Little Black Cormorant Little Black Cormorant (D Ong)

The subject of this page is Australia's second-largest Red Gum wetland, the Gunbower-Koondrook-Perricoota Forest.

Located alongside the Murray River downstream of Echuca-Moama, the Gunbower-Koondrook-Perricoota Forest is a wetland of international significance.

It is one of six Living Murray icon sites.

Accessing Gunbower Island
In Victoria, Gunbower Island can be assessed via a number of tracks off either the Gunbower Island Road or the Cohuna-Koondrook Road. Access points include Spences Bridge Road which runs off the Cohuna-Koondrook Road (C625), Island Road via a bridge at Cohuna or via Burkes Bridge, and a bridge in Koondrook.

About half of Gunbower Island is occupied by the new Gunbower National Park and riverside reserves. A good topographic map will help you to access various parts of the national park. Most of the remainder of the island is either farmland or State Forest in which logging is permitted.

Accessing Perricoota State Forest
In NSW, the Perricoota State Forest can be accessed on a number of tracks off Perricoota Road.

Accessing Koondrook State Forest
The Koondrook State Forest can be accessed from the Barham-Moulamein Road, e.g. via Crooked Creek Road or Barham East Road.

Best time to visit
Forest tracks should only be attempted in dry weather and when the forest is not in flood. In dry weather, dust may be a problem when driving in convey.

If there have been good winter rains, much of the forest may be flooded in Spring and early Summer. Autumn may be the best season to visit the forest.

Camping
There are commercial caravan parks, hotels and motels in Cohuna, Gunbower and Barham-Koondrook. The hotels at Torrumbarry and Gunbower offer accommodation.

The most popular spot for holiday-makers and boaters is the Torrumbarry Weir (Victorian side of river) where there is a camping area, toilets, information centre, kiosk and picnic garden. But access across the weir from one side of the Murray to the other (i.e. between States) is prohibited.

Bush camping is allowed in most of the forest. However, some areas are for daytime visitors only and some areas are fenced 'exclosures'.

It is difficult to find a top camp site along the rivers over Easter when thousands of people flock to the forest.

Campers are asked to remove all rubbish as bins are no longer provided.

On the NSW side of the Murray, there is a ban on trail bikes (in certain areas) and, in summer, wood fires. There are large skips at the main forest entrances on the NSW side of the border.

Trail bikes (on roads) and, apart from days of total fire ban, camp fires are allowed in Victoria.

Campers should remember that the NSW border is the top of the river bank on the Victorian side of the river. Therefore, NSW fishing and boating regulations apply (see section on native fish on this site).

Canoeing
Gunbower Creek is ideal for canoeing and a designated canoe trail is promoted by local tourism authorities.

Maps
Visitors are urged to obtain good maps before visiting the forest. Information is available from Golden Rivers Tourism Barham (03 5453 3100).

Hayman's Cohuna-Echuca-Gunbower Forest Activities Map is particularly good.

Topographic maps of the area include:
Koondrook South 7726-4-S
Thule 7726-1-3
Gunbower North 7726-2-N
Gunbower South 7726-2-S
Mathoura 1:50,000 7826-S

The downloadable birding guides listed below contain sketch maps.

 

 

 

Related pages on this site

Bushland Reserves of northern Victoria and southern Riverina NSW

other linksBarmah-Millewa Forest

other linksBirding Guide to Cohuna area and Gunbower Island

other linksTerrick Terrick National Park

Indigenous plants

Photo Gallery of the birds of northern Victoria and southern Riverina NSW

Site map (index)

 

