Saturday, 10 July 2021

Paddling the Groot Brak River

 I needed an outing and this morning I decided to explore the Groot Brak River. Located about 30km from George, the river passes through the little town of Groot Brak. It is a pretty, mostly retirement-and-holiday location.

The river mouth is one of those mostly-closed estuaries. The opening of the mouth to the sea is humanly managed, especially after the Wolwedans Dam was built a short way upstream in the 90s. 

From what I've seen online, the building of the dam has been something of an environmental bugger-up because too little fresh water now reaches the mouth. That's not to only blame the dam. Other human-influenced activities that suck water from the river upstream of the estuary, like agriculture, alien vegetation on the banks and small farm dams, have contributed to the estuary's current problems. This, and the mouth being closed for too long, which results in higher levels of water in the estuary, which is not good for the fauna and flora that live there (and odd sewerage intrusions).

That said, I thoroughly enjoyed paddling there today and I was delighted by the abundance of birdlife.

I set off from the river mouth. There is a large and convenient parking area.

I didn't take many photos on the route upstream as I was paddling into the sun.

At almost 5km upstream, you get to this low-level bridge. 

The water here and in the estuary was crystal clear. What you see here is not reflections but the plants under the water.

The end of the 'road'. This was as far up as I could paddle.

I like close channels so I enjoyed this short section of river. Calm, peaceful and I had the company of a half-collared kingfisher.

A burst of colour from aloes in flower.

Lots of yellow-billed African ducks.

Grey herons (I saw many of them) and some cormorants.

Cormorants sitting on the old metal supports from a previous bridge. The other bridge in the photo is the one for the railway line. To the right, out of shot, is a road bridge and the highway bridges.

The home stretch and nine flamingoes! The house with the blue roof was spotted by Mark on my FB page - turns out that this is his aunt's house. Fancy that!

My bird tally included of grey herons (they seemed to be playing with me - flying up and down), Cape cormorants, darters, yellow-billed ducks, a pied kingfisher and a white egret-something. A real gem was a half-collared kingfisher who stuck with me for a while. I watched him dive and catch a fish too. Spotting two black-crowned night herons was a treat and then nine greater flamingos on the home stretch. A grey-headed gull and a few curious kelp gulls had a good gawk at me.

More than this, I'm super impressed that I only had to look up the grey-headed gull and the half-collared kingfisher in my bird book!

I'll do this paddle again. Soon.

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