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Where is the Shoalhaven?

by Brett Davis

(This article will make a lot more sense if you follow its story on topographic maps)

My wife and weekend walks coordinator, Karen Davis, has recently begun a long term project - to visit and photograph every trig point in the Shoalhaven. As part of this project, Karen needed to know where the shire boundary actually is - and this led us to some very interesting discoveries.

We will begin at Tallowa Dam, on the Burrier map. The dam was built near the junction of the Shoalhaven and Kangaroo rivers. The shire boundary follows the centre-line of each of these waterways. However, Tallowa Dam was actually built slightly upstream of the junction.

As a result, both ends of Tallowa Dam are in the Shoalhaven, but the middle of the dam is in Mulwaree Shire! Also, although it is commonly assumed that the Kangaroo River flowed into the Shoalhaven River, it was actually the Shoalhaven which flowed at right-angles into the Kangaroo. If you don't believe me, look at the Burrier 1:25000 topographic map.

The shire boundary follows the middle of Lake Yarrunga upstream to where the old Bundanoon Ck once flowed into the old Kangaroo River. Here there is a 3-way intersection of shires - Mulwaree, Wingecarribee and Shoalhaven.

Further up the lake, and now on the Bundanoon map, we find that the shire boundary leaves the old Kangaroo River and makes its way up the old Yarrunga Ck. At the limits of navigation where Lake Yarrunga becomes Yarrunga Creek, the boundary moves from the centre-line of the lake and follows the northern side of the creek, which means that this section of Yarrunga Ck is in the Shoalhaven. However, at Crankeys Ck the boundary jumps Yarrunga Creek and continues up it on the south side. This means that most of Yarrunga Ck, including Griffins Farm, is not in the Shoalhaven!

Further up Yarrunga Ck, about four kilometres before we reach Fitzroy Falls, the shire boundary leaves the creek and heads due East (magnetic) for about three kilometres. It climbs up onto the Barrengarry escarpment, crosses the Fitzroy Canal and Moss Vale Rd, and makes it way to the eastern edge of the plateau which it then follows north for about a kilometre to Mannings Lookout. We are now on the Kangaroo Valley map. From here, things begin to get complicated, with the boundary following the escarpment - mostly.

For about a kilometre the boundary heads east along the edge of the escarpment before descending about two hundred vertical metres down the slope and generally contouring its way east for a couple of kilometres. It then heads directly uphill, back to the top of the escarpment at Blakemans Lookout. Why the detour?

The shire boundary then follows the escarpment edge north for about two and a half kilometres then drops about one hundred metres into the valley, contours south for half a kilometre and then heads east down to Barrengarry Ck. It follows the eastern side of this creek almost up to Belmore Falls before once again climbing up to the edge of the escarpment to follow it south. Why does it have to be this complicated?

The escarpment here borders Hindmarsh Ridge, a narrow plateau which juts southward comprising the Yarrawa State Forest. The shire boundary follows the edge of the Hindmarsh Ridge closely, south past Hindmarsh Lookout and Hindmarsh Pass, then east and north above the Upper Kangaroo River Valley, where another anomaly occurs.

Just before it reaches the creek which flows over Minnie Ha Ha Falls, the shire boundary leaves the escarpment and follows the southern side of the creek. The boundary then crosses the creek before running right through the middle of Flat Rock and crosses the Kangaroo River. This means that Minnehaha Falls and the Upper Kangaroo Valley north of Flat Rock are not in the Shoalhaven either!

Just to the east of Flat Rock there is another three way junction of shire boundaries. Goodbye Wingecarribee, hullo Kiama. The boundary now heads south on the eastern side of the Kangaroo River for a little over two kilometres. Here the makers of the shire boundary seemingly grew sick and tired of following rivers and escarpments, as the boundary heads magnetic east in a straight line for over twelve kilometres. It rises up to the escarpment again, plunges down into Gerringong Ck, again climbs up to the escarpment and crosses the Budderoo Track. It then dives into Brogers Ck before climbing up to Barren Grounds and cutting it in half, passing just to the south of the Natural Bridge.

