RC logo spacer Waterways east of Esperance

  • Overview
  • Bandy Creek
  • Dailey River
  • Mungliginup Creek
  • Alexander River
  • Blackboy Creek
  • Thomas River
  • Jorndee Creek
  • Poison Creek

  • Overview

    East of Esperance, there are many small creeks and rivers, only a few of which have estuaries. One creek opens to the shore close to the western face of Cape Le Grand massif and another forms a small Lake at Thistle Cove on the Cape. Jenamullup flows to the beach against a rocky headland on the west side of Cape Arid. The flow from Lake Boolenup (just west of Thomas River) and many other creeks disappears in the coastal dunes and rarely reaches the sea.

    Immediately east of Esperance, Bandy creek was an estuary until the small boat harbour was constructed in 1982 and a dam wall built prevented sea water entering it.

    Eastwards to Cape Le Grand a series of creeks drain through the wide belt of Quaternary dune sand behind the long high energy west facing beach.

    East of Cape Le Grand the land rises steeply from the coast to the sandplain of the plateau at about 80 metres above sea level. Here the creeks and rivers have cut narrow valleys in the soft spongolite (Pallinup Siltstone) rock that borders the coast and overlies the harder granite bedrock.

    Between Cape Le Grand and Duke of Orleans Bay the creeks are short and probably only hold water following winter rains.

    East from the Duke of Orleans Bay there are again many short creeks, but here several rivers have excavated deep valleys in the spongolite rock and discharge to narrow riverine estuaries one to two kilometres long. The heads of the creeks are only about ten kilometres from the coast on the edge of the plateau. These are: Dailey River, Mungliginup Creek, Alexander River, Blackboy Creek and Thomas River. The estuaries are all (or shortly will be vested) within reserves; the first four in small reserves managed by the Shire and Thomas river in Cape Arid National Park. Other vacant Crown land from Mungliginup Creek to Cape Arid National Park will be incorporated in a proposed Nature Reserve. The estuaries are in uncleared coastal bush but the tributaries extend into cleared farmland on the plateau though the deep tributary gullies are still largely uncleared. Small dams have been constructed in a number of them. Most of the clearing was done in the late 1950s and 1960s.

    Further east in the Cape Arid National Park, creeks have carved valleys in the granite. Two of these discharge in to small estuaries on the eastern shore of the peninsula: Jorndee Creek and Poison Creek (names that appear on few maps).

    Small though these seven estuaries are of considerable interest, and there should be further study of them. They differ from most estuaries further west being in narrow valleys cut deep through the spongolite and dune sand or, at Cape Arid, in granite. They differ from most estuaries further west being in narrow valleys cut through spongolite and dune sands, at Cape Arid, in granite. In form they resemble the riverine estuaries of the Donnelly, Warren and Gairdner Rivers, but hydrologically and biologically they are totally different. In contrast to the mainly fresh water of the three western estuaries the water is brackish to more salt than the sea.

    In 2005 a project (Our Living Rivers) was set up to collect and analyse data, enabling the Department of Water to monitor the health of the south coast rivers over time and help determine what systems need better protection. In spring 2006 and 2007 samples were taken from the river systems to assess the quality of the water and habitat as well as the presence of fish and macroinvertebrates. Bandy Creek and the Dailey and Thomas Rivers were sampled as part of this project.

    Bandy Creek

    Bandy Creek flows 30 kilometres from salt lake country on the sand plain at 160 metres above sea level and through the swamp and lake system of the lake Mullet Nature Reserve north east of Esperance.

    This creek is no longer estuarine, having been dammed close to the mouth to make the small boat harbour. However before 1982 it was estuarine for perhaps three kilometres, winding in a channel less than ten metres wide between steep banks through the coastal sand dunes. It widened to about 200 metres at the mouth and was closed by the beach, here 100 metres wide and of fine white sand. The beach was low and waves washed over into the estuary. In 2007 the weir that dammed the river was washed away and discussions commenced (2008) about the future reinstatement of the weir.

    Two sites were sampled on Bandy Creek as part of the "Our Living Rivers" project.