External links

linkMurray-Darling Basin Commission's Gunbower-Perricoota page

linkDavid Kleinert's Gallery of the Environment: photos of northern Victoria and southern Riverina NSW (mainly birds)

linkParks Victoria's Gunbower National Park page

linkMap of Gunbower National Park

linkParks Victoria's Gunbower National Park Visitor Guide (pdf)

linkBirding guide to Cohuna and Gunbower Island (pdf)

linkGolden Rivers Tourism (tourist information)

linkGannawarra Shire (Victoria)

linkGunbower Forest Walks and Drives (DSE brochure; pdf)

linkMurray Shire (NSW)

linkParks Victoria

linkPurchase map booklet: Murray River Access Maps

linkRed Gum Icon Project

linkNational Parks Association of NSW

linkVictorian National Parks Association Inc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bushland Reserves
of
northern Victoria and the Southern Riverina

Gunbower Creek
Gunbower Creek by Keith Stockwell

Gunbower-Koondrook-Perricoota Forest

including Gunbower National Park

Introduction

 

Introduction

Located alongside the Murray River downstream of Torrumbarry, the Gunbower Koondrook Perricoota Forest straddles the Victoria-NSW border and covers about 50,000 hectares. The 'Forest' includes several lakes, wetlands and sand hills. At the Torrumbarry end of the forest, away from the waterways, Black Box and Grey Box are the dominant trees, with Grey Box dominating on slightly higher, less flood-prone land to the north. But Red Gum is the dominant tree around wetlands, along the rivers and over much of the remainder of the forest. In NSW, the eastern half of the forest is called Perricoota Forest. Further west, it is called Koondrook Forest. In Victoria, between the Murray River and Gunbower Creek, the forest is called Gunbower Island Forest. The town of Koondrook is actually in Victoria whilst its twin town Barham (as distinct from Barmah!) is on the NSW side of the Murray River.


Location of Gunbower-Koondrook-Perricoota Forest


The Living Murray initiative lists this forest as one of six icon sites in the Murray-Darling Basin to be protected for their ecological significance. One icon site (or Significant Environmental Asset) is Gunbower-Koondrook-Perricoota Forest.

The other Living Murray icon sites are
* Barmah-Millewa Forest
* Hattah Lakes
* Chowilla Floodplain, Lindsay and Wallpolla Island
* The Coorong, lower lakes and river mouth, and
* the Murray River channel itself.

Gunbower-Koondrook-Perricoota is a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, JAMBA (Japan-Australia Migratory Bird Agreement) and CAMBA (China-Australia Migratory Bird Agreement). It is an important breeding ground for a number of birds, including Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Nankeen Night Heron, Royal Spoonbill, Intermediate Egret, Great Egret and Australian White Ibis.

The Forest provides habitat for numerous threatened plant and animal species, including birds, fish and reptiles, and supports colonies of breeding waterbirds during appropriate seasonal conditions.

As far as this forest is concerned, The Living Murray initiative aims to enhance forest fish and wildlife values, ensure successful breeding of thousands of colonial waterbirds in at least three years in ten, promote healthy vegetation in at least 30% of the area of the forest (including much of the flood-dependant River Red Gum forest) and at least 80% of the wetlands, and increase native fish populations

Because of irrigation, natural river flow patterns differ from those which existed pre-European settlement. Gunbower Creek and the Murray River now flow at higher levels throughout summer, whilst winter-spring floods are usually neither as deep nor as prolonged. The forest is immediately downstream of Torrumbarry Weir.

Environmental water was released into some of the wetlands at various times during 2008 and 2009.


Black Swamp, Gunbower Island, June 2008 (K Stockwell)

Management of the forest is in the hands of the Murray CMA (NSW) and and the North Central CMA (Victoria), each of which has appointed a site manager, plus Parks Victoria (Gunbower National Park). The site managers take it in turns to act as chief site manager. They are assisted by a project officer and by a number of advisory committees, one of which is a Co-ordinating Committee. There is a Community Reference Group to advise the Co-ordinating Committee and a committee of indigenous (Koori) persons.

The CRG has comprised a representative from each of the two CMAs, five 'community' representatives and a project officer. This set up may change now that part of Gunbower Island is a national park.

In attempt to restore a natural flooding and drying regime to the forest, a number of environmental works and measures have been completed or are planned.

