Sunday, 27 April 2014

Molonglo River - Molonglo High Plains

The Molonglo High Plains form one of the oldest known world landscapes.

Rising high above the township of Captains Flat, New South Wales, in South Eastern Australia, the Molonglo River has shaped the pastures of the high plains into a single large flood plain.

Initially the Molonglo emerges as a small rocky creek - in dry times simply a series of water holes. Mid-length, around the old railway bridge, below Captains Flat the stream widens and deepens. At Foxlow, a large permanent billabong fed by the Yandyguinula, is associated with the river system.

By the time the Molonglo leaves the high plains at Briars Sharrow Road it is a permanent stream.

After heavy rain or when snow on the surrounding hills melt, the entire plain can become awash with water, closing local roads to traffic - sometimes for a number of weeks.

Rhys Jones, an engaging Welsh-Australian archaeologist, made his home on the plain.  A decade ago, we spent an evening together with a couple of bottles of red, and he talked about the past history of the flood plain and the Molonglo.  He told me that in the surrounding hills evidence had been found of lake-side beaches - evidence that the river occasionally became a permanent lake.  However, the sites also suggested that the lake probably had high concentrations of salt - suggesting brackish water.  Rather than a lake forming in times of relatively high rainfall, it may have happened in times of little rain - a combination of the Molonglo becoming clogged with debris and slow filling from the surrounding mountains.  When asked for a definite conclusion he shrugged his shoulders and said he needed to see more evidence.  I said goodbye to wise man a couple of years ago - at his farm on the plain near the river he loved - and listened to the first people talk of him as a friend.

Near to the river runs a disused railway line.  Recently it has been proposed to reuse the railway corridor as a walking/riding trail.  This would create unparalleled access into the area - and, perhaps, prompt the development of a host of service and employment opportunities.  

Dry bed, tributary at Captains Flat road crossing

Molonglo - old Railway Bridge

Billabong, Foxlow Station

Molonglo flood plain - cloud burst

Molonglo flood plain - snow melt

Molonglo, upstream Briars Sharrow Road

Molonglo, early evening, downstream Briars Sharrow Road

Peter Quinton
April 2014

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