Rowes Bay Wetlands

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welcome to the Rowes Bay Wetlands learnscape

people, place & change: learning to live in the landscape

  Sanitary Reserve - Chronograph  - Mundy Creek 


Aerial Photo of Rowes Bay Wetlands c.1941

Aerial photo of Townsville with Rowes Bay wetlands marked in red, and natural watercourses in blue.

The Rowes Bay Wetlands

The Rowes Bay wetlands were formed within the last 5,000 years (Trezise and Stephenson 1990) through normal coastal processes.

The wetlands are an aftermath of sand dune formation and water catchment drainage processes including erosion and sedimentation.

Using the natural resources (food, water and materials) of the wetlands and surrounds would have been a normal part of Aboriginal Traditional Owner’s nature based economy.

There are no obvious signs of significant change to the Rowes Bay wetlands from Traditional Owner use and it is assumed that their use practices were based on sustainable harvest. This served to maintain the wetlands in good ecological condition.

It is obvious that the nature based Aboriginal economy was more harmonious and tuned to the environment than the economy of the European newcomers.

Unlike modern practices the Aboriginal way of living appeared ecologically sustainable.

Post European Settlement

The recent (300 years ago) Rowes Bay foreshore and inland coastal landscape featured rocky headlands, mudflats and beach backed by dunes, estuaries, mangrove swamps, stream channels and ancient beach ridges.

During this time the most dramatic changes to the wetlands and surrounds would have been the result of natural climatic extremes e.g. cyclones and storms, flood, extended dry periods and fire.

This already variable landscape has changed dramatically since European settlement with coastal wetlands filled to host residential development and urban infrastructure.

The most significant human driven changes to the landscape and its hydrology (water movement) have occurred since 1920. Use of the wetlands as a sanitary reserve (from 1924) would have resulted in localised excavations (see photo below) leaving more inaccessible areas in a natural state. Time and tide, detrivores and microbes were the human waste disposal system at that stage

The Townsville Sanitary Reserve circa 1930

More significantly approximately 8 hectares of mudflats were reclaimed between Castle Hill and Kissing Point from 1938 to 1963 with the associated stream converted to a 400 metre long drainage channel. In Belgian Gardens, Primrose Street now occupies the former channel of Mundy Creek. This 3.5 hectare area was reclaimed in the late 1960s with the last 0.7 hectares of the Mundy Creek estuary being reclaimed by 1980. In Rowes Bay about 3 hectares of wetland was reclaimed in the late 1950s when the suburb was first established, and a further 2.5 hectares was reclaimed in the early 1990s when the RSL Villas were built.

The Chronologic Rowes Bay
4000 BC
1000 AD
Coastal and catchment processes acted to form the dunes, coastal plains and waterways and create the Rowes Bay wetlands and associated landscapes from Kissing Point to Many Peaks Range. The system of dunes and swales extends approximately 2.75 kilometres inland from the existing coastline.
???? to +19?? Aboriginal Traditional Owners would have used the wetlands as part of their range for hunting and gathering food and other resources. The sand island may have been used as a seasonal camping area.
Establishment of Townsville by European settlers.
1865 Market gardens and a dairy farm established near Jimmy’s Lookout. Vineyard established at Kissing Point.
1869 The Townsville Town Common is gazetted (GG 26.6.1869) and includes the Rowes Bay wetlands.
1870s The vineyard had closed down and the market garden area was being called German Gardens. The Town Common is in use for pasturage of town residents and visitors cattle and horses.
1874 - 1891 Development of the Townsville Port breakwaters.
Residential housing starts to extend towards Rowes Bay
Early 1914 The Townsville Town Common is gazetted as a Pasturage Reserve under new land administration legislation (The Land Act of 1910).
1914 - 1918 World War I. German Gardens renamed Belgian Gardens
Early 1920s Heatley’s Parade and the road to the Pallarenda Quarantine Station were constructed
1924 The Sanitary Reserve was established from the Pasturage Reserve. It included much of the current Rowes Bay wetlands
1939 Townsville airport/military base established 
1939 - 1945 World War II 
1940s to 1960s Tidal mudflats between Castle Hill and Kissing Point are ‘reclaimed’ for residential development
1950s Most of Belgian Gardens and North Ward streets had been laid out
1961 The population of Belgian Gardens (129 houses), North Ward (113 houses) and Rowes Bay (76 houses) had swollen to around 1600
1960s Most of the Rowes Bay street network had been laid out. The One Mile Creek drain was nearing completion, replacing the lower 0.8 km of Mundy Creek, as part of the Town Common drainage works.
Dec 1971 Cyclone Althea see Bureau of Metreology report (4.6 Mb)
1974 Mundy Creek channel reclaimed and built on (Built score = Belgian Gardens 151 houses, North Ward 129 houses and Rowes Bay 88 houses).
1970s RSL retirement village was built comprising some 70 villas.
1990s Another 2.5 hectares of wetlands were approved for reclamation to extend the RSL retirement village
2007 Creek to Coral headquarters is established at the Rowes Bay wetlands reserve
2007- 2010 Borrow Pits to Rowes Bay Learnscape brochure. 
2010 - 2012 The first ‘formal’ stage of the Rowes Bay wetlands tracks and trails are constructed including a boardwalk and return woodland track.
2012 The Rowes Bay Wetlands Learnscapes Boardwalk and website launched