The “magic of Bega” owes a lot to the presence of this river. There isn’t much water in it near the Bega township itself these days but the 11 kilometre stretch near the coast always has more than enough for this enchanting paddle.
|REGION||South Coast, NSW|
|START||Jim Preo Reserve, Tathra-Bermagui Road, Mogareeka|
|GPS||DMS: 36° 42’ 2.11” S, 149° 58’ 35.52” E
DD: -36.700586, 149.976533
|FINISH||Return to start|
|PARKING||Large car park|
|CONDITIONS||Open areas, tidal, light traffic, shallow areas|
|FISHING||Bass, bream, flathead, estuary perch, jewfish, whiting|
In 1887 naturalist John Burroughs wrote insightfully that “The very idea of a bird is a symbol and a suggestion to the poet. A bird seems to be at the top of the scale, so vehement and intense his life… The beautiful vagabonds, endowed with every grace, masters of all climes, and knowing no bounds – how many human aspirations are realised in their free, holiday-lives – and how many suggestions to the poet in their flight and song!”. On the Bega River you can be uplifted and inspired by the sight of pelicans, ibis, cormorants, egrets, sea eagles, goshawks, and oystercatchers in their natural habitat. The nearby Tanja State Forest and Mimosa Rocks National Park have given them a haven and enabled them to prosper. One bird you will hear but probably not see is the bellbird, and their beautiful tinkling sounds become more and more resonant as you move away from the sea.
The start of this paddle is hosted by Jim Preo Reserve. This can be found at the north eastern corner of Handcock Bridge, which crosses the Bega River in a little place called Mogareeka just north of Tathra. The usual way to get there by car is to take the Tathra Road from Bega and turn left once you reach the coast, although a great alternative for those coming from the north is to use the coast road from Bermagui. This takes you through picturesque Mimosa Rocks National Park on a delightful detour you are sure not to regret. If you want to spend a night under the stars, the national park has awesome sites at Gillards, Middle Beach, and Aragunnu. There is an Aboriginal sacred site with a number of middens at Aragunnu, and you can also see the remains of the SS Mimosa which was wrecked here in 1863.
Launch from the boat ramp and paddle to the right. This part of the Bega River is tidal and you get the best assistance from the flow by starting a couple of hours before high tide. The extra water also enables a more thorough exploration of the many islands and inlets in its path (see map).
The islands near the mouth are a result of the narrow and often closed entrance channel where river meets the sea. Most of the mud and silt that washes down the river is trapped and in some places the accumulated sediment has formed into islands. These have now been colonised by plants and the occasional pelican.
Heading west you move out of the forest that dominates the land near the coast and into the type of countryside you would expect in the Bega Valley Shire; open pasture on rolling green hills dotted with cows. This is cheese country after all.
The tidal limit is also the turn around point for this paddle. You will know you have reached that when Jellat Jellat Creek appears on your left. This is the first break in the bank for over 4 kilometres.
Off the water, take a look at the historic steamer wharf at the southern end of Tathra Beach. It’s the only one left in the state. Up until the 1950s, the wharf was used by boats shipping goods to Sydney. It’s easy to see from the beach but for a taste of local culture it is worth heading up there for a chat with the friendly fishing fraternity.
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” Heraclitus
|EAT||Mimosa Rocks Pizza, 61 Andy Poole Drive, Tathra, (02) 6494 1483|
|DRINK||Tathra Hotel, Bega Street, Tathra, (02) 6494 1101|
|SLEEP||Tathra Beachside, 41 Andy Poole Dr, Tathra, 1300 527 010|