In Victoria, a number of regulators have been constructed along Gunbower Creek, the Murray River and other streams in order to keep water out of the wetlands for much of the year. Wetlands of the Gunbower National Park and adjoining forest will benefit from works currently under way.

A new regulator on Little Gunbower Creek was completed in 2007 to allow authorities to divert environmental water into Black Swamp and to keep water out at other times. This was one of the first structures to be constructed under 'The Living Murray' programme. The new regulator on Little Gunbower Creek was opened for the first time in May 2008 to allow flooding of wetlands which had been dry for well over a year.


Little Gunbower Creek in flood, June 2008 (K Stockwell)

Unfortunately, much of this perennial wetland was not flooded for several years, during which time thousands of saplings were able to survive. Previously, flood waters drowned and killed young saplings. The regulator is closed most of the time, preventing creek water from entering the wetland, allowing the wetland to dry out.


Black Swamp (K Stockwell)

Across the border in NSW, an 80 million dollar project to deliver environmental water to more than 17,000 hectares (52%) of Koondrook-Perricoota Forest was comp[leted in 2013. The project, which took three years to complete, involved the construction of a series of channels and regulators to efficiently and effectively deliver environmental water. Levee banks with a combined length of 43km were constructed. Together with regulators, the channels and levee banks will enable water to be diverted along creeks that feed and drain the forest whilst, at the same time, protecting surrounding farmland from flooding.

Whilst the forest and its wetlands attract many tourists and brings money into the region, there's another benefit: the wetlands are habitat for large numbers of ibis which each day travel to surrounding farms, preying on insect pests that feed on crops and pastures. At night, large numbers of micro-bats leave the forest in search of insects, supplementing the work of the ibis.

 

Indigenous People

Indigenous people inhabited the area for thousands of years, the Barapa Barapa and Yorta Yorta clans. It is believed that they called the area Kanbowro, meaning 'twisting and tortuous like the neck of a Black Swan'.

Some cultural or sacred sites have been fenced off, e.g. areas with middens (piles of shells marking camping sites).

Some trees bear evidence that a bark bowl (coolamon), bark shield or bark canoe has been cut from them. Such trees are referred to as Coolamon Trees.

LinkYorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation's deb site

LinkLower Murray Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations web site

 

Gunbower Island

Gunbower Island lies between an anabranch of the Murray River (Gunbower Creek) and the Murray River and occupies an area of 24,600ha. Much of the south-western side has been cleared for farming. But much of the island is covered by Red Gum Forest, Box Forest and wetlands. Late in 2009, both Houses of the Victorian parliament passed legislation to create Gunbower National Park, a reserve which occupies 9,330 hectares (about half of the public land). The national park was officially opened on 30th June 2010. Most of the bushland upstream of Cohuna is in the national park. However there is still a large area of State Forest available for logging, especially near Barham-Koondrook, a twin town with an economy heavily reliant upon the timber industry. Following the declaration of the Gunbower National Park, a large timber mill and associated businesses in Barham closed.

Gunbower Island supports 8% of Victoria's freshwater meadows. Four of eight wetland vegetation types are represented.

Gunbower Island Road runs alongside Gunbower Creek from Cohuna, where it can be accessed from the main town roundabout, south-east toward Torrumbarry, where it can be accessed from the Murray Valley Highway (B400) via Burkes Bridge. One side of the sealed Island Road is farmland; Gunbower Creek runs roughly parallel on the other side. Several tracks lead from Island Road into the forest. Between Cohuna and Burkes Bridge, Island Road is a scenic alternative to the Murray Valley Highway.

The NSW topographic map, Keely 1:50,000 covers much of the island, which is in Victoria. Hayman's Forest Activities Map is also very useful.

Forest Drive
Parks Victoria has produced a
Gunbower National Park Visitor Guide. The guide includes notes on a forest drive. From Island Road, take Rifle Butts Road, and then Five Sleeper Track, River Road and Nursery Track back to Island Road.