    Salinities recorded in the estuary:
    12/04/197111.5 ppt
    03/05/197730 ppt

    Dailey River

    Dailey River and Duke Creek flow in narrow, parallel valleys cut into the spongolite rock, which join one kilometre from the coast. At the coast the river turns abruptly south west behind the beach for two kilometres. It is only this coastal reach that is estuarine, with perhaps a short length of the valley. The greater part of the catchment is in cleared land with only the valley bottoms remaining in bush.

    The northern part of the estuary lies between the high, densely vegetated foredune and rising land with low coastal shrub. The dune narrows southwards and becomes little more than a beach ridge with scattered vegetation, and on the landward side the estuary is separated from a small swamp by dune. Rushes (Juncus) and paperback trees (Melaleuca) fringe part of the estuary and windclipped Banksia speciosa is dense along the dunes.

    The estuary is seven to ten metres wide and two metres deep. It discharges across the beach at the end of the tombolo which connects Table Island to the shore. It is reported to break through the beach frequently. The sparsity of vegetation along the southern part of the shore dune suggests that estuary water may break through further north during floods. The beach faces east and the mouth on is in the shelter of the Table Island and the tombolo and by Mount Belches.

    Salinity of estuary water was from eight ppt to ten ppt near the mouth on 4 May 1977. The presence of shells of the small gastropod Coxiella sp. suggests that the water is sometimes hypersaline. Much decaying seagrass is washed across the beach into the estuary, probably providing a rich food source for the fauna. Fishing is reported to be good in the estuary.

    Access to the estuary is from Orleans Bay Road off Merivale Road 65 kilometres east of Esperance. The road continues to Duke of Orleans Bay where there is a caravan park, general store and camping area at Wharton townsite in the shelter of Mount Belches. The Duke of Orleans Regional Reserve extends from the Cape Le Grand National Park to Mungliginup Creek.

    Three sites were sampled on the Dailey River and Duke Creek system as part of the "Our Living Rivers" project.

    Munglinup Creek

    Mungliginup creek flows in a narrow valley close to the coast and branches into cleared land on the plateau, only the steep slopes and the valley bottoms of the tributaries are still in bush. The estuary lies perpendicular to the coast in a narrow riverine reach two kilometres long between the steep banks. There is spongolite rocks along much of the high east banks. Near the coast the estuary is 20 metres wide and two metres deep, but narrows to less than ten metres towards its head.

    The mouth is within 500 metres of the western end of the four kilometre long, south facing Membinup Beach and is sheltered from the south westerly winds and swell by the rocky headland of Membinup Point. The estuary opens onto a 200 metre wide beach of fine whit silica sand across which it may flow in a flood. But from that position it cuts shallow channel eastwards behind the beach and against the dunes for about 300 metres, at which point it is closed by beach sand.

    The estuary always holds water but the bar is reported to break infrequently - at intervals of several years. When visited on 6 May 1977 the bar was closed and the salinity of the water was 46 ppt at the mouth and 42 ppt 1.2 kilometres up the estuary. River water is always salty and flowing water is a tributary creek had a salinity of 26 ppt. Ruppia and the alga Polyphysa were growing in the estuary and the small bivalve mollusc Spisula trigonella was abundant.

    Access to the estuary is from Daniels Rd off Merivale Road, 77 kilometres east of Esperance, thence by a bush track to the beach at Membinup Point.

    Alexander River

    The Alexander River and its small tributaries have cut deep and narrow valleys in the spongolite rock. In the cleared land of the upper tributaries the steep slopes only carry a sparse cover, with a narrow ribbon of bush in the valley floors. About one kilometre of the river is estuarine and this is in the sponglite except close to the mouth. Spongolite rock outcrops in the beach 200-300 metres on either side of the estuary mouth.

    The valley widens near the coast. Rushes, samphire and dense paperbark scrub border the estuary, which is only ten metres wide. The estuary opens into the deep curve of Alexander Bay, three kilometres from thee western rocky headland. The headland and Ben Island give it limited shelter from the south west winds and swell. The fine silica sand of the beach fills the mouth of the estuary, which is set back 200m from the line of the otherwise narrow beach.