A couple of kilometres before the eastern edge of Barren Grounds, the shire boundary suddenly turns to the south, but as it nears the edge of the escarpment it shies away from the drop to follow Kangaroo Ridge, paralleling the cliffs which are at times less than 100 metres away. It passes Fox Trig and the plane wreck (both not in the Shoalhaven) then jumps off the plateau and heads generally south, crossing the Princes Highway near Broughton Vale in the top right corner of the Berry map. The boundary then heads for the coast on the Gerroa map, arriving at Seven Mile Beach near the end of Beach Road.

So that is the border of the Shoalhaven Shire from Tallowa Dam north and east to the coast. Now let us go in the other direction.

From Tallowa Dam (on the Burrier map), the border follows the centre (roughly) of Lake Yarrunga up the old Shoalhaven River, with Mulwaree Shire (based in Goulburn) on the other side. It now moves onto the Caoura map, but once we reach the first rapid near Fossickers Flat, the border moves to the south bank of the river and stays there all through the Touga map until we reach the Endrick River on the Nerriga map. This means that the Shoalhaven River upstream of Fossickers Flat is not actually in the Shoalhaven Shire! And neither are the Great Horseshoe Bend, Little Horseshoe Bend or the Blockup Gorge! The border jumps across the mouth of the Endrick River and turns away from the Shoalhaven River forever, now heading up the west bank of the Endrick. We now leave our common border with Mulwaree Shire and find a new neighbour - the Palerang Shire (formerly Tallaganda Shire - it changed in 2004).

The west bank of the Endrick River is followed for many convoluted kilometres, climbing Endrick Falls and crossing Braidwood Road not far from Bulee Gap. The border continues up the west side of the Endrick until we reach the Endrick map, where for no apparent reason it suddenly appears on the eastern side of the river. It passes close to Michael Dowling's Hut (now restored and operating as a B&B - the Stone House - and incidentally, not in the Shoalhaven Shire). It passes Quilty's Clearing then bids the Endrick River goodbye, preferring instead to hug the eastern bank of Vines Creek for a couple of kilometres.

A short distance up Vines Creek, the border grows tired of following watercourses. It now follows the edge of the Galbraith Plateau, passing Piercy's Clearing and skirting the eastern side of the Vines. Here, the border does a weird and wonderful thing - it suddenly acquires a liking for high ground and follows an amazing journey through the Budawangs.

From the Vines, the border follows the small spur to the top of a knoll (which is skirted when hiking to the Bora Ground) then cuts across the intervening saddle and climbs up onto the top of Quilty's Mountain. It follows a ridge to the Endrick Trig, then heads south across the high ground before jumping off the mountain and heading SSW to a small knoll not far from Styles Creek. It then heads for Hidden Valley before climbing up onto Sturgiss Mountain, crossing the 848m high point, then bisecting Pagoda Rocks.

The border then skirts the swamp at the headwaters of Styles Creek before climbing and bisecting Mt Haughton, crossing the saddle to Mt Tarn, and bisecting it as well. It jumps off the mountain from the high point on the western side and follows the spur down towards the Bibbenluke camping area, then climbs up onto the top of Bibbenluke Mountain, cutting it into two, and jumping off the western end to follow the high ground past the headwaters of Burrumbeet Brook and Yurnga Lookout. Corang Peak is the next summit climbed by the border which then heads across Korra Hill before descending to skirt Cockpit Swamp via Snedden's Pass. It then climbs up a spur over Wog Wog Mountain and follows the high points of the Budawang Range south over Mt Currockbilly and Mt Budawang (the highest point in the Shoalhaven Shire).

So what does this all mean? For a start it means that half of the Budawangs is in the Shoalhaven Shire and half is not. It means that some parts of the mountains Quilty, Sturgiss, Haughton, Tarn, Bibbenluke, Corang, Wog Wog, Currockbilly and Budawang are in the Shoalhaven, and some parts are not.

One could well ask why this amazing route through the Budawangs was chosen? Russ Evans, former surveyor with the Shoalhaven City Council, has advised me that I should not look for logic in the decisions made regarding the boundary of the Shoalhaven Shire, but regardless of this, there does seem to be a method in this madness - the border follows the watershed!

