The Value of Nature – Mallacoota

The southeastern most tip of Australia provides a wealth of history, knowledge and enjoyment. Gippsland is the area and if you check good’ol Google maps you’ll find the Mallacoota Inlet (map). Situated just south of the New South Wales and Victorian border, the Mallacoota Inlet displays stunning sights and boasts numerous fun activities but it’s importance lies in the function it serves to the environment.

From Melbourne, Victoria, one would drive the M1 out of town to which it turns into the A1 at Traralgon. Follow the A1 southeast towards the Bass Strait and you’ll hit another choice coastal town Lakes Entrance. But the drive from Lakes Entrance through the warm temperate rainforest to Mallacoota challenges the driver and delights their passengers. With many protected parks and areas, southeast Australia still gives a glimpse of eco-systems surviving hundreds if not thousands of years. Twist and turn northeast past Lind National Park and through Alfred National Park and you will come to a t-junction at Genoa. Take that right…

…and continue east on C6117 or Mallacoota Road. But before you get to the promised land, make a quick 5km turn-off on Gypsy Point Road towards the Point. And take about a few hours to help in your understanding of how the Inlet works. Be sure to wander to find Australia’s iconic kangaroos on display.  Once you get to the point you can take a slow boat tour or canoe to the tributary where the Genoa and the Wallagaraugh Rivers meet. It is here where you start to see the area take shape. Both rivers combine into one, twist southeast to form the “top lake” then dispense through the “narrows” into the larger and main “bottom lake.” It is on the southwest shore of the lower lake you’ll find the town Mallacoota.

Adam, Michael and I arrived at Mallacoota March 9th after a week torrential rain. Our timing couldn’t have been more perfect: a chance to see the beauty of the Inlet at work. We set camp at the Foreshore Camping Park and perused the park which is situated right on the Inlet. Clearly, the remnants of the rain still showed as the shore line was flooded to about 4-5 meters (12-15 feet) inland…some of the campsites included. Access to the small piers for boat tours were still closed off as well. The flooding had been far worse a day ago according to some other patrons of the park, but their sites (and camper vans) were on high ground.

Back to our site we decided to hop online to see pictures of the inlet when it is not flooded over. Then looking east we were stunned. ALL of the sand bars in the pictures were flooded over. Not one, ALL…entirely. The bigger “island” in the Inlet was nearly covered as well with the exception of the trees. We knew then that we had to explore and see as much of this transition state of the Inlet as possible.

Our first step was to drive to Basition Point before sundown and get an overall perspective of the mouth. Checking the map again, you’ll see that a 300m (approx.) opening of the Inlet to the Bass Strait (Pacific Ocean). Generally that opening does not swell to 300m but varies on each side from 50-100m and often it just a 25-50m river opening. When we saw it at dusk it was well past 300m and a local police officer had also commented that he’s not seen the opening that large in quite some time.

Speaking of Basition Point, you’ll find a dynamic array of rock formation from thousands of years past. Sharp and jagged yet eloquent, amber and pleasing. You can see the work the strait did on the Earth here…a violent, layered and tempered struggle that has left us with the treasure of it’s remains.

Push me, Pull me

Saturday brought us more insight into the process. The three of us decided to walk out as far as we could on what little of the western sandbar there. We made a good 200m out but no further and the opening had shrunk a bit and moved further northeast. See the funny thing about this Inlet is keeps moving and giving you different looks. And not week by week or month by month, but hour by hour and minute by minute. So at that point we were really seeing the mouth at work. Thousands of gallons of fresh and salt be pushed and pulled in multiple directions shaping and shifting the land below. And the pull was strong enough to pull a carefree (and/or careless) soul out sea.

Moving and shifting, the mouth painted the landscape like a Miles Davis solo off “Birth of Cool.”  Water rushing, fish swimming and Australian Pelicans looking for their catch of the day. Not to mention the foam of this silt piling up a meter high on the beach. Yep we kicked it around a bit…as you do. See the mouth acts as valve allowing water to flow to and from; capturing what it needs to hold for the lakes of the inlet for fish et al. and releasing the excess to the vast entity of the ocean. In harmony.

Fishing? You got it and so much so there is paying industry for Abalone which Victoria government has been trying to balance with its smaller business and recreational fishers as well. Abalone fishing tours started in mid 60’s and really hit it’s stride in the mid 70’s and has remained consistent since then, but the town of Mallacoota doesn’t really get reap all the benefits from it. But nothing is stopping you from casting a line out in the inlet, and if you make it at a time like we did, you’re in luck.

Kayaking or Canoeing? You got it. One can rent or if you were like Michael and I, talk your way into borrowing from someone who has some and is not using them at that moment. I’d return it though, unless you really want to deal with an angry Aussie. And if you manage to get up to the top lake through the narrows go for it. We did not but from what I heard it’s a must if you have a day on your hands (we had an hour of borrow time). But we were able to kayak out to the sandbars that revealed themselves to us in 24 hours. Get out and walk around, just mind the sink holes.

Power boating, water skiing and tubing? Check, check and check. Although we were not able to do any we saw plenty of that action going on. Even in Autumn when the temperatures were starting to chill to 22-25 C during the day. I can only imagine the bottom lake over summer holidays.

And enough photo ops to make your head spin especially when you have a full moon chasing the sun.

Our third and last day revealed yet more of the sandbars and the main island. As if we looked at different landscape and we were. The valve had worked it’s magic and handled all of the rainfall of the past seven days beautifully. Yet the inlet the bottom lake is not overly salty by the strait and the top lake, not at all. A marvelous feat of nature’s flow.

Joe Grez

Joe Grez

Joe Grzesik (JGrez) is still an artist developer trying to keep up with new technologies. Photography still has been one of his strongest passions. However, now his main focus has led him back to music where he teaches guitar, piano, saxophone and percussion privately. Music education can never be short changed.