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Published January 2nd 2015
Make your own self-guided discovery of mangroves
A short detour from the Port Wakefield Road onto the Middle Beach Road leads visitors to the start of the Samphire Discovery Trail. This trail provides a unique opportunity to walk through three distinct coastal habitats with mangrove forests, samphire flats and intertidal seagrass meadows on the sand and mud flats in the area. Visitors and students are able to experience a range of habitats and become aware of the effects human activities have on natural systems.
The main part of the Trail is a self guided walk that takes visitors on a journey of discovery through a mangrove and samphire ecosystem. It starts from behind the kiosk, and follows an embankment alongside a tidal creek before crossing on to a 100m boardwalk, then running over an ancient dune system to a viewing platform, which overlooks the tidal creek.
Along the way there are nine interpretive signs to introduce and inform walkers to the fascinating tidal world of Middle Beach. At the first stop is a welcome to visitors with a revelations about what they will see on their meandering journey. Visitors are also advised that birdlife and noise don't co-habitat together too well, so to observe the birdlife it is best to keep as quiet as possible for the duration of the trail.
The second stop, inside the large Information Shelter, looks at food chains, revealing that some animals graze directly on the energy rich leaves of coastal plants, while other animals, such as crabs, eat leaves after they have started to decompose. The mangroves are also an important habitat for worms, shrimps and snails, which feed on decayed leaves.
As visitors make their way onto the boardwalk across a bridge over the tidal creek, interpretive signs detail the importance of tides and the samphire flats, which, when covered by the rising tide, are important feeding areas for fish, crustaceans and birds. Taking this walk at high tide provides a chance to watch the feeding action as it takes place.
Towards the end of the boardwalk, the signs explain the grey mangrove, which grows between 3.5m and 5m high. It is South Australia's only species of mangrove and has adapted to thrive in saltwater. The soil in which they grow lacks oxygen, so they breathe through aerial roots called pneumatophores. The pencil-shaped roots can be seen pushing up through the mud. The mangroves flower during mid-to-late summer and have a small orange flower.
The trail continues along an area known as a chenier ridge - the remains of an ancient sand dune deposited 4000 to 6000 years ago. As the mangroves became established on the mudflats, the chenier became stranded and are protected from any further wave action. The interpretive signs through this section of the walk look at a range of wildlife, including wading birds, such as the white faced heron and the white ibis, while the second sign examines bush tucker, such as the nitre bush and saltbush.
The trail is 500m long (1km return) and the signage indicates that it is open daily from 9am-5pm following the payment of a small $2 donation to the kiosk operator for its upkeep. The Trail is in very good condition, although it does appear as though there were some areas that were requiring some maintenance including some of the signs which were suffering a bit of sun damage.
Overall the Trail was very informative, and provided an opportunity to experience this diverse eco-system, and provided a break in the extended journey along Port Wakefield Road. The Trail is located 9km along the Middle Beach Road at Middle Beach, just behind the Kiosk.