Alchemy, magic, charisma, call it what you will. Some places have an irresistible blend of beauty and charm which compels you to make a special home for them in your heart. The tiny village of Spencer at the junction of the Hawkesbury River and Mangrove Creek is one of those places.
|WATERWAY||Mangrove, Popran, Scotchmans, Tarbay, and Kellys Creeks|
|DISTANCE||Up to 23 kilometres|
|TIME||Up to 5 hours|
|START||Boat ramp, Wisemans Ferry Road, Spencer|
|GPS||DMS: 33° 27′ 28.7″ S, 151° 8′ 49.8″ E
DD: -33.457972, 151.147167
|FINISH||Return to start|
|CONDITIONS||Open areas, tidal, some heavy traffic, shallow areas|
|FISHING||Bream, flathead, jewfish, mud crabs|
Spencer is best known to members of the paddling community as the last major checkpoint in the Hawkesbury Canoe Classic which is an annual 111 kilometre paddle down the Hawkesbury River to raise money for the Arrow Bone Marrow Transplant Foundation. However, Spencer is much more than just a checkpoint. It is also the launch pad for this exceptional exploration of the less frequented and more sheltered waters of Mangrove Creek, Popran Creek, Scotchmans Creek, Tarbay Creek, and Kellys Creek.
There is a boat ramp immediately to the left of Spencer’s Big Boombox. The Big Boombox is a giant stereo outside the Spencer Store which entertains visitors with an interesting selection of loud music during the middle of the day. It doesn’t enhance the serenity but it might inspire an impromptu singalong and that invariably puts everybody in a relaxed mood.
Tide times for Hawkesbury River – Spencer can be found on the WillyWeather website. The best time to launch, with respect to the depth of water and the direction of flow, is an hour before high tide.
After you launch, head to the left to go north up Mangrove Creek. The gorgeous native vegetation of Triangle Island is on your right at this point. To the left, pelicans perched on posts watch the world pass by as they wait patiently for their next free meal. High above their heads, you can see the magnificent sandstone escarpments of Dharug National Park.
Upstream of Triangle Island, several narrow creeks disappear into the mangroves on the left. Scotchmans Creek and Tarbay Creek (see map) can each be followed for at least 500 metres. This is worth doing for the change of atmosphere and the fantastic feeling that comes with truly getting off the beaten track.
Continuing up Mangrove Creek, keep to the western side of Never Fail Island and the unnamed island north of that. The water can be very shallow on the other side.
The next part of this paddle is on Popran Creek. Its entrance is on the eastern side of Mangrove Creek and it is easy to find because there are two red channel markers outside.
Spurt Island briefly splits Popran Creek in two around 2 kilometres from its entrance. The island is said to have been named by the poet Henry Kendall but his reasoning for this is not immediately apparent.
Popran Creek gets narrower the further you proceed. The mangroves thin out and casuarinas become the dominant riparian vegetation. White-bellied sea eagles are often seen sitting in the branches overhanging the waterway or soaring high in the sky up above.
One kilometre past Spurt Island, the entrance to Kellys Creek appears on the right. It is possible to follow that for up to 500 metres. Another 500 metres up Popran Creek, there is a small beach on the inside of a sharp right-hand turn in the river where you can stop for a mid-paddle break. This is on the edge of the Glenworth Valley Outdoor Adventures property.
If you are still feeling energetic and adventurous, there are 2 more kilometres of Popran Creek to be explored. A low-level bridge at the halfway point could make it difficult to go all the way, but you may be surprised at what you are willing to do while you are under Spencer’s magic spell.
“When you leave a beautiful place, you carry it with you wherever you go.” Alexandra Stoddard
|EAT||Spencer Village Store, Wisemans Ferry Rd, Spencer, (02) 4377 1123|
|DRINK||Spencer Village Store, Wisemans Ferry Rd, Spencer, (02) 4377 1123|
|SLEEP||Malaluka Cvan Park, 4685 Wisemans Ferry Rd, Spencer, (02) 4377 1405|