Inspired by Australia's natural, developing and fun environments.
Get some inspiration.
Published August 10th 2016
5,000,000 years old and still going strong
South Australia is unique in many ways, and Shell Hill Reserve is one of these. Believed to be the only shell deposit of its type in the whole of the Southern Hemisphere, it attracted my attention, and I thought I'd take a better look.
Shell Hill Reserve is located between Walker Flat and Black Hill, sitting above the banks of the Marne River. Shell Hill is estimated to be over 5 million years old, and consists of a deposit of oyster shells that is up to 6 metres thick in some places. Shell Hill was originally part of a shallow sea that occupied the Murray Basin all those millions of years ago.
This deposit of oyster shells was discovered early in the 20th century, and soon thereafter a firm called Ellis & Clarke commenced mining the shells from 1931, converting them into lime and selling them to local farmers as fertiliser. The mine lasted only a few years, before becoming uneconomic due to the maintenance costs associated with grinding the tough oyster shells. A second attempt to mine the shells started in 1942 and lasted four years.
Over the years, souvenir hunters acquired some of the shells, and continued the process of demolishing this unique site. After several more years, the Mid Murray Council took control of the site, has fenced off the large central oyster shell deposit to prevent further degradation, and installed information boards, picnic seats and walking trails.
There are four walking trails of varying distance with the longest being around 3km and encompassing the whole reserve. The walk encompasses magnificent vistas of the Marne River Valley and the surrounds, the Marne River itself and of course the oyster shells which are now wide spread following the past activities on the site.
The shorter walks provide different perspectives of the site with wildflowers on display throughout late winter and spring, and wombats, echidnas and various birds active for most of the year. The walks are all well sign posted, and are defined as easy to moderate.
Shell Hill Reserve is open all year round and is free to visit. There are no facilities or drinking water at the Reserve, but there are some picnic tables. The Reserve is approximately 10km northwest of Walker Flat. Further details are available at the Reserve or from the Mid Murray Council website with a small brochure also available from the Mannum Visitor Information Centre.
Hello Steve...there would not be too many people outside the area that would know about this.Went there many many years ago,before it was made into a nice area to park/picnic and go for walks.I have done a full day walk along the Marne River..down to a small weir..we began from a farm property in the hills...the name of which I have forgotten..perhaps you know where I l.mean.The river was flowing and had to cross it a few times and got our feet wet.Maybe you have done the walk...needed to get someone to drive our 4wd. to the small weir,so we did not need to walk back.It is a magnificent walk, along the river with it's high banks/cliffs and trees.One needs to be in good physical condition to do this walk..but it is not exhausting..just take some food and drink and perhaps carry a stick to help cross the river.
Mid Murray Council did not install these walking trails but are happy to take credit for them . I designed them and was one of the volunteers with the Eastern Hills & Murray Plains Catchment Group who did much of the site protection work including the supplying and installing the trail markers.
Shell Hill Reserve is a great place to visit. In spring you can see a large mauve daisy in flower, Oleraria magnaflora, that is quite rare in the South Australian Murray Darling Basin and you might even catch a glimpse of a hairy nosed wombat sunning itsself at the mouth of his warren. I was part of the team that organised the fencing, signage and walking trails with grants obtained through two community environment groups. Much of the impetus for the project was provided by Gavin Smith, a Mannum resident and keen promoter of the region. You might also ask at the Mannum information centre for the Mid Murray Self Drive Eco Tour, or download it free from the Discover Murray web site. This was another of Gavin's ideas for the area.