When holidaying in the Tweed Valley in northern New South Wales, most river cruises take you along the huge Tweed Valley, which opens to the ocean at Kingscliff. But if you want to be different, then you need to try a cruise on the Rous River instead.
The Rous River
This is a perennial tributary of the Tweed River and stretches for 25km, almost as far as the Natural Arch.
It extends down to where it meets the Tweed at the lovely historic riverside town of Tumbulgum. The name comes from the Aboriginal translation for ‘the meeting of two rivers’.
It is a much shallower and narrower river than the Tweed. Cruising is thus quieter and spotting birdlife much easier.
In fact the tour operators brag to have seen 38 species of birds in a two-hour trip.
The tours are run by only one innovative boutique company, Mt Warning River Cruises. Mike and Robert were our hosts and tour guides. They were a lot of fun and full of great information.
LIFE ON THE WATER
We chose a late afternoon cruise hoping that it would not be as hot, with more wildlife activity than in the heat of the day.
A resort pickup took us to the Tweed River’s edge at Tumbulgum where we boarded the pontoon boat.
The Rous River varies from one to three metres deep but this craft had a draft of only 0.7 metres cruising for quite a way up stream.
Leaving a small wooden jetty and crossing the Tweed River we set off up the Rous.
We passed an old cemetery built in a rainforest between 1860 and 1930. There were mangroves and cattle farms.
The old road to Murwillumbah ran alongside a short stretch of the river before leading up to a coffee plantation and wineries.
FLORA AND FAUNA
An eagle’s nest high up on an electricity pylon was home to a mother eagle and her noisy baby.
Crab pots were scattered everywhere.
We spotted a spoonbill, with a pied cormorant as an unusual friend, as well as azure and sacred kingfishers, a brahminy kite and the odd snake in the water.
The boys handed out books to help us identify the birds.
A termite nest high on a tree trunk hosted a kookaburra as we passed close to a $180,000 rock wall constructed to combat erosion by a local landowner.
The river accessed forest areas with red and (more rarely) white cedar, hoop pine and bunya pine.
These had been extensively logged years ago, the logs floated down to Kingscliff for milling.
The local flora also encourages the rare Richmond wing butterfly.
Flora and fauna spotting alternated with eating nibbles and drinking wine. Along with a setting sun over Mt Warning in the distance, it was an extremely relaxing experience.
We slowly meandered our way back to the jetty after a good two hours cruising.
HISTORIC TOWN OF TUMBULGUM
The trip ended in a short heritage tour of some of the historic buildings of Tumbulgum along the river edge.
We all headed into the old Tumbulgum Tavern where a seafood platter was awaiting us.
Fresh Moreton bay bugs, mussels, prawns and locally caught fish served with the best deep-fried crispy chips I have ever tasted.
The sun set behind the caldera whilst we feasted, basking us in its glory as it reflected off the river into the tavern.
What a glorious end to a wonderful afternoon.
Irene Isaacson travelled at her own expense.