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Breakneck River

Flinders Chase National Park, Kangaroo Island, Australia

Kangaroo Island Links:

October 23rd, 2000

3.8 miles
230 vertical feet
Total Time: 3:09

Rating: 6/10

Directions:   View Driving Map


There were no other cars when Jean and I pulled into the parking lot for the Breakneck River trailhead. We wouldn't see anyone else until we finished the hike.

At the start of the trail is a section of wooden planks and a metal tray with a sliding top. The sign there instructs hikers to take the brush and scrub their shoes, letting the dirt fall into the tray. They want to try to make sure no alien species enter the wild here.

There was a similar tray at the Black Swamp Trail, but this trail was nothing like it. We were now far away from the kangaroos and geese. The hike seemed quite lifeless in comparison, though not completely so. As we walked past ferns and forest, we spied huge ant hills. Some were about 3 feet high and nearly as wide. I marveled at how long it must have taken them to build such monstrosities, and wondered why they all seemed to be built right next to the trail.

As we got further into the hike and paralleled the Breakneck River, we started to hear a sound. It was like the sound of someone plucking a string on a very deep banjo. The sound happened mostly on the opposite shore, but also on our shore. We looked and we looked, but could never see the source of the sound. It was quite soothing. As we went further, there were more of them. Instead of distinct voices they became a cacophony.

Against this auditory backdrop we picked our way through a sometimes muddy trail. At one point the trail became so overgrown with bushes that Jean's hat, still sporting the plastic hook, got caught on a branch and actually came off her head! We retrieved the hat and soon enough we broke out of the forest and into low brushland. Sand dunes rose up on the opposite shore. The river widened and we could see our destination -- the ocean.

Breakneck River

The trail became hard to follow. It was sand and rocks and dirt and bushes. Sometimes the trail went up, and sometimes down. We knew we had to parallel the river. Eventually we gave up on the trail and walked down to the shore, figuring it would be easier to follow at shore level.

There was quite a lot of trash near the water. We saw all sorts of stuff, apparently washed ashore from the ocean. We saw plastic, styrofoam, wood. I even found a piece of plastic with Japanese writing on it. Our guide at Seal Bay had mentioned that sometimes current markers from Africa were found on the shores of Kangaroo Island, usually about a year later. I searched for anything that might be a current marker, but couldn't find any. I used to think that trash on the beach was mostly from people who went there. But now I know that a lot of it is stuff that is washed ashore from the ocean.

Southern Ocean at the mouth of the river

Waves pounding the beach

The banjo sound stopped as we neared the ocean. Instead, we heard the pounding of the waves. As we got closer, we could see 3-4 foot waves pounding the mouth of the river. We came upon limestone rocks weathered away with small holes. We stopped for lunch here, listening to the power of the ocean. We also saw the power of the tides. When we first arrived, the waves could not reach over a small rise in the sand. Several minutes later, we noticed the first wave breach the rise and start flowing into the creek. Then another, and another. As the tide began to rise, the ocean infiltrated the creek further and further. I was quite fascinated watching it, remembering the Daintree River. Jean was more concerned than fascinated. We packed up and started the hike back out. Along the way I could see an ocean wave pushing further and further into the creek. It actually kept up with us as we hiked for a half minute before it succumbed to the river going in the opposite direction.

Breakneck River

Jean starting the hike back

Rocks near the river mouth

Closer look at the rocks

Sand dunes along the Breakneck River

On the hike back we heard the banjo sounds again. We passed the red water of the creek close to the ocean, and later saw it turn almost black further inland. We passed the eucalyptus trees under a cloudy sky -- gray as it had been the entire morning. When we finally reached the trailhead, a pair of hikers had just parked and were about to start the hike we had just finished. They would probably have it all to themselves.

Ant hill next to the trail

We checked the signs at the beginning of the hike and read that the sound we'd heard was none other than the banjo frog. I'd even referred to it as a banjo sound without knowing that. It's that distinctive. I only wished I'd had a tape recorder so I could play back that soothing sound back home.


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