If, instead of the suggested forest drive, you take Mawson and Garner Tracks to Chettle Track, near the intersection of Garner and Chettle Track, look for a huge red gum, one of the largest and oldest in the forest. East of the huge tree is a cormorant rookery. This area is sometimes flooded and inaccessible.

The forest drive outlined in the Parks Victoria guide is excellent but can only be completed in dry weather, e.g. in autumn. Allow several hours for the drive.

If you enter the forest from Koondrook, a good birding spot is Clump Bend. Look in the Dwarf Cherry for Gilbert Whistler. Grey-crowned Babblers have roosts here.

Canoeing
For those who prefer paddling to driving, there is a marked 5km canoe trail at Safes Lagoon near Koondrook. A brochure on the canoe trail is available from the DSE office in Cohuna. You need to supply your own canoe.

Bushwalking
A new 14km walking track has been signposted near Koondrook. The track passes "The Eagle Tree" and a number of cultural sites. Contact the DSE for further information. Apart from wetland areas, the open nature of the forest allows for pleasant bushwalking using a compass and a topographic map.

Access
See notes in the left column re access points.


Red-bellied Black Snake: often seen on Gunbower Island (D Ong)

Like The Narrows of the Murray River, Gunbower Creek is a perched stream, slightly higher than the land either side. it is contained by natural levees. There is some concern that the creek may abandon its present course as it is silting up rather quickly.

Frequent flooding enabled a red gum forest and wetlands to be be created. Local rainfall alone cannot support the forest.


Murray River, Gunbower Island (K Stockwell)

The main vegetation type is Red Gum forest (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), especially in the low-lying north-west section. It is part of Australia's second-largest Red Gum forest, after the Barmah-Millewa Forest upstream. Red Gum depends upon flooding for regeneration and survival. Black Box (Eucalyptus largiflorens) and Grey Box (E. microcarpa) cover the higher ground in the south-west. Whilst Black Box can withstand a few weeks of flooding every so often, Grey Box prefers even higher ground which either does not flood or which floods occasionally for short periods only. When the floodwaters drain and evaporate, the forest floor is covered by herbs, grasses and sedges. Wildflowers include Paper Daisies (Everlastings). Reeds and rushes grow in swampy areas. Warrego Grass and Wallaby Grass (Danthonia spp) grow on higher ground. Red Azolla sometimes floats on the water. Black Box occupies land that is slightly higher and less prone to lengthy flooding.

Dwarf Native Cherry (Exocarpus strictus) and wattles (Acacia spp) grow under the Red Gum.

The forestry industry has been important, particularly to the nearby twin town of Barham (NSW) - Koondrook (Victoria) where there were furniture factories, a veneer plant and saw mills. Soon after the declaration of the Gunbower National Park, one of Barham's large sawmills closed.

Wide-area clear-felling is not practiced. Habitat trees are left in each coup. Logging is not permitted within about 50 metres of waterways.

Much of the island is in a degraded condition (e.g. lots of ugly stumps, loss of middle layer) due to forestry activities. Some parts are in relatively good condition, e.g. Wattle Creek along Wee Wee Rup Road. Reedy Lagoon has been fenced to protect bird habitat.

A Caring for Country grant has been obtained to enhance the condition of vegetation alongside much of Gunbower Creek. Fences have been erected between private and public land, a pest eradication scheme is under way and a weir has been reconstructed in such a way as to allow the passage of fish. A great deal of revegetation work has been undertaken.

Bird observers may wish to check out some reasonably good wetland areas along Gunbower Creek (eastern end of Island Road) as well as following the two tours outlined in the Birding Guide to Cohuna area and Gunbower Island. A local guide will help you to access some of the seldom-visited and better birding areas. About 200 bird species have been observed in the area. A coloured brochure on the birds of the Echuca area may be collected from the Echuca-Moama Visitor Centre; from late May 2011, a Gunbower version will be available from tourist information centres in Gunbower, Cohuna and Kerang..

