Adelaide River Wetlands

Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve is one of several reserves in the lower Adelaide River catchment that provide havens for wildlife in Darwin's developing rural fringe. It is one of the few wetland systems accessible to visitors all year round. Fogg Dam is a remnant of early attempts to produce rice on the Adelaide River flood plains.

Today it provides an important refuge for wildlife. Observation bays and towers allow close inspection of the area. Note: Saltwater Crocodiles move into the Fogg Dam area during the wet season when the reserve is inaccessible by people, although by the time the dry season arrives usually only a few crocodiles remain in the wetlands, as they prefer the rivers and billabongs. Care should still be taken.

This is a great place to visit - if possible, go early in the morning (sunrise if you can) or late in the afternoon and you will see so many birds and animal life - crocodile, monitors, cranes, herons, kingfishers and many other birds too numerous to mention. About half an hour before sunrise, as soft light precedes the colourful sunrise, the dawn chorus of birds begins – an unforgettable experience! How captivating and serene it is to experience such a vast landscape full of beautiful wildlife as far as the eyes can see, where you can sit for hours watching as the scenery changes before your eyes. A great wetland without the distance of Kakadu - this is a well kept secret. Be sure to take your camera as you never know what wonderful bird life you will experience.

A visit to Window on the Wetlands can be combined with visits to nearby Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve and the Mary River National Park (proposed). Window on the Wetlands Visitor Centre is perched on Beatrice Hill, one of the highest points on the Adelaide River floodplain. It provides an introduction to the northern coastal wetlands. There are interactive displays about the ecological processes that occur in the wetlands, the seasonal changes and the abundant wildlife.

Walks

The Dam Wall Walk is the best place to view waterbirds. It can be hot in the middle of the day. Two viewing platforms provide shade and information about bird identification. Enjoy the water lilies along the way.

Length: 2.2km return Time: 45 minutes Grade: easy and wheelchair accessible.

Woodlands to Waterlily Walk goes from the corner of the car park through forests that fringe the floodplains to a boardwalk that takes you onto the dam and two viewing platforms.

Length: 2.2km return Time: 45 minutes Grade: easy.

Monsoon Rainforest Walk begins past the toilet block on the opposite side of the road to the car park and winds through a variety of habitats, including monsoon forest, paperbark forest and onto floodplain. The boardwalks are currently being replaced and it is not expected to be open until late 2007 or early 2008.

Length: 3.6km Time: 2 hours Grade: easy

Pandanus Lookout on the far, western side of the dam wall has two stories and gives sweeping views across the floodplain. It’s great for sunrise or sunset picnics. Parking is available.

Night Walks are provided by rangers during the dry season to allow visitors to experience the diversity of nocturnal wildlife around the dam. It’s recommended you bring insect repellent and a torch.

Location: 70 km east of Darwin along the Arnhem Highway. Free admission.


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About Fogg Dam

Fogg Dam was built in 1956 as a central part of an ambitious attempt – mostly funded by American entrepreneurs - to grow rice in northern Australia. The floodplain below the dam was divided into a series of paddy-fields that could be flooded seasonally, and the dam was built to provide a water supply. The dam was named after Mr JD Fogg, Managing Director of Utah Australia Ltd., a partner of Territory Rice Ltd. The scheme failed for a variety of reasons, much of it relating to problems with management. The rats and magpie geese got a lot of the blame for the rice enterprise failing, but most of the locals reckon it was just poor planning.

One spin-off from the Fogg Dam enterprise was the construction of Middle Point village, just a few kilometres from the dam (originally named “Humpty Doo”, but that name has now been taken over by the much larger area to the south). The village was originally built as a base for the CSIRO research team who investigated the ecology of the Fogg Dam system, and the feasibility of rice-growing. Although the business failed, much was learnt; for example, Redhead’s studies on the native dusky rats of the floodplain, and especially how their populations were affected by Cyclone Tracy’s arrival in 1974, remain as classic pioneering research projects. After the rice-growing attempt was abandoned, Middle Point village evolved into the base for the Coastal Plains Research Station, mostly devoted to agricultural enterprises.

Much was done to work out how best to raise water buffalo in the area, and what kinds of buffalo were best-suited to the local environment. Water buffalo are not native to Australia, but were brought across to the Northern Territory very early in the history of settlement (at Port Essington, in the 1820’s) and have since run wild. The Coastal Plains Research Station was eventually closed, with the buffalo work moving to nearby Beatrice Hill Farm. Middle Point Village was then used for a variety of purposes, mostly as a base for the state government’s Parks and Wildlife Service.

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