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Published: January 5th 2006
This walk is one we have enjoyed many times during our visits to American River on Kangaroo Island. American River is not a river, but a deep cove which is protected from the open waters of ‘Backstairs passage’ by a narrow entrance to the north. To the south are lagoons which are important fish breeding grounds. This walk follows the coast on the western side of the cove, but high on the side of a hill, crossing several gullies and passing through many sheoak forests (food for the impressive glossy black cockatoos that inhabit this part of the world). The well-marked path leads to the ruins of a fish cannery on the beach. If you are prepared to go rock hopping you can continue past this point and venture into penguin country. The rock holes are used to form nests where the young are left during the day while the parents fish and more mature birds can moult in (relative) peace.
The cannery walk is suitable walking for kids from about 5 years of age. The penguin extension requires good rock hopping skills so age 7 or more is the bottom limit.
How to get there …
To get to KI you can catch the Sealink ferry. We watched the cars get loaded aboard.
From Adelaide head down South Road and follow the signs to Fleureu Peninsula and Cape Jervis. Take the Sealink ferry from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw. Follow to signs to American River (30 minute drive). Park at the General store/ petrol stop located high on Scenic drive, American River, head north on foot along the walkway on the land side of the road. There are some lovely views across the cove towards the white sandy beach of American Beach (old name) along this path. When the bituminised Scenic drive veers sharply left, cross the road and continue down the dirt track following the signs to the fish cannery walk.
What happened …
The crossing on the ferry was fabulous - quite calm and clear. We slept overnight and headed out after lunch the next day for this walk. There had a been a major thunder storm in the middle of the day and there was still a bit of drizzle as we started. The wind wasn’t that bad however as the hill blocked most of the westerly view. The bracken that had flourished a few months ago in the wet spring was now brown and curled up. Sheoaks
Arriving at Penneshaw
are not the strongest of trees and many of them were littered across the path.
Sea birds featured on this walk with ibis, spoon bills, pelicans, some sort of scruffy sea eagle, pacific gulls and of course fairy penguins. The superb blue wren was in its courting stage with many males gathered around in the thickets, dancing around and waggling their tails for the delight of the onlooking females. There was also many other birds - including eastern spinebills, new Holland honey eaters and black swans (which have really had a bumper breeding year).
We got to the cannery in record time and realised we must have improved fitness as we didn’t require the rests we had needed on previous occasions. We continued to visit the penguins. The birds that were there were quite mature already having the striking blue colour to their fur and were moulting. We saw lots of dead penguins as well. The numbers were right down on last year and Dad said they have seen white fluffy chicks normally at this time of year however I am not so sure about this.
Peter then led us up the hill and across (on no
A wallaby came to visit us at the place we were staying
path at all). Strangely, we saw dead penguins up here as well. Peter cleared a path through the fallen sheoaks and we emerged scratched and battered at the other end - not a recommended return path. It took us three hours to do this walk but without the penguins it would probably have required 2 hours starting at the shop.
Dan says …
It was tough - this is not a good starting walk.
The good thing about it was that we got to see penguins.
The way to find penguins is to look for piles of white penguin poo outside a rock opening. These are a give away that penguins are inside the rock cave. Don’t touch its disgusting - I felt it and it took ages to clean off).
When you are walking through the bush when there is no path you are "bush bashing". The lead person has to bash the bush (break down branches and stomping all the way through) and the followers need to make it safer by trampling after. The track doesn't last long. If you want to make a real path you have to use other ways to make a track.
A penguin joke …
A man drives to a petrol station and has his tank filled up by an attendant. While doing this the attendant spots two penguins sitting on the back seat of the car. He asks the driver, "What's up with the penguins in the back seat?"
The man in the car says, "I found them. I asked myself what to do with them but, I haven't a clue."
The attendant ponders a bit then says, "You should take them to the zoo."
"Yeah, that's a good idea," says the man in the car and drives away.
The next day the man with the car is back at the same petrol station. The attendant sees the penguins are still in the back seat of the car.
"Hey, they're still here! I thought you were going to take them to the zoo!"
"Oh, I did," says the driver, "and we had a great time. Today I'm taking them to the beach."
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