    The salinity of the water was measured on the 6 May 1977 where it was 26 ppt. It was tannin stained with some evidence of sediment. There were floating mats of blue-green algae.

    Access is to the western side of the estuary from Alexander Road off Merivale Road, 85 kilometres from Esperance, thence for four kilometres of eroded bush track to the beach and behind the dunes or along the beach to the mouth.

    Blackboy Creek

    The topography of the Blackboy Creek of the catchment is similar to that of the three previous estuaries, being cut into a deep, north-south valley in spongolite rock. The greater part of the catchment is in bush, only the higher ground of the upper tributaries being cleared. Dunes border the estuarine part, one kilometre long. There is dense vegetation to the east of the mouth against the rocky outcrops in the beach. The estuary discharges across a 250 metre wide beach. The bar is reported to only break infrequently. There has been no monitoring of water quality in Blackboy Creek.

    Access is by a bush track from Exchange Road off Merivale Road, 93 kilometres east of Esperance. This leads to a rock outcrop on the beach 1.5 kilometres west of the mouth.

    Thomas River

    The estuary of the Thomas River opens at the extreme west end of the 18 kilometre long, south west facing beach of Yokinup Bay to Cape Arid. The river has cut deeper into the spongolite rock of the catchment than have the rivers discussed above and the narrow valley bottom is filled with river sediment for seven kilometres from the mouth. The main valley of the river is in the National Park, but the tributaries extend into cleared land on the plateau with the gullies still in bush.

    The estuary is narrow (20 metres) and shallow near the mouth where sand falls into it from a small blowout on the eastern bank. It then widens to about 20 metres for 500 metres before narrowing to 10 metres or less. A small tributary creek flows into the estuary from behind the western dunes near the mouth.

    In October 1971 a salinity of 22.5 ppt was recorded and in 1977 26 ppt.

    The estuary is in the Cape Arid National Park, with a small Shire Reserve on the west bank of the river. Access to the estuary and to the Park Ranger's residence is by Tagon Road from Merivale Road, 105 kilometres east of Esperance.

    One site was sampled on the Thomas River as part of the "Our Living Rivers" project.

    Jorndee Creek

    Jorndee Creek is cut into the granite rock of the east face of Cape Arid, with sandy alluvial soils in the valley bottom. The small estuary at the mouth of the creek is of particular interest as it is the only estuary east of Albany (except Wychinicup) that is permanently open to the sea. It opens eastward onto a low granite shore that bars the mouth at the south end of a small sandy bay and foredune. Tidal flow washes water in and out over the rock bar and carries sand in from the beach and up the estuary so that the water is very shallow. The estuary empties at low tide.

    The estuary is 500 metres long and five to seven metres wide between steep banks with a dense cover of paperbarks and banksia (Banksia speciosa), which block the channel at the head. It widens to about 50 metres near the mouth with rushes and samphire along the shore and a wide flat with Suaeda.

    Water in the estuary was of seawater salinity when visited on 5 May 1977 and on 14 April 1971; this is presumably the normal situation except where the creek is flowing.

    The estuary is in the Cape Arid National Park. Access is by a bush track (two kilometres) off Poison Creek Road.

    Poison Creek

    Poison Creek flows off the granite of Cape Arid, through a sandy alluvial plain, and discharges to the small estuary between low granite hills. The estuary opens across a low sand bar close to a granite headland at the southern end of beach. Fern Creek ends against the granite headland at the east end of the bay but does not break through the dune to the sea. A narrow channel winds from Fern Creek behind the foredune and against the granite to connect with Poison Creek through which it discharges. There are dune rock bars between pools in the connecting channels.

    The estuary is 700 metres long, about 15 metres wide and shallow near the mouth. Dense paperbark thickets clothed the banks near the mouth, but these have been badly degraded by the campers. This area has now been closed and will be rehabilitated.

    The estuary is in the Cape Arid National Park. Access is by Baring Road and Poison Creek Road off Fisheries Road.

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