About Port Gawler

1 Sep

Dear Reader:

For the rest of this year I will be posting occasional articles exploring some destinations along Adelaide’s coastline. They will include notes on: terrain, vegetation, common animals, history( First Nations and European) and other attractions. Port Gawler is the first in this series.

Introduction

Port Gawler is about 30 kms north-west of Adelaide’s CBD along Port Wakefield Road, Highway 1. The road from the main highway to Port Gawler has some fertile pastureland flanking it as well as mangrove and salt bush closer to the coast.

Fertile farmland on the drive into Port Gawler

 

Terrain

The seafront is dominated by Grey Mangroves with areas of samphire and low scrub alongside. An extensive beach area of shell grit and mud is exposed at low tide for hundreds of metres. Where the Gawler River meets the beach there is a channel. Seagrasses cover the sub-tidal region further out to sea. 

Samphire, saltbush and wetlands

Wildlife

Mangrove stands are important nursery areas for many recreational fish species such as King George Whiting, mullet species and Black Bream. Numerous marine snails, bivalves, crabs, sponges and other invertebrates live in the complex mangrove jungle and seagrass meadows. Butterflies, damselflies, dragonflies, mosquitoes and small spiders are common terrestrial invertebrates.

Masked Lapwing

Bird life in this area is prolific and includes many shore birds such as herons, oyster catchers, Black Swans, Cormorants, ibises, gulls and stilts as well as numerous migratory species including plovers and other small waders from as far away as Mongolia. Warblers, flycatchers and honeyeaters live in the dense foliage of the mangroves and are easy to recognise by their calls but hard to spot. The density of smaller birds also attracts some raptors including Nankeen Kestrels and Black-shouldered Kites. There are foxes, hares, lizards and snakes in the surrounding pasture and scrub. 

Nankeen kestrel hovering

 

Vegetation

The dominant plant in this region is the Grey Mangrove which grows close to the shore and extends into the shallow intertidal zone. The tubular structures that push through the mud are part of the root system called pneumatophores. They help the plant to absorb oxygen. Samphire, saltbush, pigface and other low growing hardy plants are found around the shoreline. Large amounts of seaweed are often washed up on the shore during the winter months. It is dead Posidonia or strapweed, a common sea grass along our coastline.

Grey Mangroves at low tide showing channel and pneumataphores

Mangrove fruits

History

First Nations

This was a rich area for the indigenous Kaurna people whose coastal lands stretched from Port Wakefield in the north to Cape Jervis in the south. They fished, hunted and collected shellfish and crabs from the estuary and used reeds for constructing a variety of products including fish nets and baskets.

Blue Crab

European settlement

Port Gawler was named in 1867 Governor Henry Young most likely for the earlier Governor, George Gawler. It was surveyed in 1869 and a large property of 4000 acres named Buckland Park was established along the river. The township and Lisbon Wharf became an important shipping point for grain and other produce with over 100 shallow draft ships called ketches taking their cargo to Port Adelaide. In 1920 fire destroyed the wharf and it was never rebuilt as a nearby rail link to Port Adelaide was constructed.

Remains of the old wharf system

Other notes e.g. attractions facilities

There is no township only a boat ramp, toilet block and shelter with interpretive information. Port Gawler marks the beginning of the Saphire Coast, a shallow mangrove and mud flat dominated stretch of coastline incorporating the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary-Winaityinaityi PangkaraThere is a nearby off-road hire park for 4WD, motor bikes and go-carts. Bird watching, fishing are popular along this part of the coast. From September to April, large numbers of Blue Crabs are caught in the shallows.

I hope you enjoyed this description and plan a visit to Port Gawler in the near future. Next month’s blog I will return to my personal account style. Until then…..enjoy and protect the natural world and all it offers.

Cheers

Baz

Click on this link and see more South Australian stories and pictures in my Weekend Notes articles

https://www.weekendnotes.com/profile/651267/

One Response to “About Port Gawler”

  1. macmsue September 1, 2021 at 3:29 am #

    Great photo of the Nankeen Kestrel, crystal clear. Your descriptions always make me want to get out and see the paces for myself.

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