Lune River

The Lune River begins its journey abruptly, in the headwall of a glacial valley in the Southern Ranges. From these headwaters, the river travels down through forested slopes, before meandering across button-grass plains, reaching sea-level near the Lune River bridge, with the water now affected by tidal flow. From this bridge, the river steadily broadens as it flows southward, entering into a number of bays before finally reaching the sea proper, at a place called The Narrows, at Southport – from headwaters to the sea, the Lune has travelled about 24 kilometres.

Indigenous people (Lyluequonny) would have travelled and lived in this region, as evidenced by middens along the coast and occasional worked stones being found. Any hard, coloured quartz (chalcedony) would have been useful for stone tools and naturally enjoyed for their beauty. The gemstones and fossils found in this area, include rare fern fossils, petrified wood and patterned agates. Because of the abundance of the gemstones and fossils here, two gemfields have officially been set aside for the purpose of fossicking, where people can try to find their own, most often through digging. No doubt early Europeans who settled the area, would also have noticed these coloured stones and plant fossils.

Access to this area for early settlers at Lune River was originally only by water or by horse, with boats transporting people, supplies and goods, enabling trade. The river was used to transport timber and limestone, out to Deep Hole in Southport Bay, where ships and their cargo supplied local and overseas markets. The limestone rock, extracted from about six kilometres to the west, brought rock out to the river, via a tram-line. Dispatched from a wharf in the lower reaches of Lune River (Ida Bay), horses were originally used to pull the laden trolleys from the quarry, eventually they were replaced by a steam engine. A small community emerged near the river’s edge, including close to the timber-mill sites. Employment revolved mostly around timber harvesting and fishing, and later from the limestone works (incl. brickworks); miles of tracks spread out into the hinterland, for access to trees. Fishing and growing food was vital for the remote community and people needed to be resourceful. Today, only a few posts remain at the river’s edge, silent remnants of the once busy loading wharf that stretched for 80 metres, built at the end of Mill Road. Timber was a local necessity, for building homes, boats, social and commercial structures, as well as for export. A school and Public Hall were built, though it seems that the population did not ever rise above 100 people. Whilst many of the original timber houses have gone, mostly to fires, there has been a movement of new people to the area in the last few decades.

The discovery by timber-workers, of the Hastings dolomite caves (1917), led to the early development of tourism in the area. In more recent times, it is the rare, silicified fern fossils that have put Lune River on the world map, and not just amongst scientists and palaeobotanists. There is increasing interest by the public, to fossick and find their own gemstones and fossils from Early Jurassic times. It is only a kilometre south of the Lune River bridge that people can board the historic train that travels through bush to Southport Bay, along the track that limestone once travelled, past areas of industry and homes that are no more. This bridge also offers a good point from which to launch kayaks or canoes for hours of paddling downstream on this river, with birdlife and wonderful views of surrounding mountains, once you’re into the bays.