20 January, 2013

Beneath the Barrabool Hills

Saturday afternoon we took off for a second paddling expedition up (and down) the Barwon. This time I had the chauffeur paddling with me so an out and back trip was necessary. I decided we would head upriver from Baum's Weir, aiming for the Merrawarp Road Bridge and see how far we got.
At Baum's Weir
This section of the river travels through farmland and the Barrabool hills. The outcropping of sandstone from which it is formed is quite visibly different in its geology to the basalt which lines the river at Buckley Falls and gives a very different look to the landscape. The local Wathuarong clan of the same name lived in the area and gave the hills their name. At least three meanings have been suggested: oyster, a rounded mountain or a slope down to water. Given the nature of the landscape either of the latter two seem a likely possibility although "oyster" seems the better known.
Looking upstream to the Barrabool Hills
The cliff faces which rise up from the river appear to be inhabited by Welcome Swallows in their hundreds and they dart and dive above the river much like the Fairy Martins down in Reedy Lake. However, somewhat at odds with the rural landscape is the continuous traffic noise from the nearby Ring Road.
Looking downstream
The river channel past the Barrabool Hills is somewhat deeper than other sections of the river which I have seen and reminded me a little of the steeper banks of the Leigh and Moorabool Rivers.
As a consequence, it was difficult to see much of the surrounding countryside whilst on the river and the steep banks made it tricky to jump out and have a look.
High banks limit the view of the surrounding countryside
However, this is a very pretty part of the river with gum trees hanging out from the banks, over the water whilst in several places the river was so cluttered with logs, fallen branches and even whole trees that navigation became a little tricky. None-the-less on each occasion we managed to find our way through.
Dead tree  in the Barwon
We made it comfortably to Merrawarp Bridge - I can find no meaning for this name, indigenous or otherwise - in under two hours and decided we would push on and see how far we got. In the end it was probably an extra kilometer or two past the bridge through more dead trees, past a few fishermen (one in a kayak who proudly exhibited a sizable red-fin he'd caught), several pumps, the odd sheep or cow having a drink at the river and a couple of guys in a tinny, also off for a spot of fishing.
The bird life from what I saw was similar to other parts of the river, with the exception of a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles circling overhead as we reached the upper limit of our trip - the first I've seen. Further downstream I came across a Nankeen (any-time-of-the-day-or)-Night-heron. For predominantly nocturnal birds, the local variety don't seem at all adverse to staying up late in the hope of making a catch. I spotted one during our circumnavigation of the lower breakwater on Thursday evening and often see them during daylight hours around Buckley Falls. This specimen however, was perched in a tree well above the river where it wasn't catching anything.
Nankeen Night-heron
Our return journey was reasonably uneventful, although we did stop off at one point to log a geocache which was only accessible by an on-river approach. This was our only landfall and the only opportunity to have a look at the surrounding countryside which was looking quite dry.
By the time we made it back to the starting point the earlier cloud-cover had cleared and I was able to take a few good shots with the sun behind.
The Geoff Thom Bridge on the Ring Road from the west
For the purposes of photography, paddling upstream would be best done in the morning...perhaps I'd better get a little more organised!


  1. Nice blog Jo, about a part of the river we never see.
    (From a fellow geocacher.)

  2. Yeah, now you can get all the "water-access only" geocaches :-) ... Nice pics (as you usually get)!