We decided to visit Wooleen Station as recent heavy rainfall would have filled up Lake Wooleen and hopefully attracted lots of birdlife. A relatively short trip of a couple of hundred kilometres turned into an all-day marathon as most of the Murchison river crossings were still closed. We just managed a bridge crossing overtaking two large trucks transporting school classrooms, that did not look like they would make it without taking out the historical bridge. The river causeway looked like their only option. One more crossing of the Murchison and we were into Wooleen, a property with 250,000 acres of pastoral grazing. Over the last hundred or so years overgrazing has damaged the land and current owners, David and Francis have embarked on a bold plan to restore the land. It’s a very ambitious project as the government expects pastoralists to look after the land, and not grazing means no income for them. A permit is required to not graze and it took a year for a permit to be granted. The last two years required them to graze for income, but drought made it hard. When their cattle were finally sold it rained, 160mm in a few days, the average annual rainfall for the area.
They are trying to embrace eco-tourism as a means to supplement income, promoting bush tucker walking trails, cycle tracks, bird watching, sunset tours and camping. There are a number of interesting sites on the property, particularly the Bowerbird Museum that houses old farming artefacts.
We were the only people there, camping on the banks of the river 14km from the homestead. The supposed “Best Dunny in WA” was regrettably a disappointment. We liked the floorboards, mirror, wooden seat, lime and hand sanitiser, but that’s as far as it went. The flies must have been missing company, and once again the black buzzing cloud descended as the car doors opened.
The main lake was a dirty brown colour having been recently replenished from the surrounding catchment area. Driving to one of the smaller waterholes the track submerged, and after the two girls abandoned ship, the boys proceeded, watching the water level rise up the side of the car. Just as the wheels started to lose traction, and alarms started going off, the track started elevating and we emerged unscathed on the other side (without photos!). The track into the waterhole beyond proved to be a very slippery mud-bath and with no trees nearby to winch ourselves out we chose not to proceed further.
Another track took us to a beautiful swimming hole in the river where forty toes made no hesitation in cooling off in the heat. We returned with an inflatable board (thanks Rob and Chris) the next day for more larking around.
During our stay we did find a few new birds, including the gull-billed terns on the lake, plenty of black swans, galahs, bourke’s parrots, zebra finches in abundance and many more.
A very brief stop but worth the effort. It would be interesting to return in a few years to see how the land transformation has progressed.