Report on FOMS Field Trip, June 2015

As reported elsewhere in this newsletter, the Friends of Mound Springs (FOMS) are working with the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR) on a major project – the Desert Jewels Project – which aims to improve the management of South Australia’s mound springs.

This report describes the field trip held in June 2015 to visit springs on the Peake pastoral lease to consider management trials and fencing options. A second objective was to check the walking trails established by FOMS in 2011 at Strangways Springs and the Peake Overland Telegraph / Freeling Springs site.

Participants: Sam Gitahi (DEWNR Desert Jewels Project Officer), Sam Stuart (Arabana liaison officer), Clinton Warren, Colin Harris, Elaine Smyth, Bruce and Sherrie Gotch, Margie Barnett and Simon Lewis. Brendan and Elizabeth Lay also intended to join the group but were prevented by wet weather which led to the closure of roads in the area.

Weather Conditions. As noted below, weather proved to be a limiting factor with this trip.

Rain was predicted for the start of the trip as far north as Leigh Creek but not for the springs country further north. With just a little trepidation, therefore, we decided to proceed with the trip.

Getting Started

Several participants drove to Port Augusta or thereabouts to stay overnight on Saturday 13 June. Sam Stuart and Clinton Warren travelled in advance of the main party and reached William Creek by Saturday evening.

On Sunday 14th the Port Augusta contingent awoke to drizzling rain and a report that both the Borefield Road and Marree to William Creek road were closed to traffic. However, a phone call to the Peake Station revealed that little rain had fallen in that area. The group travelled to William Creek via Coober Pedy, meeting Sam Stuart and Clinton. With light fading fast the group moved north to camp on Douglas Creek north of William Creek.

Work under way – Monday 15th June

Breaking camp after a damp night on Bulldog Creek
Breaking camp after a damp night on Bulldog Creek

In very foggy conditions, Colin, Elaine, Bruce and Sherrie headed off to the Peake Overland Telegraph site to check the walking trails and replenish the brochure supply.

Sam G, Sam S, Clinton, Margie and Simon inspected Big Perry, Fountain, Twelve Mile and Outside Springs. Comments on those inspections are provided on the next page.

Following the above work, the group selected an overnight camp-site on Bulldog Creek.

Later that evening, after a display of lightning to the NW, some steady rain set in, with around 9mm recorded at the nearby Peake homestead. That precipitation was to significantly influence our program over the next two days.

Getting Muddy – Tuesday 16th June

Levi Springs: one of several springs with rock formation in background
Levi Springs: one of several springs with rock formation in background

Following the rain of the previous night, an exploratory drive suggested that the station tracks might be firm enough for the group to continue to Levi Springs. The group did make it to Levi, although the going was a little heavy at times. However at Levi there was a hitch when the lead vehicle crossed a very muddy section and it was decided that the other vehicles should not attempt the same crossing. With the sun shining and a nice drying breeze, it was decided to proceed with our work at Levi Springs and to review track conditions later in the day.

The task at Levi was to survey a possible alignment for a fence to enclose Levi springs and most of the impressive basement rocks outcropping at the springs – as well as the ruins of a shepherd’s hut and old coolibah yards nearby. GPS readings were taken to enable an updated map of the proposed fence-line to be prepared.

The day concluded with the bulk of the group camping on Levi Creek while the two occupants of the lead vehicle camped near the springs to the south.

Final Stages – Wednesday 17th and Thursday 18th

With another sunny day dawning, the group decided to press on south towards William Creek. However, after a few kilometres, it became evident that the boggy conditions would prevent further travel south. The group turned around and headed back towards the Peake homestead. After negotiating several soft patches along the tracks we reached Peake homestead to be greeted hospitably by newly appointed Peake manager Jim Wheeler and his wife Lee.

At this point the group split into three. Margie and Simon, with Thursday commitments at home, made an early departure and drove home via Marree, arriving home somewhat weary by 1.30 to 2 am, Thursday morning. Sam S, Sam G and Clinton left to check camera equipment set up at the Bubbler and at springs near Bopeechee to detect fauna movements.

Colin, Elaine, Bruce and Sherrie continued down to Strangways Springs to replenish the walking trail brochure supply. They then spent the night at Coward Springs camp-ground, before returning to Adelaide the following day.

In summary, this was an eventful and memorable trip. Rain created a number of difficulties but the group achieved its main objectives and this should help to progress the Desert Jewels project.