ecology and left the area with weeds like Kikuyu, fireweed, blackberries and Arum lilies.BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 13.04.11BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 13.06.56The 105 ha property was gazetted in 1994 under the Coastal Lands Protection Scheme, which was established by the NSW Government in 1973 to purchase coastal freehold properties with significant cultural or natural heritage values. Gradually, the area is being revegetated by native coastal banksias (photo above) and coast wattles. There are also a few remnant Forest Red Gums (Eucalyptus tereticornis ), which used to cover much of the area originally, and a few Cabbage Palms (Livistona australis), representing this species’ southernmost limit in NSW.BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 13.07.43BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 13.31.11We are really looking forward to camping here in Summer. There is a large grassed area and a wood barbecue and the beach below is 250m wide and protected by both headlands from the southerly and northerly winds. Apparently, you can catch bream, flathead, salmon, mulloway and gummy sharks.

After taking the inland route back to our starting point, we then set out to explore Bunga Beach North and Goalen Head.

Bunga Beach North is 200m long and has a cleared grassy slope behind and a rocky reef in the centre. It too has black rounded volcanic boulders. The small creek, which leads to Bunga Lagoon, is usually blocked at its mouth, unless there has been good rain. Bunga Lagoon is home to many local and visiting birds.BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 11.45.07BlogSapphire dreamg20%ReszdIMG_8795Goalen Head is composed of highly folded and faulted sedimentary rocks like slate, siltstone, shale and greywacke laid down during the Ordovician Period (which was 430-490 Million years ago). During this time, volcanic gabbro rock intruded into the sedimentary layers.The aborigines used the gabbro for tool production.BlogSapphire dreamg20%ReszdIMG_8747BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 11.44.12BlogSapphire dreamg20%ReszdIMG_8748BlogSapphire dreamg20%ReszdIMG_8788Today, this gabbro is covered by deep fertile well-drained chocolate soils on the crests and slopes, well-drained loams near bedrock outcrops and poorly drained black earth in the drainage lines.

The original native vegetation communities are thought to have included :

  • Bega Dry Grass Forest
  • Coastal Scrub
  • Bunga Head Rain Forest
  • Coastal Warm Temperate Rainforest
  • Dune Dry Shrub Forest and
  • Coastal Foothills Dry Shrub Forest.

Sadly, none of these original communities remain, due to extensive clearing and grazing, though there are still some remnant Forest Red Gums (Eucalyptus tereticornis). Regrowth thickets of Coastal Banksia and Coast Wattle are reestablishing along the seaward edge of the headland, but the area is predominantly grassy : dense swards of Themeda Grassland, dominated by Kangaroo Grass (Themeda australis) and introduced Kikuyu Grass (Pennisetum clandenstinum). This grassland is highly disturbed, but still significant, due to the restricted distribution of this community in the region.BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 11.43.50BlogSapphire dreamg20%ReszdIMG_8750We have seen many kangaroos grazing (top photo above), but apparently the Eastern Ground Parrot also feeds on the Goalen Head Grasslands, as do rabbits and the odd deer. There are also numerous weeds including fireweed, blackberry, sea spurge and sea rocket.

Goalen Head was also an old property, which was purchased under the Coastal Lands Protection Scheme. The 104 ha farm (Murrah, Goalen Head) was gazetted in 2001 and added a further 3km of coastline to the National Park.BlogSapphire dreamg20%ReszdIMG_8786BlogSapphire dreamg20%ReszdIMG_8782From the headland, there are excellent views north to Murrah Beach ( 1st photo above) and south to Bunga Head (2nd photo above). Murrah Beach is 12 km south of Bermagui, but has very difficult access, due to the closure of the road by the owners of the private property, through which it passes. It backs onto Murrah Lagoon, a 110 ha body of shallow water, fed by the Murrah River, and has much bird life and fish, including bream, whiting, flathead, redfin, leatherjackets, mulloway and the odd gummy shark. It sounds like a really interesting spot to explore, but the only access appears to be by walking north along the coast from Goalen Head. We started to attempt this on our second visit to the area, but it is quite a long walk and really requires a whole day itself. Another hidden treasure, another day, another story …!!!

PS. The featured image on this post was a pod of more than 20 dolphins off Goalen Head.BlogBdayblessgs40%ReszdIMG_8771