Basic bush camping is allowed alongside the Murray River and Gunbower Creek. Please remove rubbish as no bins are provided. There is a commercial "holiday park" near Torrumbarry Weir. Accommodation is available nearby, e.g. in Cohuna, Barham-Koondrook and at the Gunbower Hotel. There are several Bed and Breakfast establishments as well as rentable cottages.

The forest has not been grazed for some time and an area is to be retained outside Gunbower National Park for logging. Camping, four-wheel driving, fishing, bird-watching, bush-walking etc are unaffected and no entry fee is charged.

Gunbower Development Group Inc. has been established by residents who live in or near the township of Gunbower. The aim of the group is to promote tourism. The group has printed a brochure showing photographs of some of the area's many birds. It is in the process of preparing a booklet about the area.

Reference maps: Keely 1:50,000 (Central Mapping Authority of New South Wales); Region 20 CFA Rural Directory maps 217, 218, 192, 193

Click here to download a map of Gunbower National Park

linkParks Victoria's Gunbower National Park Visitor Guide (pdf)

Download Echuca and District BOCA's pdf birding brochure: Birding Guide to Cohuna area and Gunbower Island

 

Perricoota-Koondrook Forest

The Red Gum forest on the NSW side of the Murray, downstream of Echuca and opposite Gunbower Island, is called Perricoota Forest in the south-east near Moama and Koondrook Forest further downstream near Barham - Koondrook. Part of Australia's second largest Red Gum forest, it is one of six sites of ecological significance under the Living Murray initiative. Despite agitation from the National Parks Association of NSW and some other conservation groups, neither Perricoota Forest nor Koondrook Forest is a national park.

The forest has been logged over many decades. Box trees, which are found on the higher areas, are no longer logged.

An 80 million dollar project to deliver environmental water to more than 17,000 hectares (52%) of Koondrook-Perricoota Forest was completed in 2013. The project, which took three years to complete, involved the construction of a series of channels and regulators to efficiently and effectively deliver environmental water. Levee banks with a combined length of 43km were constructed. Together with regulators, the channels and levee banks will enable water to be diverted along creeks that feed and drain the forest whilst, at the same time, protecting surrounding farmland from flooding.

This is the largest major project completed under The Living Murray Environmental Works and Measures Programme.

arrowKoondrook-Perricoota flood enhancement project (Murray CMA; pdf).

It is hoped that environmental water releases will help conserve the forest's wetlands and help promote breeding by water birds.

It is hoped that "permanent" wetlands will contain water for between nine and twelve months each year. Such wetlands occupy a relatively small area of the forest, e.g. Reedy Lagoon, Green Swamp. Reedy Lagoon is regarded as one of the healthiest and best wetlands along the Murray; it contains relatively few weeds.

Semi-permanent wetlands should contain water for between five and ten months at least six years in every 10.

It is hoped that areas of Red Gum with a flood-dependant under-storey can receive water for around four months at least seven years in every 10. The environmental water release of May 2008 is a step in the right direction.

Temporary wetlands should occasionally receive water for between one and nine months.

As environmental water is scarce, only some of the regulators are opened for a few days over Spring to allow certain areas to flood. To enable native fish to move up and down river, fish ladders have been installed at obstacles such as Torrumbarry Weir where traps have been installed to catch the introduced European Carp, a fish which increases river turbidity and competes with native fish. It has been found that carp swim higher in the water than native fish. Most native fish escape being caught by swimming under the trap. Some captured carp are used in the production of garden fertiliser. Some of the regulators have been fitted with screens to prevent the passage of adult carp but which allow access by smaller native fish.

Access is from Perricoota Road. This forest is inaccessible to vehicles after rain and during flood times.

linkNSW Government Koondrook-Perricoota Forest Flood Enhancement Project Page

linkKoondrook-Perricoota Flood Enhancemen (Environmental Water Delivery) Project (pdf)

linkKoondrook-Perricoota Flood Enhancement Works diagrams (pdf)

Apart from foresters, most who visit are water-skiers, anglers or boaters, many of whom launch their craft at Torrumbarry. There are some delightful bush camping sites with beaches alongside the Murray River (no facilities). The best time to visit is usually between December and April. Fires are not permitted during Summer.

