Mutton Cove is an isolated and desolate area on the tip of the LeFevre Peninsula just 23 kilometres north west of Adelaide. It consists mainly of saltmarsh and is bounded by the sea and land used for heavy industry.
The Mutton Cove Conservation Reserve is under the care and control of the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR) and has had a management plan prepared in 2003. Surprisingly the Department's website makes no reference to Mutton Cove other than about the shipwrecks, although it receives some federal funding to maintain it.
The area is quite grim, particularly on the squally wet day when I visited. Discreet signage announces the car park and an entry to the reserve although the entry was blocked off by safety netting at the time.
While it is renown as a migratory bird habitat the dominant sounds on the breeze were an incessant beeping from vehicles in a distant industrial complex, and the constant clanking of heavy machinery. Perhaps on a weekend it may be more peaceful.
The land is mostly covered by very low shrubs and pools of sea water, with occasional clumps of slightly taller vegetation. Looking east across Light Passage Torrens Island Quarantine Station is visible, and the chimneys of the power station.
Walking further north along the path brings me to the destination of many visitors - the rusting remains of the steamer Excelsior built in 1897. Compared to the shipwrecks of Jervois Basin, the Excelsior is easily visible and accessible to within a few metres.
After working in New South Wales and Tahiti the Excelsior was bought in 1908 by South Australian flour millers, then later by the South Australian Farmers Union. After being sold in 1933 to the SA Harbors Board it was used as a coal hulk to supply dredges until being abandoned in Mutton Cove in 1945.
Another shipwreck was also abandoned at Mutton Bay in the 1940's - the paddle steamer Jupiter, assembled at Port Adelaide in 1866. Originally built as an iron barge, it was later converted for use as a paddle steamer. For around 70 years it operated on the Murray and Darling rivers transporting goods and up to 164 passengers.
In 1933 the Jupiter was converted to a crayfish depot at Birkenhead and moored at Outer Harbour. Fishing ships would discharge their catch of crayfish into the flooded well of the Jupiter, which could hold up to 10,000 crayfish and keep them fresh until needed by the market. Finally around 1945, it was abandoned to decay at Mutton Cove.
If you simply want to see the remains of the Excelsior rather than visit the remainder of the Mutton Cove Conservation Reserve, it's possible to park your car near the north end of Archie Badenoch Circuit where the wreck is only a short walk away. You can find more photos taken in the park on Flickr.
If you have children with you, perhaps visit the nearby Lady Ruthven Reserve afterward - there is a new playground there, and it's a good place to see ships arriving at Outer Harbor.