Broughton Creek has a paddling history that is hard to beat. The Thurawal people who were here 20,000 years ago were admired for their canoeing ability, the first European came by canoe, and until very recently it hosted a marathon paddling every year.
|START||Boat ramp, Wharf Road, Berry|
|GPS||DMS: 34° 47′ 25.2″ S, 150° 41′ 46.6″ E
DD: -34.790329, 150.696285
|FINISH||Boat ramp, Back Forest Road, Back Forest|
|CONDITIONS||Open areas, tidal, light traffic, shallow areas|
|FISHING||Bass, blackfish, bream, flathead, whiting|
Broughton Creek is a northerly tributary of the Shoalhaven River that can be paddled all the way from its tidal limit in the pretty Illawarra village of Berry to its meeting with the river at Back Forest, just inland from Shoalhaven Heads. That’s a total distance of 15 kilometres.
There are boat ramps at both ends so it is possible to do the trip one way. A car shuttle is usually required for that, but on this occasion, a bike shuttle is highly recommended. This involves leaving a bike at the end so you can ride back to the start through quiet, scenic, and relatively flat rural countryside to pick up the car. The GPS coordinates for Berry boat ramp were provided at the start of this guide. The coordinates for the Back Forest boat ramp are 34 50’ 49.59” S, 150 40’ 31.89” E. Alternatives to shuttling are shorter return journeys from either end or the full out and back just like the Illawarra Canoe Club used to do in their excellent annual “Berry Marathon”.
The canoe played a big part in the lives of the Aboriginal people who lived in the Illawarra area prior to the arrival of Europeans. Much of their food was fished from the ocean and the estuaries, and canoes gave them excellent access to the water. Some things never change, and people are still paddling into Broughton Creek in the hope of bringing home the evening meal. Bream and Australian bass are common catches near Berry, and Jewfish are sometimes caught near the junction of the creek and the Shoalhaven River.
It is thought that the first European to see Broughton Creek was George William Evans, who arrived in 1812 in a bark canoe that he had paddled across the Shoalhaven River. He looked down upon the creek from the top of Cambewarra Mountain and enthused that it ran through “a most beautiful meadow” and that it was his opinion “if the small river is navigable this part of the country would make a beautiful settlement.” The river was indeed navigable, and in 1822 business partners Alexander Berry and Edward Wollstonecraft started acquiring all the land in the area for commercial purposes. They harvested timber, grew crops, bred horses, kept pigs, and ran cattle. Produce was mainly intended for the Sydney market, but valuable cedar wood went as far as Europe.
When Alexander Berry started leasing his property to tenant farmers in the 1850s, a village known as Broughton Creek came to life at the navigable limit of a waterway of the same name. In 1890, the name of that village was changed to Berry in honour of the first settlers.
Berry is only two hour’s drive from Sydney. These days it is well known as a weekend destination for city slickers who come for the cafés, craft shops, leafy streetscapes, and country hospitality, but the real character and magic of the region still lies in its idyllic rural surrounds. The best way to get a true taste of that is to paddle down Broughton Creek.
“Achievement is largely the product of steadily raising one’s levels of aspiration and expectation.” Jack Nicklaus
|EAT||Berry Jetz Café, 94 Queen Street, Berry, (02) 4464 3320|
|DRINK||Berry Hotel, 120 Queen Street, Berry, (02) 4464 1011|
|SLEEP||Treehaven Tourist Pk, Princes H’way, Bomaderry, (02) 4421 3494|