Observations on the soil, &c, &c, of the banks of Swan River

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Observations on the soil, &c, &c, of the banks of Swan River
by Charles Fraser

The Soil on the South Head of the entrance of Swan River is a Sterile white Sand, but producing a great variety of interesting Plants.

The Sould on the South Bank, immediately instead the Head, though apparently a barren sand on examination I found to contain at least two thirds of a firm red loam capable of producing Garden and other light crops, and throwing up immense quantities of Plants. This description applies not only to the Banks, as far as Pelican Point, but to the back Country as far as my observation led; the Soil is of very considerable depth.

I was astonished at the vivied green of the Eucalyptus and other Trees and Shrubs, so distinct from those of New South Wales; but, on digging the Soil to the depth of Two feet, I found the cause to arise apparently from the immense number of Springs with which this Country abounds, for, at the above depth, I found the Soil quite Moise though apparently at the latter end of exceeding dry Season; and from the same cause must arise the great luxuriance of the herbaceous Plants on the Banks, which exceed anything I ever saw on the eastern Coast. They consist principally of Senicias and Souchous frequently attaining the height of nine feet.

Here I observed several moist spots, containing fresh water, which in humid Seasons are the evident channels of active Springs issuing from the Limestone Rocks, by which they are bounded.

The bieuty of the Banks, which, considering its immediate vicinity to the Sea, surpasses anything on the East Coast, is greatly augmented by a bieutiful species of Liptosherminon which in habit, and the situation it holds in the Botany of this Tract, resembles the Weeping Willow of Europe.

The Soil on the North Head is exactly the same as that on the South. Two hundred feet from the Beach it changes to a fine brown loam, improving in quality, as the Hills are ascended, into a fine Virgin earth, capable of forming the finest compost. The small Vallies are exceedingly fertile and capable of producing any crop.

The Country continues of the same description as far as Pelican Point, beyond which the character of the Hills was not ascertained; but I do not hesitate in pronouncing them to be equally fertile as far as my eye carries.

The Limestone, with which they are studded, render them admirable adapted to the culture of Vines, and their being destitute of Timber render them capable of immediate culture.

The few Trees and Shrubs observed on this Tract consist principally of stunted Eucalyptus, Calytrir and Lipthosherminon.

The Country from Pelican Point to the entrance of the Morean is diversified into Hill and Dale, magnificently clothed with Trees of the richest green. Here Banksia Grandis appears in all its splendour, the Genus Eucalyptus forms the principal feature in the Botany. I observed on these Hills an arborescent species of Dryandra, Lamia, Spinalis, several Species of Hakea Grevilia, a magnificent Species of Ciunneria, which is here seed to associate with the Weeping Liptosherminon and forming one of the greatest bieuties of the Landscape; Anchocereis littorea is here found to attain the height of Ten feet.

To a Person accustomed to the Everbrown of the Woods of Port Jackson, the magnificent scene from Pelican Point would be considered a great tree.

The summit of the above ranges approach nearer to the sandy Soil of Point Jackson than any hitherto seen on the River, but contains more loam. The Vallies and Headlands are fertile and thrown up immense quantities of Herbaceous Plants.

The Beaches here produce Water in the greatest abundance for, on scraping up the Sand with our fingers within two inches of the Salt Water, Fresh Water of the best quality was found. The Country from Point Heathcote to the Islands must improve from the vast quantity of herbage seen on its banks, beyond which our observation did not extend.

The Islands are formed of a rich deposit evidently brought down by the Floods; their Margins are thickly covered with Metrosideras and Casuarinas, and their centre with Submarine Suculent Plants.

It is worthy of remark that during our examination of the River, there was nothing seen of Mangrove, and that their Situation should be occupied by the genus Metrasideros.

At Point Frazer, the first flat is seen formed of a rich deposit but evidently flooded, marks of drift stuff having been seen five feet above the surface. Here are several extensive Salt marshes admirably adapted for the growth of cotton. The Hills are exceedingly barren, but producing an immense variety of Plants; here is seen a magnificent species of Angophera occupying the situation of Eucalyptus. Banksia Grandis was observed three feet in diameter. The brome or Kangaroo grass was here seen in great abundance.

One Mile East of Point Frazer was seen an extensive Lagoon of Fresh Water, covered in its centre with aborescent Metrasideros; its banks produce an amazing quantity of interesting Plants and, with an elevated flat immediately behind, might be cultivated with advantage. The magnificence of the Banksia and aborescent Lamia, which was here seen Thirty feet in height, added to the immense size of the Lantholea of this spot, impart to the forest a character truly tropical.

I was astonished at the facility with which water is obtained on this apparently sandy spot, for, on digging two or three feet, we found abundance of the finest Water I ever tasted.

Five Miles East at Clauses Creek, there is an evident change in the character of the Country. On the left is seen an extensive Plain of the richest description, consisting of an alluvial deposit, equalling in fertility those of the banks of the River Hawksbury in New South Wales, and covered with the most luxuriant brome grass. Here I first observed the Blue and Water Gums and stripes of Wattles.

Here the Casuarina disappears and is succeeded and is succeeded by a pendulous species of Metrasideros, which continues to the source of the River.

From this point the Country resembles in every essential point that of the banks of Rivers falling West of the Blue Mountains, New South Wales, varying alternately, on each bank, from hilly promontories of the finest red loam and covered with stupendous Angoferas, to extensive flats of the finest description, studded with magnificent Blue and Water Gums and occational stripes of Acacias and Tapileanaceous Shrubs, resembling the green Wattle in New South Wales.

