Rowes Bay Wetlands

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welcome to the Rowes Bay Wetlands learnscape

geology & climate change: the only certainty is variability

Geological Time

The Rowes Bay wetlands are a landscape sculpture created by climate change, wind, water, waves, weathering and erosion.

The history of the Rowes Bay wetlands is a long story in human years. If we went on a time trip and looked at recent geological time the starting point would be around 120,000 years ago.

The main visible player in this wetland formation story is climate change. Climate change impact is much easier to see over geological time than within human generations. While time is a measure of temporal ‘distance’ between events ‘natural’ climate change forces, powered by the sun, were creating the events and changing the face of the planet.

~120,000 years ago
The (Pleistocene) shoreline was three to six kilometres inland of its current location and backed by low, broad foredunes with tidal flats to seaward. At this time Many Peaks Range was an island and Castle Hill was partly surrounded by water. At that time the Rowes Bay Wetlands would have been really, really wet i.e. underwater.

~20,000 years ago
At the peak of the last ice age the sea level was 100m to 160m lower than it is today. The coastline was 40 to 50 kilometres east of the present coast. Magnetic Island would have been an isolated mountain range on a broad coastal plain. At that time the Rowes Bay Wetlands were really, really dry.

~6,000 years ago
Around this time the sea level rose to about its present level. This happened over a period of about 14,000 years as the ice age ‘thawed out’. At this time the shoreline was around two to three kilometres further west than the current shoreline. The Rowes Bay Wetlands could have been wet and dry depending on tidal influences.

Over the last 6,000 years there has been a gradual build up of sand ridges between Castle Hill and Many Peaks Range to form the current coastline. The Burdekin River has provided the bulk of the sand and sediment with long-shore currents moving the material northwards. Sometime between then and now the Rowes Bay Wetlands were formed by the action of waves, tides, wind and water flow from the Mundy Creek catchment.

Reference: Trezise, D.L., and Stephenson, P.J. 1990, Rocks and Landscapes of the Townsville District, Department of Resource Industries, Queensland.

Rowes Bay Wetlands