Rotary Aussie Peace Walk

Jerrabomberra Wetlands

42km and 21km walkers will go through this lovely natural area. Have your camera ready as you wander through this area.

Jan 4, 2021

Did you know that there is a wetland nature reserve right near the Kingston Foreshore?

If you are taking part in the 42km or the 21km Aussie Peace Walk on Saturday, you will walk right through this area.

It’s called Jerrabomberra Wetlands and is open to the public 24/7. Every year, scientists and families flock to the wetlands to attend events, study threatened bird species, and take part in conservation activities.

Jerrabomberra Wetlands sits on the floodplain of the Molonglo River, which played an important role in the local community prior to European settlement.

Archaeological evidence and written records reflect long-term use of the area, which had abundant resources to provide food and support a local economy of hunting, trading and toolmaking.

Submerged under Lake Burley Griffin lies an important Ngunnawal meeting place used for corroborees, the last having occurred in 1862.

We can still see the old pathways once taken by the meandering Molonglo River. The creation of Lake Burley Griffin filled them in to form the Jerrabomberra Backwaters.

“What bird is that?”

The filling of Lake Burley Griffin caused a high water table that created Jerrabomberra Wetlands in the first place, making it an ‘artificial wetland’.

Whilst technically accurate, the term ‘artificial wetlands’ is deceptive because it carries an implication of barrenness and inauthenticity. Jerrabomberra Wetlands is anything but.

cameraman in snipe

Filming native bird life through a snipe   

bird view
Education and Discovery

Understanding Our Wetlands

The understated of out-of-the-way wetlands have played many roles in Canberra’s local history.

In 2015, trenches were found that had been used by the nearby Royal Military College for training WWI soldiers in trench warfare (you’ll walk past these too).

Since then, the wetlands have gone through an odd journey, surviving years as pastureland and a series of cancelled or failed projects, including plans to turn it into a railway line.

Through years of hard work, scientists, rangers and volunteers have steered Jerrabomberra Wetlands toward a brighter future. Far from being just another tale of unending land degradation, Jerrabomberra Wetlands gives us a glimpse into what Australia’s future could be.

With teamwork and a passionate commitment to ecological recovery, this ecosystem has gone from soggy, weed-ridden grazing land to a richly diverse habitat with a booming population of bird and aquatic life.

These days, human interference aims to revive the biodiversity that was lost when the land was converted for agricultural use over one hundred years ago.

bird with broken wing
Conservation Teamwork

Mulligans Flat Community Hub

The Woodlands and Wetlands Trust, which manages both Jerrabomberra Wetlands and Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary, has a mandate to protect habitat for the diverse wildlife that call the wetlands home.

This includes hundreds of bird species, Rakali, eastern long-necked turtles, fish, bats, lizards, frogs, snakes, and innumerable waterbugs. The latter feature heavily in one of the Trust’s most popular kids’ tours; Bush and Waterbug Detectives, led by an experienced Ranger teaching an all-ages crowd about macroinvertebrates and how they help scientists to measure the health of waterways.

The annual World Wetlands Day celebrations are held every February. The Trust partners with local businesses and other not-for-profits to run an event for the whole family. As well as the usual food and entertainment you’d expect from a day out, there are walks and talks led by local experts and stalls run by groups encompassing the fields of science, culture, and art.

People new to the wetlands or unfamiliar with their ecological importance might struggle to picture what a World Wetlands Day celebration looks like.

A wetland is just like a swamp or a billabong, right? What is there to celebrate? In the case of Jerrabomberra Wetlands: a lot.

boy looking at spider

A young boy learns about spiders

Endangered Waterbird

Latham’s Snipe

One particular species has become emblematic of the wetland’s progress is the peripatetic Latham’s Snipe: a pocket-sized endangered waterbird that migrates a whopping 8,500 kilometres from Hokkaido to south-east Australia every year.

Scientists in Australia have partnered with their counterparts in Japan for the Latham’s Snipe Project, funded by the ACT Government and the Australia Japan Foundation. This bird uses Jerrabomberra Wetlands as well as Port Fairy in Victoria and other suitable freshwater and brackish habitats, and is a popular subject for birdwatchers who flock to the wetlands in summer for a chance to spot them.

Birdwatchers in Canberra have a special relationship with the area. The Canberra Ornithologist’s Group were among some of the earliest advocates of Jerrabomberra Wetlands and campaigned from the very beginning for its inclusion into the Canberra Nature Park.

The fauna is second only to the flora to showcase the strides that can be made with the right people and resources.

A revegetation program has been implemented to confront the swathe of invasive pest plants overwhelming the region.

Several weeds of national significance, including willows, blackberries, robinia, African boxthorn and many more once choked the wetlands.

Over the past five years, a dedicated crew of ACT Parks and Conservation staff and volunteers have tackled these problem weeds head-on and undertaken an extensive replanting program to bring back native shrubs, trees and grasses. This includes the planting of riparian trees along select shorelines, improving water quality and habitat.

Taking care of the greenery has not just involved replanting. Burn-offs, an Aboriginal practice of land management which sees fire hazard reduced by removing excess fuel, is once again contemporary practice at Jerrabomberra Wetlands. This is carried out by the Murrumbung Rangers. This method improves fire safety while removing the need for chemical pesticides.

Whether you’re a fan of wildlife, a jogger, plein air painter, budding ecologist, or just interested in getting to know Canberra’s history a little better, visit Jerrabomberra Wetlands and see the wonderful results of committed environmental advocacy. 

Tours and events can be booked through the Jerrabomberra Wetlands website.

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