23 September, 2014

Reflections of spring

Spring has finally sprung and the weather is warming up and over the last couple of weeks the weather has been perfect for paddling. Naturally, I've taken every opportunity available to get out on the river. This has so far meant several trips upstream from Baum's Weir to the Merrawarp Road bridge and beyond. The end result is that I have significantly increased my supply of scenic photos which began with a couple of trips upriver early in 2013.
These images were taken near the weir in the late afternoon with very still conditions about a week ago.

No, it is not upside down...
...it's only half the picture...
On each occasion I hit the water at the car park off Cyril Synot Drive which has a small boat ramp and fishing deck. An 800m paddle upstream from the boat ramp takes you under the Geoff Thom Bridge which carries the Geelong Ring Road over the Barwon.

The Geoff Thom Bridge on the Ring Road
From there, it is under the Barrabool Hills in a big loop as the river heads first south then north before curving away to the west and towards Ceres. From this point onwards, the birdlife increased significantly and on my most recent paddle I counted almost 30 different species.
More reflections beneath the Barrabool Hills
The base of the Barrabool Hills
Out from under the hills, the river passes through open farmland and thanks to the weirs and breakwaters below, is wide and deep enough for an easy paddle. The riverbanks are mostly tree lined with sections of reeds and Tangled Lignum in some places.
Between Baum's Weir and Merrawarp Road
Between the weir and the bridge
At the bridge, it is possible to put a kayak in, although there is no formal boat ramp and the area is used by vandals and worse. I believe however, that there is public access to the south  bank of the river via a track which runs down from Gully Road a few hundred metres downstream of the bridge, although I have not used it myself.
The Merrawarp Road Bridge, looking south east
Above Merrawarp Road, the scenery is similar however within about a kilometre of the bridge, the channel narrows in places and obstructions in the form of fallen trees either fully or partly submerged become more frequent and harder to negotiate. It is however still fairly easily navigable by kayak at the present water levels, although this may change seasonally.
Above Merrawarp Road
Above Merrawarp Road
About two and a half kilometres upstream from Merrawarp Road, the channel narrows substantially and things start to get really tricky. On this occasion I left it at that point, turned around and headed for home.
All up, a paddle of about 16km without rapids and without serious obstruction. My next mission will hopefully be to paddle the section of Barwon from Inverleigh down to Pollocksford Bridge.

11 September, 2014

Branching out - a walk along the Leigh

Over the past fortnight, I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to walk along a section of the Yarrowee/Leigh River above the Junction Bridge near Mt Mercer, accompanied by the land owner. I am intending to look at the Junction Bridge in a separate post so for now I will focus on the section of river which we walked along.
The first walk (and the topic of this post) saw us start near the bridge and walk along the western bank for about 2.5km.
The land along this part of the river, despite having been altered by white settlement, retains a wide variety of natural diversity which was eagerly pointed out to us. In addition to the flora and fauna, there are also a number of manmade changes to the surrounding landscape.

Mullock heap
One notable human remnant is a large mullock heap, the tailings from a mining venture along the banks of the river. Scattered through the area are many shallow diggings which mark places where miners have tested the ground in their search for gold.

A natural beach on the opposite bank
The river itself, is narrow and in many places quite shallow, however this can vary depending on the season with river levels rising dramatically and quickly during times of flood. One feature which was pointed out to us was a distinctive ledge which marked the edge of a basalt flow, a visible reminder of the volcanic plains through which the Barwon and its tributaries flow towards the sea.
Basalt flow running down to the river
The Leigh carves a path through the basalt
Further upstream is a striking stand of Candlebarks (aka Eucalyptus rubida) with their pale trunks and piles of bark shed by the tree which cluster at the bottom, giving the impression (according to Wikipedia) of a candle stub. It was pointed out to us how clear of undergrowth the ground beneath the Candlebarks was, in contrast to other parts of the surrounding bushland which were carpeted by grasses and bracken.
The Candlebarks

Although much of the native flora is evident, also to be seen are a number of pervasive weeds such as blackberry, gorse, periwinkle and wattle trees. Whilst ongoing attempts have been made over the years to clear the land of these pervasive pests, nearby crown land has not been likewise maintained, meaning that reinfestation is a continuous battle.
Looking towards the conjunction of Upper Williamsons Creek and the
Leigh (notice the gorse bushes with their yellow flowers)
The above picture was taken roughly near the confluence of Williamsons Creek and the river which above the confluence is known as the Yarrowee River and below it as the Leigh. This was roughly then end point of our first walk.
Our second walk will be the subject of a future post.