Tasmanian Beaches: North West Bay: Snug Beach and Rivulet by kayak and on foot

Not Snug Enough for a Landing

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Snug River enters North West Bay

As I kayaked towards the next headland I couldn’t see a thing beneath the water because of the sea state and I was trying to angle the kayak against the uppity swell. Walking, a path may take you away from the shore. In a kayak, the sea state can keep you at a distance from it too. I was having to focus harder and unlike when I’d kayaked the Tinderbox Peninsula’s eastern shore with numb legs, this time I’d adjusted my pedals too far forward, so the only purchase I was getting was with the tips of my toes. Meanwhile, the fetch was increasing, the water was darker and deeper and the white crests were getting more numerous.  There was a small beach, only accessible by boat, on the northern side of the headland.  Waves were breaking on it.  I’d come back and explore it another day, I decided, because I did not want to risk capsizing.

Snug’s Coastline on Foot

Snug is another place on the Channel Highway that I’ve habitually driven through en route to other destinations, except for once, when we’d walked up to Snug Falls in the forest behind the town one wintery day.  Not once when driving did I bother to imagine what it was like when this area was the domain of the South East Tribe or what impressions D’Entrecasteaux, Bass, Flinders and their crews formed on those early expeditions as they made the acquaintance of this part of the bay, comfortably secluded beneath the Snug Tiers and fed by the streams running down from them.  Not for a moment had I stopped to imagine a fishing fleet operating out of Snug or small freight ships visiting in the early 1800s.  In fact, I had never even connected Snug with the coastline.

In the 1820s  timber cutters did business here and farmers took up land. A tiny settlement began to grow, but bushfires destroyed it in 1854, and returned again on 7 February 1967 to repeat the performance.  There’s a monument in remembrance of those who lost their lives.

It was only more recently, with my attention increasingly focussed on Tasmania’s coastline, that I decided on a whim one day to turn south off the highway to see if I could reach the shore of North West Bay.  I didn’t notice that the road was, in fact, called Beach Road.

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Footbridge across Snug River

It took me to the Esplanade and I found a caravan park, a footy field, a beautiful beach and and a peaceful little river.  I was immediately won over by the way it curved around some lovely cliffs and quietly nosed its way into the bay between beach and headland.  A little footbridge crossed it, providing access to the headland and so, without hesitating, the dogs (on their leads) and I bounded up it.  There was  a light drizzle.  I soaked up the beautiful views. With Bruny Island at the opposite end of the bay it looked like an enclosed lake. There were a couple of yachts on moorings, the water was somnolent and a small motor boat puttered across it.

Snug Beach (T477)

Landcare have been doing careful work here and the beach was almost (but not totally) devoid of litter. It’s a lean beach and I think of it as green hued because of the green river and the thin strip of overlapping vegetation separating it from the road.  There are no dunes, so to compensate there are neatly laid sandbags suggesting to the sea that it keeps back.   Blackwoods grow right down to the beach. Of course, as the sea is swelling, there is coastal erosion because Snug is on a soft sediment plain cupped by sandstone slopes and there are rockfalls on the beach’s southern headland (Sharples & Donaldson, 2014)

Snug beach viewed from the south Y
Snug Beach: the view north
Blackwoods indicate erosion

Evidence of coastal erosion: trees losing their foothold

Walking Snug Rivulet

It was a foul day. Snow had fallen and then settled overnight, but been washed away by rain in the early morning, and apart from being bitterly cold the waterladen sky sagged. Grey misery pervaded the landscape.

‘I think this is a great day to go to Recherche Bay,’ said the geologist.

My preference was to sit by the fire with a book, but I was also curious to revisit rivulets, now in flood.   As we visited previously dormant streams now grown powerful and active,  I recalled the Snug River. This was the perfect day to walk its banks.

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Snug River’s estuary
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The river broadens

We started at the coast and walked upstream around a leisurely bend.  The tannin water, the reeds, and the river widening peacefully further upstream made for a pleasant stroll.  There is a little wetland area with native grasses and reeds and a  white faced heron and a large egret were enjoying the mudflats.  We counted 22 hooded plovers there too and there was pink epacris in blossom, prickly moses, leptospermum lerigium, acacia dielbata, banksia marginata, eucalyptus amygdalina and sag. The multiplicity was greater than my botanical knowledge.

We passed two black pipes, side by side entering the river close to where I was now picking up litter – a dummy, plastic bottles and a cardboard drink container.

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Rapids on the Snug River

Where the river narrowed there were rapids and somewhere along here the path left the wetland and we had to walk along the side of a road.  There were signs about dog control – dogs on the loose have been destructive.  The river is in close proximity to houses and it isn’t fenced.  It’s not just dogs, it’s people too.  The litter up here was disappointing.

A native hen  swam the river, making use of more rapids further upstream, and  as we walked along the bridge on the Channel Highway I saw two tiny black ducklings in the reeds below but could not see their mother. There was a track on the other side of the bridge that followed alongside the  opposite bank and then meandered up a hill.  It was the old main road, we figured, closed off now to vehicles.  We were high above the river flats with a filtered view through eucalypt forest but still we were picking up litter – more and more plastic, more and more styrofoam, all  heading incrementally down to the waterway and on out into North West Bay.

At the top there was nowhere to go.  We didn’t realise we were in the area allocated to the Electrona Industrial Park.  There were houses and a path in the forest nearby had broken bridges.  Old car parts were strewn through the undergrowth giving it an abandoned, somewhat hostile appearance. There was no incentive to explore; we returned the same way and when we got back to the beach we crossed the footbridge and did the headland walk the dogs and I had done before, only this time we carried on walking alongside a seafood factory, wondering exactly what it was.   We came to its entrance.  A notice proclaimed ‘Ralphs’  [Tasmanian Seafood Pty Ltd].  There were piles of abalone shells, a bad smell and a lot of litter.

Another astute business man and this time an Italian migrant success story (if you’re the human and not the piscean abalone predators) because this company had its beginnings when Ralph Caccavo, a prominent Tasmanian businessman, began exporting live abalone to China in 1996. It is now the world’s largest supplier of live abalone caught in the wild, exporting more than 500 tonnes per year out of a total Tasmanian catch of approximately 2,600 tonnes. Ralph’s also owns government-issued abalone catch quotas in Tasmania’  (Company website).

We strolled up to the factory again more recently.  The abalone shells were all neatly bagged up and there wasn’t quite as much litter lying about the hillside.

Abalone fisheries are in decline and several areas have been closed this year.  In the D’Entrecasteaux, there’s a belief that at least some of the reason is because of fish farms.  If a generous proportion of those  2,600 tonnes were still in situ, I wondered, would there be more birds?  Would the ecosystems be more intact?  One of those self-evident questions, really.

Surfing a Following Sea

I rounded Snug Beach’s southern point and turned into the next bay, rather muddy looking and quite triangular, with Snug Creek entering at its northern end.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw a concrete post looking like a monument in the water, but actually just part of a substantial jetty that was now a ruin and maybe a reminder of the days when fishing was more active here.  This was another area I wanted to return to because, also out of the corner of my eye, I saw an appealing boatshed on a thin muddy shore.  But the swell pushed me, this time from right behind, and I was surfing down a following sea, the kayak’s prow burying itself in the wave ahead.  It was getting to be far too full on for my liking and so I turned to face these swells rolling in from the D’Entrecasteaux because at least that way I could keep my eye on them and there was less chance of them knocking me over.

Coningham, to my relief,  was now not far away.

 


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