Wills Creek Conservation Park

My last activation of the weekend was the Wills Creek Conservation Park, which is situated near the little town of Price on the upper Yorke Peninsula, about 133 km from Adelaide.  After the activation at the very hot and windy Ramsay Way Conservation Park, Marija and I headed towards the coast, and in to the seaside town of Port Vincent, where we enjoyed an ice cream from the Ice Cream Parlour.  We then travelled north on the Yorke Highway towards Price.  As we did, we could see South Hummocks SOTA peak in the distance, which I had climbed earlier in the year.  Behind that you could see the SOTA peaks, Bumbunga Hill, and Illawarra Hill.

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Price township, which was proclaimed on the 3rd August 1882, is near the northern boundary of the Hundred of Cunningham.  The principal local industries here are grain farming and salt production.  In the case of the latter, sea salt is harvested from coastal salt pans.  There is not much in the way of facilities here, and the population is only about 250 people.  Major landmarks are the Wheatsheaf Hotel, established in 1886, and a caravan park.

Price, although not right on the coast, has a causeway running to the Wills Creek CP, which of course contains Wills Creek itself, a mangrove fringed tidal creek, which is connected with the sea, Gulf St Vincent.   At the end of the causeway there is a public boat ramp.   Once outside the creek, fishing is plentiful.  Wills Creek is a very sheltered anchorage for boats and in earlier times it was from here that bagged salt and grain was loaded onto ketches for export.  These products are now transported in bulk form by road.

Wills Creek Conservation Park consists of 2,130 hectares of mangrove, and was proclaimed in 2006.  Prior to this, the area was Crown land.  The park is situated at Mangrove Point on the north-western shores of Gulf St Vincent and is a significant coastal wetland/estuary area supporting mangroves and intertidal habitats.  The park extends south from the township of Port Clinton to the town of Price.

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Wills Creek Conservation Park consists of mangrove and samphire habitats along the coastal fringe.  Wills and Shag Creeks are known fish nursery areas and as an important habitat for seabirds.  To the north, the mangrove woodland is somewhat atypical, being backed by eroding limestone cliffs topped with mallee and dryland tea-tree vegetation.  Wills Creek Conservation Park is subject to active mining leases.

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Wills Creek Conservation Park incorporates a nationally listed wetland and estuary of interest, including an extensive area of Grey Mangrove woodland and adjoining shrubland habitat dominated by Scrubby Samphire and Beaded Samphire.  The limestone escarpment north of the township of Price supports low woodland of Red Mallee, Dryland Tea-tree and Spear Grass.  Only six native plants have been recorded thus far, none of which have a conservation rating. However, there have been observations of Bead Samphire in the park and this species is considered to be of high conservation significance.

The park is a haven for a variety of birdlife including White faced herons, Cormorants, Pied Oystercatchers, Thornbills, and Gulls.

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We travelled passed the old Wheatsheaf pub, and down along the dirt causeway, through the mangroves.  At the end of the dirt road, there is a large parking area which adjoins Wills Creek.  We were surprised at the number of people that were here, either launching boats or going swimming in Wills Creek.  By this stage of the afternoon the weather had become really hot and the wind was still quite strong and gusty.  Fortunately there was a tin shelter at the eastern end of the carpark which had tables and benches in it.  So it was an ideal place to set up the gear and escape from the hot afternoon sun.  The bush flies however did not want to co-operate.  They were still out in force, and Marija and I needed to wear our face netting !  We used an adjacent concrete table to the shelter, to strap the squid pole to.

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On the way to the park I had received a message from Col VK5HCF that he was in Telford Scrub Conservation Park, down in the south east of S.A..  So after we had set up, I tuned to 40m and heard Tim VK5AV calling CQ from Telford Scrub CP with a nice signal.  I believe this was Tim’s first ever activation.  He has become an active Parks Hunter, but it was great to see him actually out & about in a park himself.  During this QSO, a big gust of wind caught the squid pole, and pulled it over, almost bringing the radio with it, as you will see from the video below.  After re erecting the antenna, Col VK5HCF also called in from Telford Scrub, and it was nice to bag another Park to Park QSO.

The band conditions seemed to have improved a bit, and of course, this time of the day the 40m band generally comes alive again anyway.  So as a result I worked a steady flow of callers from VK2, VK3, & VK5.  Ron VK5MRE from the Riverland called in using his old ‘boat anchor’ transceiver with a strong 5/9 signal.  Regular Park Hunters Colin VK3UBY and his wife Sandra VK3LSC also called in with their usual very strong 5/9 plus signal/s.  Sandy suggested there should be an Award for the ladies/wives ‘for sticking it out’.  I think she probably has a very good valid point, considering that Marija tolerated my 8 park activations under trying circumstances.

On a few occasions I heard Peter VK3YE calling me, who was pedestrian mobile & QRP.  Sadly we could not get through to each other.  I spoke with Peter a few days later and he told me that he had a weak copy on me, and that there was very bad QSB.  This was a good reflection of what the 40m band was like over the weekend.

Larry VK5LY also called in.  He had just arrived home at Renmark with his wife Di, after activating a number of parks in the mid north of S.A.  Congratulations Larry, and well done Di, for putting up with the park activations.

I also had a contact with Bernard VK2IB who was using a new Yaesu FT-817, and he was giving it its first run on air. Bernard was operating from his bush block at Talmalmo, on the Murray River, east of Albury, and was using a linked dipole about 6 m from the ground in an inverted fee configuration.  Bernard and I exchanged 5/3 signal reports.

I was getting close to packing up and calling CQ for last callers, when much to my surprise, Phil VK3BHR called in.  He was portable on SOTA peak, un-named summit, VK3/ VC-032.  It was great to be able to make contact with Phil, who initially was struggling to get his 4 contacts.

My last contact of the weekend was with Garry VK3FREQ who was mobile in the Flinders Ranges National Park (5/3 both ways).

I had a few people approach Marija and I whilst I was operating.  One gentleman was familiar with amateur radio, whilst another one saw my squid pole and asked if I was having an success in catching anything.  Maybe I should have brought the fishing rod and thrown a line into the Wills Creek whilst I was operating.

As mentioned, this was a much more productive park as far as contacts.  I ended up with 24 QSO’s on 40m SSB into VK2, VK3, & VK5.

The following stations were worked:-

Tim VK5AV/p (Park to Park); Col VK5HCF/p (Park to Park); Brian VK5FMID/qrp; Ron VK5MRE; Colin VK3UBY; Sandra VK3LSC; Peter VK3PF; Andrew VK3BQ/m; Ray VK3YAR; David VK5NQP; Dave VK2JDS; Larry VK5LY; Noel VK3FI; Dennis VK5FDEN; Andy VK5AKH; Shaun VK5FAKV/m; Bernard VK2IB/p; Ted VK5KBM; Tony VK3CAT; David VK5KC; Phil VK3BHR/p (SOTA); Trevor VK5ATQ; Paul VK5MAP; and VK3FREQ/p.

This was the end of a thoroughly enjoyable, but challenging weekend.  I had activated all 8 planned parks, and had a total of 90 QSO’s.  Band conditions were very flakey.  Weather conditions were hot and windy.  The flies were amazing…hundreds of them.  And then there was the antenna problems.  But I had filled plenty of pages in the notebook, and the scenery on the Yorke Peninsula was quite amazing.  Thanks certainly go to my very tolerant wife, Marija for accompanying me on the trip.

I have placed some video on You Tube of my activation at the Wills Creek CP…..

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