Accommodation is available in Echuca-Moama and Barham-Koondrook.

The Gunbower and Koondrook-Perricoota Forests have a combined area of about 50,000 hectares. The Koondrook and Perricoota Forests are included in the NSW Central Murray State Forests Ramsar site. It is an important breeding area for colonial waterbirds and is visited by migratory birds listed under international treaties with Japan (JAMBA) and China (CAMBA). Interim objectives and outcomes for actions under the First Step of the Living Murray initiative is to maintain and restore a mosaic of healthy floodplain communities, ensuring 80% of permanent and semi-permanent wetlands remains in healthy condition, 30% of River Red Gum forest remains in healthy condition, that successful breeding of thousands of colonial waterbirds occurs in at least three years in ten and that there are healthy populations of resident native fish in wetlands

One of the most attractive parts of this forest is in the vicinity of Kate Malone Bend, where there is a varied under-storey and where fields of everlastings carpet the forest floor following good rains or floods. At times, everlastings carpet the forest floor from here for many kilometres westwards toward Koondrook. This area is ideal for bushwalking and there are secluded camping sites alongside the Murray. Some riverside camp sites have beaches. East of Kate Malone Bend is an area of regenerating Box, with lots of stumps and regrowth from stumps, which lacks a middle storey or under-storey and which may lack aesthetic appeal. Black Box grows on land which floods only occasionally for a short time whereas Grey Box prefers higher and drier land. There are small areas where Yellow Box is dominant and native Callitris Pine is the dominant tree on some sand hills.

There are several wetland areas, most of which were deprived of water over several years prior to 2011. With the completion of engineering works, it is now possible to release environmental water to flood these areas from time to time, thereby promoting the breeding of waterbirds.

32,000 megalitres has been set aside for wetlands on the NSW side of the Murray River. There is a Wetlands Working Group which helps determine the wetlands to which the environmental water is to be directed. Private wetlands may be entitled to some of this water. Unfortunately, at least until recently, unlike the case with Barmah-Millewa, it seems that this water allocation cannot be held over from year to year. Nor can it be lent to irrigators to be paid back later.

Red Gums has been important to the timber industry of the nearby town of Barham-Koondrook. Better quality timber was used in the production of fine Red Gum furniture and veneer. Poor quality timber and residues are used for firewood. Prior to the recent closure of a large mill, the veneer plant and furtniture works, about 200 people used to make a living directly or indirectly from the industry, a substantial proportion of the population of Barham-Koondrook.

Under natural conditions, there would be fewer and larger Red Gum trees in the forest (the weakest saplings died as they failed to compete with stronger ones). As a result of man's interference, trees grow more closely together. Therefore, thinning is needed if good timber trees are to develop. Thinning allows crowns to grow wider and a taller, stronger tree is likely. Regional foresters have decided to thin sections of this forest, something which can only be funded whilst firewood prices are favourable. Forestry NSW claims that:

  • dead trees are left alone except in a few instances where they appear to be very dangerous;
  • in logging coupes, two habitat trees are identified per hectare and protected;
  • in logging coupes, two replacement habitat trees are identified per hectare and left to develop hollows;
  • in logging coupes, a few trees vigorous are selected and set aside for future logging;
  • smaller and less vigorous red gums are logged; residues will henceforth be taken for "green firewood" and not left on the forest floor;
  • stumps are being cut as close to the ground as possible;
  • no logging is to occur within 60 metres of water courses or on sandhills;
  • box and native pine are no longer being logged at all;
  • areas with a rich middle storey are left unlogged or logged in such a way as to protect the middle storey as well as possible (this may involve leaving part of the area unlogged).

