We were actually kayaking, but that’s a whole other story! Canoe the Coorong is what Brenton calls his business, started as an eco-tourism Uni project, and now through lots of hard work, and his Nana’s bikkies, Brenton has an excellent, thriving business!
The Coorong, whose name is derived from a Ngarrindjeri word karangk meaning narrow neck, is a vast wetlands eco-system, comprising brackish lagoons, shoreline, dunes, estuaries, and the mouth of the mighty Murray River. The traditional custodians of this land, the Ngarrindjeri people have lived here for over 6000 years, and this area has huge cultural significance to them, with shell mounds and ancient burial sites.
The Coorong is vastly significant as an ecosystem with a massive impact on water supplies that impact human and animal lives. It’s also an important breeding ground and refuge for many bird species.
The Coorong is south of Adelaide, in South Australia, and the Murray River estuary is a part of the Coorong system. The Murray and Darling Rivers, together with their tributaries, drain the majority of south-eastern Australia, and are hugely important in so many ways. Man has changed and regulated the waters to allow for greater production of crops and livestock, and to provide hydro-power and drinking water for the cities, but the effect and cost on the entire ecosystem has been underestimated. The effects of salinization and waterlogging, pollution from stormwater and sewage from the cities, and pesticide and herbicide run-off from the agricultural lands, have been seen on the animals and the environment of the area, and the question of the health of the Murray River is a subject of great debate. During our day on the Coorong wetlands, Brenton told us about some of the problems facing this area.
We also pulled ashore several times for breaks, and enjoyed tea and Brenton’s Nana’s famous bikkies, baked several times a week by his Nana. Brenton took us on walks across the dunes to forage for bush tucker – we had the opportunity to taste some of the various sweet and salty plants that have sustained the locals for thousands of years. We walked across the dunes to the ocean, where we were taught the “pipi dance”. Twisting like teenagers from the Sixties, as we dug our heels into the wet sand to feel for cockles.
We stopped for lunch of fresh-cooked fish and bush tucker sandwiches, followed by fruit and more bikkies.
And then we continued kayaking through the wetlands, towards the mouth of the Murray River. We watched the dredgers working to clear the mouth of the Murray from sand deposits.
We walked in the dunes, and enjoyed the breezes. Because of the tides and currents, we decided not to try to cross the river, but made our way back through threatening skies.
We had a really marvelous day, with enough exercise to help us sleep well, and learned something about the history and ecology of the incredible Coorong. With many thanks to Brenton of Canoe the Coorong.
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