Bottle Bend on the mend

Bottle bend boat rampBottle Bend reserve is a 1600 hectare nature reserve on the Murray River, south of the Sturt Highway near Monak. The reserve contains significant black box (Eucalyptus largiflorens) woodlands and wetland vegetation, and is a place where travellers and locals can enjoy the riverine environment of the Murray River, with camping sites, picnic tables, walking tracks and a boat ramp.

Formerly known as the Gol Gol State Forest, the reserve was taken over by the department in 2010. The department’s Ian Kelly, Natural Resource Management Project Officer, explains that the land was in very poor condition, having been adversely affected by drought, logging, uncontrolled public access and grazing.

“About 20% of the creek waters were a reddish colour from acid sulfate pollution, and had a pH of 2,” said Ian. “That’s like battery acid!”

Thanks to extensive work from the department over many years, including exclusion fencing and environmental watering, with a bit of help from nature in the form of natural flood events, the land is now recovering.

Trees once thought dead have again developed canopies of leaves, and fish and yabbies have returned to the billabong and creek. Wildlife such as kangaroos, possums, bats and 62 species of birds are now found throughout the reserve.

The reserve is now managed by the Bottle Bend Reserve Land Manager, appointed in 2016. Paul Heley, secretary of the CLM, talked to us about their current and future priorities for the reserve.

“The damage caused by acid sulfate pollution to internal waterways and flora was quite severe, so one of our priorities is maintaining water quality and quantity within the reserve,” said Paul.

“We also have the largest black box population in NSW that receives environmental watering. From a scientific perspective, this offers a unique insight into the success or otherwise of these events.”

Another major focus for the CLM is investigating and preserving Aboriginal cultural heritage on the reserve. There are many middens along the river bank, as well as internal creek side middens, canoe trees, scar trees and burial sites are found throughout the reserve.

“There has been some work done in the past, documenting the cultural heritage of the reserve, and we are currently working towards completing this work. We believe that preserving this heritage is one of our most important roles,” said Paul.