Rain falling on the Shoalhaven side of this section of the boundary eventually finds its way into the Clyde River, via Camping Rock Creek, Kilpatrick Creek, Hollands Creek, Angel Creek, Viney Creek or Yadboro Creek. Rain falling on the other side of the boundary eventually finds its way into the Shoalhaven River, via Goodsell Creek, the Corang River, Styles Creek or Sallee Creek.

However, this state of affairs is rather strange. It means that rain falling in the Shoalhaven Shire ends up in the Clyde River which flows into the sea at Bateman's Bay, which is in the Eurobodalla Shire, and rain falling outside the Shoalhaven ends up in the Shoalhaven River which flows into the sea at Crookhaven Heads, inside the Shoalhaven Shire. (Actually, the water falling outside the Shoalhaven ends up in the Shoalhaven River and Lake Yarrunga, and from there it gets pumped to Sydney and flows into the sea via a plethora of sewerage treatment plants).

So what happens to the border south of Mt Budawang? Having passed the highest point in the Shoalhaven, with no more peaks left to conquer, the border drops into Currowan Creek and follows the north bank down to the Clyde River. It then follows the Clyde upstream to Cockwhy Creek, then follows the creek eastwards until it hits the Old Princes Highway. This is followed south to the new Princes Highway, then south on the east side of the highway to Benandarah Creek. The border then follows the north side of the creek until it flows into Durras Lake, following the edge of the lake to the village of Durras North and then heading east across the beach to the sea.

And so, we have travelled from Tallowa Dam through the intricacies of Kangaroo Valley to the coast north of Shoalhaven Heads. We have travelled from Tallowa Dam via the Shoalhaven and Endrick Rivers to the intricacies of the Budawangs before following rivers, creeks and lakes to the sea north of Durras.

So, have we come to the end of our journey? No way! Let us now look at the forgotten border of the Shoalhaven Shire ...

In the winter edition of the Ettremist we followed the northern boundary of the Shoalhaven Shire along rivers, escarpments, compass bearings and spurs on its amazing journey from Tallowa Dam until it hits the ocean at Seven Mile Beach. In the Spring Ettremist we again started from Tallowa Dam and followed the western and southern borders of the Shoalhaven on an equally startling trip along rivers, watersheds, mountain tops, old highways and the northern side of Durras Lake until we reached the ocean again, this time on the beach at North Durras.

So how can there be a third part to the series? We have completely surrounded the Shoalhaven Shire, haven't we? In this article we will look at the forgotten Shoalhaven Shire boundary - the one that separates the Shoalhaven from the ACT. Let's take a drive to Callala Beach on the north shore of Jervis Bay. Once there, we stroll east along the beach to Carama Inlet. The tide is dead low, so we cross the inlet and walk south along Chinamans Beach towards Green Island. Our first step off the sand onto the rock of Green Point is a step which takes us from the Shoalhaven into Commonwealth territory!

The boundary follows the edge of a swampy area behind the beach for about a kilometre before heading magnetic east (all directions from now on will be magnetic) for about two hundred metres then south-east for not much more than one hundred metres. We are now on the northern side of the little known Mount Jervis, elevation a tad over twenty metres.

From here the boundary swings dramatically a bit east of north, dead straight for about one and a half kilometres before pulling up on the south side of the Currarong Road. It turns right and follows the road for one kilometre before heading south for two and a half kilometres to a spot in the middle of nowhere, less than a kilometre from Long Beach. A ninety degree right hand turn has the boundary heading for Montagu Point on Jervis Bay, at the rocky northern end of Long Beach, only about one and a half kilometres from where it started.

Here the boundary stops! Why has this chunk of land been clipped off the Shoalhaven Shire? A hint to the answer might be found on the topo map which shows two small concentric circles in the middle of this area, marked as "bombing target". Continuing our walk south along the Bay, we take Long Beach in our stride, clamber past Figtree Inlet and follow the rocky coast south until we reach the northern tip of Bindijine Beach, where we trip over the start of another boundary and fall into the ACT. The boundary heads inland behind the Honeymoon Bay camping area before wandering eastwards and then southish to a point about half a kilometre north-east of where Duck Creek enters the sea at Target Beach.

