In my last blog post I gave a bit of a mauling to Forrestdale Lake as I found the whole nature walk experience quite unsatisfactory and frustrating. I mentioned that it was part of the Forrestdale and Thomsons Lakes Ramsar Site and that the experience at Thomsons Lake was much better. So this week I’ve decided to put up an excerpt about Thomsons Lake from my book Perth’s Best Bush, Coast and City Walks 2nd Edition. The Department of Commerce and Financial Affairs would have me remind you this book would make a perfect Christmas gift for anyone interested in walking in the Perth Metro Area and can be bought at all good bookstores or online for the bargain price of $29.99.
Time: 2 hours
Season: Autumn, spring and summer. In late November the land around the lake can still be flooded. January to March and the lake dries up.
Where is it? 25Km south of Perth in Beeliar. Drive down the Kwinana Freeway and take the Russell Road exit.
Public Transport: Catch the 525 bus to Russell Rd After Hammond Rd (Stop Number 23864) and then walk 1.5Km to Thomsons Lake.
Thomsons Lake (aka Jilbup Lake) is perhaps one of the most important freshwater lakes on the Swan Coastal Plain. Since the days of first European settlement 75% of the coastal plain has been drained for urban development. Thomsons Lake is an A class nature reserve of 509 ha of wetland. The lake supports around 10,000 waterbirds, of which are more than 1% of the world’s population of long toed stints (Calidris subminuta) which is a small wading bird that migrates from northern Asia to winter in Australia. The park is home to more than 50 species of waterbird, 86 species of “bush bird”, 9 species of frogs, 23 species of reptiles, 6 species of mammal and 15 species of ground orchid. Consequently getting into the park is like entering a maximum security prison, the reserve is encircled by 9.2 km of 2 m high electrified fence.
This walk ostensibly takes you around the lake’s shoreline, but as you walk round you pass through several distinct eco-systems. On the higher ground is the jarrah / banksia woodland of the coastal plain, there is a zone of flooded gums and swamp paperbarks, and particularly on the eastern side of the lake is a thick belt of rushes and grasses. Tiger snakes are common in wetlands and areas with an abundance of prey such as Thomsons Lake can support large populations. Their venom is very potent and the mortality rate for people who do not receive treatment is over 60%. Thankfully they are a shy creature and it is unlikely you will see one, but it pays to watch where you put your feet when walking through long grass at the lakeside.
- From the car park enter through the double gate, there is an information board just inside on your right. Walk along the track and after 170m you reach a fork in the track take the left down to the lakeside. At the lake turn right.
- During winter and spring this area is prone to flooding – I walked here in early November after a wet winter and I thought I was in a remake of the 1951 movie “The African Queen”. The water was knee deep in places and wellingtons would have been more appropriate than the walking shoes I had on. If you are here in late spring in the wet look in the mud at your feet carefully. You might notice small things hoping about. When I first noticed I thought they were just bugs but on closer inspection they were very small black frogs- smaller than a little finger nail. The bush on the lakeside of the path starts to thin out in places and using the cover of the reeds it is possible to move closer to the waterbirds on the lake shore and observe them.
- The path dries out here and you return to a mixed woodland of flooded gum and jarrah.
- At the Thomsons Lake Drainage Pumping Station you come to a crossroads. The left turning takes you down to the lake and when I went down I noticed a lot of quenda (southern brown bandicoot, Isoodon obesulus fusciventer) diggings along the path edge. As I got closer to the water I started to see the quenda in the long grass. Unfortunately they were too quick for me to take a photograph of them. Carry on straight over at the cross roads to continue the walk.
- Another of the park’s access points, keep following the path you are on.
- Turn right and follow the path back to where you parked your car.
As I mentioned before this is an excerpt from my latest walking guide to Perth. It would make a wonderful Christmas present for anyone with an interest in walking.