Mangrove Walk #2

 

This walk starts from the bottom of the switchback ramp that runs down the side of the Community Hall. The Hall is on the website Mud Map - cihs.org.au/map

 

Walk#2 is a little longer than Walk #1, but you should get back here in about 45 minutes.There is some shallow wet mud in places, so closed shoes are a must - but not your very best pair! Sneakers with some ankle support would be okay, hiking boots even better.  

These directions will refer to route markers that are small witch’s hats we've placed along the route. Some of them are at points of interest – the details are in the text next to the witch’s hat symbol  ^

 

The Route

 

1. From the bottom of the Community Hall access ramp, step onto the grass and walk down the slope past the locked bollard ^ and turn left.

2. Walk about 20 metres across the car park, pass through the wooden bollards and take the concrete path down the hill.

3. Where the path ends, cross the sealed road, and go up the dirt bank ^.

4. Follow the track to the left to enter the mangrove forest through the wooden bollards. Note how quickly the vegetation changes from a mixture of terrestrial trees to 100% mangroves.

5. Walk along the trackl to stop at  ^ .  Almost all the trees around you are yellow mangroves. They’ve colonised this landward edge of the forest because they can’t tolerate too much salt water, and so they favour areas like this where only very high tides reach them. Can you spot crab holes among the trees? Crabs consume a lot of the plant litter in mangroves, especially leaves that fall from these trees. It’s a cycle that benefits them both.

6. Carry on over the raised mound, and walk down to the yellow mangroves on your left  ^ . Unlike the ones you’ve already seen, these yellows are constantly inundated by the tides that sweep in from the open water. Notice how they’ve adapted by raising themselves up on ropey buttress roots. Mud is oxygen poor, so the yellow mangrove has adapted to breath through its raised roots, which also help to anchor it in the swirling water.

7. Walk out onto the open lagoon and head slightly right towards a pair of grey mangroves ^ . Notice on the ground around them there is a mass of little breathing stalks, like fingers, that pop up from the tree’s  extensive root system below the mud. It’s these widespread roots that keep grey mangroves anchored upright in the mud despite the stormy seas and king tides that flood into this area.

8. Walk a few metres on to the stilt mangroves ^  which take their name from their arching aerial prop roots. Like the yellows, they rely on their roots to breathe and to hang on in the mud when storm tides rush in here from the open water. Note how these roots are also protecting the baby stilts growing amongst them. The stilts and greys are inter-twined, combining their strength into tough barriers that protect shorelines and coasts around the world.

9. Retrace your steps to leave the open lagoon the way you came in. Walk back through the yellow mangroves towards the bollards where you entered the forest.

10. Pass between the bollards and follow the track that curves away to your left. Be careful as you step over the fallen tree trunk just ahead ^ .

11. A little further along the track ^ stop and check out the mass of muddy earthworks around the base of the yellow mangroves. The hundreds of holes in these ‘apartment blocks’ are home to the mangrove crabs that built them.

 

There are over 60 species in Australia, and they perform the critical job of eating and breaking down the leaves, fruit and flowers that fall from the mangroves around them. They convert it into nutrients that feed the juvenile fish, molluscs and small crustaceans, like prawns, that visit the forest. Whiting, mullet and mud crabs are frequent inhabitants here.

Over 60% of marine species in the bay, spend some part of their lives dependant on these mangroves, and their resident crabs, for nutrition and protection.

12. Continue along the track until you reach the two fallen trees, and step down off the track ^

This high tide location suits this rather toxic mangrove with big bright leaves, sprawling across the ground towards you. Try not to fall into it! It’s a milky, or blind-your eye mangrove. There’s a nasty latex inside the leaves that can cause intense pain and blistering, with temporary blindness if it gets near your eyes. But, as you can see from the mud holes all around, the crabs are quite happy to live in this rather poisonous neighbourhood.

13. Climb back up onto the track to go left and continue North. The track now winds higher for a while, away from the tidal zone, before dipping back down towards the muddy edge. Watch out for tree roots along the way.

14. Follow the track alongside the muddy edge until you can step down ^ onto the grassy tidal boundary and walk out onto the flat area ^ .

Notice how the forest is changing as you head north. The yellow mangrove colony here is starting to thin out into fewer, larger trees. And there’s a new species – the tall tree right in front of you. It has rough bark, and big lush green leaves. It’s an orange mangrove, easily identified by its unique and very conspicuous ‘knee’ roots. They stick up from the mud, then stop and dive back in, to breathe in the open air, and they give the orange mangrove a grip on the mud that allows them to grow to 20 metres or more without toppling over.

 

15. Return to the track and keep walking North. Look up into the forest as you pass and note that it’s now becoming dominated by the big mangroves, the orange and the grey. Stilt mangroves are usually out in deeper water but there's a good sized one here ^ just to your left that prefers to keep its feet dry.

16. Follow the track now with your eyes peeled for the point where the track divides ^ .  Follow the left fork, then leave the track a short distance later ^  and head for the remains of an old jetty built long ago by a pioneer farmer ^ .  

Be careful as you step up onto the jetty and don’t walk out beyond the broken concrete ^ .

 

17. This place is a real mangrove showcase, with five of the seven Coochiemudlo mangroves on display. How many can you identify? There’s a milky mangrove overhanging the jetty just before the witch's hat, and just past it the big trunk of an orange mangrove. You can see its distinctive red flowers up in the branches, and the amazing knee roots that have broken up the concrete of the old jetty.

There are a few yellow mangroves standing out in the mud with their buttress roots like thick mops. And there are greys, the tallest trees, with their tell-tale finger roots poking through the mud. There are a few stilts out there too, with their curved prop roots. How many can you spot?

18. Return back along the track all the way to where you entered the forest, near the bollards. Retrace your path out, going left to walk up to the top of the dirt mound. Cross the road and continue on to the concrete path that leads back up to the community hall.