About 20 to 25 years after being logged, the area will be inspected again and further thinning (e.g. of regrowth from stumps) may be carried out. An aim is to have more very large red gums in the forest. Most trees of an area are often of similar age; the smaller trees may not be younger but less vigorous, the ones which would die out over time as a result of natural selection. A plan of irrigating much of Koondrook Forest by way of a yet-to-be-constructed channel is possible.

Another aim of the managers was to use cattle to help control weeds whilst, at the same time, promoting local grasses and herbs. Cattle are now excluded from much of the forest.

The Big Bonum Sandhill has been fenced (e.g. to exclude trail bikes and pest animals). Direct seeding has been undertaken in an attempt to create a vegetation community typical of pre-European days. Special emphasis was given to locally endangered plant species which once grew on sandhills. However, there is presently little or no evidence of shrubs in the fenced area!

There has been some concern at the growth of the semi-parasitic Dwarf Cherry in places, especially alongside the Murray, but this is an aesthetically pleasing shrub which is very important shrub to birds, providing both protection and food.

There are smaller State Forest reserves (Guttram in Victoria and Campbells Island in NSW) just downstream of Barham-Koondrook (see below).

A chief site manager has been appointed to oversee the management of this environmentally significant asset. There is a site manager for the Koondrook-Perricoota Forest (who takes it in turns with the site manager for Gunbower Island to be chief site manager). The site mangers are assisted by a cross-border Coordinating Committee, a cross-border Consultative Reference Group (Gunbower-Koondrook-Perricoota CRG) and traditional (indigenous) landholders. As far as the NSW section of the forest is concerned, they work in conjunction with the Murray Catchment Management Authority and Forestry NSW.

Reference maps: Keely 1:50,000 (Central Mapping Authority of New South Wales); Region 20 CFA Rural Directory maps 217, 218, 192, 193.

Click here to download a pdf of the birding spots of Perricoota Road and Perricoota Forest

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Nearby Reserves

Campbells Island State Forest lies north-west of Barham, the western end of Gunbower-Koondrook-Perricoota Forest. The wetland is called Guttrum Forest on the Victorian side of the Murray. See CFA (Vic) Region 20 Rural Directory Map 192 grid reference 360 590.

linkMap of Location (commercial site).

Guttram State Forest is a 1179 hectare Red Gum wetland in Victoria, north-west of Barham. Access it via Miller Road, which runs of Murrabit Road. The wetland is called Campbell Island State Forest across the Murray in NSW. CFA Rural Directory Map 192 350 380

Benwell State Forest 551 hectares.

Red Gum Swamp Wildlife Reserve is a 148 hectare wetland containing saltbush, lignum and dead river red gums located south-west of Koondrook.

linkAfter examining the VEAC report, the government decided that the above State Forests are to be used to:

(a) produce hardwood timber and other forest products, including domestic firewood
(b) conserve and protect biodiversity, natural landscapes and natural processes
(c) protect significant cultural and historic sites and places, including Aboriginal
cultural sites and places
(d) provide opportunities for recreation (including hunting) and education
(e) provide for flood mitigation;
and that:
(f) the following activities be generally permitted:


(i) bushwalking, nature observation, heritage appreciation, picnicking, recreational
fishing
(ii) camping, in particular dispersed camping and overnight camping with horses
(iii) dog-walking and camping with dogs
(iv) hunting
(v) car touring, including four wheel driving, on formed roads and tracks
(vi) mountain bike and trail bike riding on formed roads and tracks
(vii) horse riding on formed roads and tracks
(viii) apiculture
(ix) exploration and mining
(x) research, subject to permit;

and that:
(g) the following domestic stock grazing not be permitted.

Cattle

Some argue that the cattle reduce the "fuel" on the forest floor and lessen the danger of fires. But cattle cause damage. Major damage occurs on sand ridges where cattle not only prevent the regeneration of banksias, hop bushes and wattles but may destroy the nesting tunnels of Rainbow Bee-eaters. They also cause problems in reed bed swamps, pugging the soil, reducing the vegetation cover and eating the palatable reeds which protect river banks. They tend to leave less-palatable species such as Giant Rush (Juncus ingens) which is taking over some areas.