From here the boundary heads south-east, following a straight line and keeping less than half a kilometre from the coast. Shortly after crossing Cat Creek, the boundary swings eastward for a kilometre, swinging north-east to again parallel the coast about half a kilometre inland. It passes Devil's Hole and the Naval Observation Post on Beecroft Hill before jinking to the left and heading straight for Drum and Drumsticks, still paralleling the coast and keeping its half kilometre distance. Half a kilometre from the waters of Drum Inlet, the boundary heads north-west for a kilometre and a half before finally giving up, heading east across Echo Ravine and jumping into the ocean just north of Echo Hill and just south of Gum Getters Inlet after successfully excising another slice off the Shoalhaven Shire.

(And I am sorry to have to tell you, Karen, but both Beecroft Trig atop the Observation Post, and the Point Perpendicular Lighthouse and Trig, are not in the Shoalhaven ... )

Are we there yet? No way! This is where things get really weird. Let's take a drive to Booderee National Park on the other side of Jervis Bay. Head along Jervis Bay Road and roll up to the entrance gate of the park. Buy or show your National Parks pass, and drive through ... into Commonwealth Territory. You have just crossed another boundary between the Shoalhaven and the ACT. And this one is a beaut!

From the entrance gate the boundary heads west towards the waters of St Georges Basin. Like its cousin on the Beecroft Peninsula, the boundary here is also reluctant to enter the water. It stops short of the water by an extremely small amount, about fifty metres, turns southwards and starts to parallel the Basin's shore.

The boundary follows the shore all the way to the waters of Sussex Inlet, where it turns to parallel the inlet on its journey to the sea. At the mouth of the Inlet the boundary heads north-west up Bherwerre Beach, maintaining its fifty metre distance from the waters of Wreck Bay all the way past Cave Beach, Mary Bay, Summercloud Bay, Whiting Beach, Blacks Harbour, Kittys Beach and Corangamite until it reaches St Georges Head.

Still reluctant to enter the water, the boundary follows the coast northwards, staying fifty metres inland of the cliff edge and ignoring any rock shelfs which might jut into the sea below. It travels past Black Rock to Steamers Beach, rounds Steamers Head, passes Paradise Rock and arrives at Cape St George. Here the cliffs run out, so it follows the rock shelf north to Moes Rock, still keeping away from the water.

Past Moes Rock the cliffs begin again, so the boundary climbs up to the clifftops again, passes the Ruined Lighthouse on its way north to Governor Head. Here it overcomes its fear of the water, and suddenly jumps into the ocean! But not for long! The boundary swims ashore on the south side of Bowen Island, climbs up the cliff and follows the cliffline to the northern tip of the island where it dives from the rocks and heads for HMAS Creswell and Captains Point in Jervis Bay. So, the bulk of Bowen Island is in the ACT, but a thin sliver of land comprising the cliffs and rock shelfs on the eastern side are in New South Wales, and the Shoalhaven. What the ... ?

The boundary takes a short breather at the breakwater at Creswell, runs across the wharf and dives into the water again and swims fifty metres to the beach before heading directly west to meet up with itself at the entrance gates to Booderee National Park. Which means that the end of the Creswell wharf is in the Shoalhaven, but to get to it you have to walk through the ACT. What is going on here?

So what does the strange route taken by this section of boundary all mean? Well, for one thing, if we were to draw a map of the Shoalhaven, it would stop suddenly at a line drawn east to west through the entrance gates ... except for a fifty metre wide slice of land curving around St Georges Basin, Sussex Inlet, Wreck Bay and the South Pacific Ocean all the way to Governor Head. How weird is that?

(And again, Karen, it is my sad task to have to point out that both Huskisson Trig and Bherwerre Trig are not in the Shoalhaven ... perhaps your quest should be "to visit and photograph all the trigs in the Shoalhaven and adjoining Commonwealth territories ... )

And so we come to the end of our "Where is the Shoalhaven" article. What's next? How about a walk along the boundary ... any takers?


(May 2006)

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