Simon, Anne, Kaye and Stephen joined the locals Steve and Greg for a paddle from Port Augusta to the top of Spencer Gulf. Greg supplied a couple of maps, (so we wouldn’t get lost) with the highlight points marked. We started with the wind and tide helping as we paddled past Matthew Flinders’ lookout at Red Cliffs and under the railway bridge. Then with mangroves on one side and the Flinders Ranges on the other we headed north. Steve suddenly led us into the mangroves, negotiating an obscure entrance to show us the historic salt works.
We climbed a sand hill to find old concrete tanks and a large rusted valve. The tracks around the area were very slippery. We walked around and saw an old flood gate used to control the water flow into the salt pans. Steve also pointed out the directions of major Aboriginal trade routes and the importance of the Port Augusta area as a meeting place for these.
Top of the Gulf
Back in the water we paddled under the ruins of the salt works trolley bridge as the Gulf started to narrow significantly. Approaching the top of the Gulf required single file paddling and careful steering around the tight bends, particularly for Kaye and Stephen in their double kayak. Luckily there was a wider turning area at Yorkeys Crossing. Greg paddled through the pipe under the road crossing and informed us that it was definitely the top as he was out of water. We made a hasty retreat as the tide had turned and we were noticing the drop in water level. We made it past the old bridge without hitting submerged concrete blocks and back into wider and deeper water.
The paddle back saw us zig zag from one side to the other to gain some shelter from the wind which was definitely blowing much stronger than forecast. We also had a much needed rest in the lee of a small island. Lunch was enjoyed at the rail bridge by Red Cliffs before facing the last exposed stretch back to the cars. The outgoing tide working against the strong wind set up rough choppy waves, but nothing we all couldn’t handle. Many thanks to Greg and Steve for escorting us on this magnificent paddle. We covered about 20 km and besides the great scenery saw lots of birds, Great Egrets, White Faces Herons, Pied Cormorants, Hoary Headed Grebes and also seal near the launch.
The weekend was to include diving with the cuttlefish at Whyalla. However, a bad weather forecast caused the Dive Shop to cancel our bookings. Kaye and Stephen also missed out on their glass bottom boat tour of the cuttlefish. We will just have to return another time.