In places, cattle have damaged the river banks.


Cattle alongside the Murray River (K Stockwell)

 

Cattle grazing is no longer permitted in much of the forest.

Grazing by cattle or sheep may be appropriate in certain areas at certain times of the year (e.g. dry periods over winter to control weeds or to reduce the fire risk).

 

Forestry

Forestry directly and indirectly employed hundreds of people, especially in the Barmah-Koondrook area. Commercial logging is no longer permitted in Gunbower National Park. However, a large area of forest is still available to the timber industry. Value-adding seemed destined to become increasingly important and magnificent furniture is being made from red gum. An expensive laminating plant was built at Barham but it appears to be inoperative. Red Gum veneer can be used for flooring and wall panels as well as for table tops and in furniture construction. Fine quality red gum furniturewas produced in Koondrook, with retail outlets in Koondrook and in Echuca ~ but this enterprise appears to have ceased.

A Redgum Showcase is held in Koondrook each year (often on the first Sunday in November), attracting many visitors who are able to view examples of fine furniture and tour some of the mills. Each year, there are lots of other attractions many of which are focused on Apex Park Koondrook..

linkRedgum Showcase Web Site

linkBonum Sawmill, Barham (commercial site)

linkArbuthnot Sawmills, Barham (commercial site)

Old trees unsuitable for forestry are no longer being ring barked: in fact, habitat trees are retained in forestry coups. Foresters claim that only a small percentage of the forest is logged each year (there is a 20-year cycle) and only a fraction of the trees (as low as 20%) in each coupe are logged.

Red Gum is susceptible to fire, relying on flooding for regeneration.

Most of the timber extracted from the forest is used for firewood or garden chips. Much of the firewood and chips are produced from forest residues, from thinning operations and from trees damaged by fire. Some are critical of the amount of firewood taken from the forest. Most of the firewood goes to Melbourne and provincial cities. Some argue that, because smoke contaminates the atmosphere and adds to greenhouse gases, wood fires should no longer be permitted. Smoke from wood fires causes some distress in the neighbourhood, especially to those with respiratory problems. Gas fires cause less greenhouse pollution and are unlikely to diminish the air quality of neighbours.

In order to collect or cut wood from the forest, a permit is necessary. Two chaps were recently fined around $3,600 for cutting firewood without a permit. The law is enforced, rangers and police patrolling the forest and manning entrance points at times.

In view of the low annual average rainfall of this area, Red Gum requires periodic flooding. Much of the forest has not received sufficient water over recent years. In parts of the forest, the trees are stressed and therefore subject to insect attack, placing their future value as timber trees at risk. It is in the interest of foresters that all areas of the forest receive 'floodwaters' from time to time.

 

Threats to the forest and wetlands

Potential threats include:

  • climate change, resulting in increased temperatures, reduced rainfall and increased incidence of storms
  • inappropriate water management (quality, frequency, season, duration)
  • inappropriate timber harvesting (e.g. clear-felling, removal of habitat trees, unsustainable logging, cutting of trees for camp fires)
  • inappropriate grazing management (erosion of banks, changed vegetation mix, loss of soil-vegetation cover, weeds)
  • fires (flooding reduces the fire danger; Red Gum is intolerant of fire)
  • weeds (e.g. Arrowhead, thistles)
  • feral animals (e.g. rabbits, brumbies, pig)
  • damage to vegetation and stream flows as a result of proposed environmental works
  • barriers to fish movement
  • barriers to water movement

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Northern Victoria & Southern Riverina Conservation and Environment Site

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Created April 1997; redesigned and amended February 2006; last (minor) revision July 2013 by Keith Stockwell. Email enquiries to stocky at echuca dot net.au The information above has been derived from a variety of sources including direct observation, discussion with agency representatives, brochures, Internet searches, maps, and newspaper articles..