As the River is ascended, the flats increase in breadth, extending for several Miles from the Banks, improving in quality, resembling in character those seen on the Banks of the Macquarie River, West of Wellington Valley; marks of floods were seen on the lower plains two feet above the surface, but the upper flats are evidently never flooded.

On further observations, these Plains were seen to extend to the base of the Mountains, interspersed with stripes of good forest Land, covered with a profusion of Plants and Stupendous Angopheras. Here I observed a quantity of Stringy Bark.

The base of the Mountains is covered with fragments of Quartz and Chalcedony, the Soil is red sandy loam. Further up the Mountains is seen Siennity in considerable beds. Here the Soil improves to a light loam, but from its very nature incapable of culture. The summit is covered with large masses of Iron Stone and enormous trees of Angophera, but with the exception of a few stragling Plants of Hokea there is no underwood to be seen.

The view from the summit is very extensive, resembling it its outline that seen from Princess Charlott's Crescent (but void of the Stationary Swamps) in 1817 vide Oxley's Journal.

In giving my opinion of the Land seen on the Banks of Swan River, I hesitate not in pronouncing it superior to any I ever saw in New South Wales east of the Blue Mountains, not only in its local character but in the many existing advantages, which it holds out to Settlers; these advantages I consider to be.

First.—The evident superiority of Soil.

Secondly.—The facility with which a Settler can bring his Farm into a state of immediate culture, resting upon the open state of the Country, a state which allows not a greater average than 10 trees to an acre.

Thirdly.—The general abundance of Springs, producing water of the best quality, and the consequent permanent humidity of the Soil, two advantages not existing on the Eastern Coast, and

Fourthly.—The advantage of Water carriage to his Door, and the non-existence of impediments to land carriage.

The Island of Beuache is formed principally of low ridges of light sandy loam, traversing the Island from ... to ..., and terminating on the Shore in high banks of sand, the highest parts of which are thickely studded with Cypress, the surface towards the beach being considerably interrupted by Limestone Rocks.

The Soil, altho, light, appears to me, from the immense thickets of Salunum (lucinatrum var), which it produces (and which on the ridges is seen to attain the height of ten feet), to be capable of producing any description of light garden crops.

The interior of these ranges are singularly divided by transverse banks or dykes forming deep pits or hollows, which receive all the Water collected or folling from the ranges, the banks preventing its escape otherwise than by absorption; the surface of these hollows are covered by gigantic Salunums, and a bieutiful Species of Brownonia. Fresh Water may be had in each of them by digging two feet deep.

The West Short of the Island is in many places covered with thickets of an aborescent Species of Metrasideros. The Soil in those thickets is a rich brown loam, intermingled with blocks of lime stone, and susceptible of producing any description of crop.

The Coast towards Port Success is thickly covered with cypress, the bieutiful green of which imparts to the scene an agreeable and elegant appearance. The soil here is very Sandy and in my opinion incapable of producing without artificial means any description of Crops. Here we found abundance of fresh Water not only on the Beach but in the cypress thickets beyond the influence of the Sea by digging a few feet.

My observations did not extend beyond Port Success, but, from the appearance of the Country, I doubt not its being of the same description as that already described.

On proceeding along the Coast of Bay Geographe, the appearance of the Country is particularly interesting; the Shores are richly clothed with Timber, the foliage is of the finest green, and consisting principally of Eucalyptus; no traces of Banksia were seen.

From the Short the Country is seen to rise gradually into gentle undulating hills, separated apparently by Vallies of considerable magnitude, the whole terminated by a bold range of mountains of considerable elevation, thickly clothed with Timber of considerable magnitude and extending inland as far as the eye can carry.

On approaching Cape Naturalist the Shores become bold, presenting immense Masses of Granite projecting in many instances a considerable distance into the Sea. The Hills are bold and only partially covered with stunted Eucalyptus. They are divided by bieutiful meandering Vallies formed of the richest soil imaginable. These vallies are of considerable magnitude; as a proof of their fertility I need only instance the astonishing luxuriance of the Thistles and Ferns, some of which measured 11½ feet; each of them is furnished with a small Stream of Water. The Hills, altho' stony, are covered with rich soil to their summit. They are clothed with Banksia Grandis, and a new species of Zylomilam. The Rocks on the summit are Lime.

There appears no visible change in the Soil, or character of the Vallies, as far as Cape Naturalist; but, in the construction and composition of the Rocks, there is a vast difference; there they are seen to present immense Cliffs overhanging the Beach in Awful grandeur. The base of these Rocks are formed of immense beds of Granite and Schistose, passing ultimately into each others, observing in their dip an Angle of Inclination of Fifteen Degrees; they were seen to inclose in many instances large masses of an extraordinary agregate containing petrefactions of bivalve and other marine Shells, every particle of which was thickly incrusted with minute Christals.

Veins of Iron of considerable thickness were seen to traverse the Rocks in various directions, as well as immense beds of Felspar. The Granite is covered with a bed of Micaceous Schistose, in an advanced state of decomposition, over which are a number of Cavernous Apertures, in a bed of decomposed Pudding Stone, containing Nodules of Granite of Various Colours. These Apertures were found to contain Rock Salt in large quantities, forming thick incrustations on every part of the surface, bieutifully Chrystalized and penetrating into the most compact part of the Rocks; the most remote parts of these Caverns are bieutiful appearance from the reflection of the Chrystals; their height above the Sea I would pronounce to be Fifty feet. Large Nodules of Sand Stone were found in the bottom of each strongly impregnated with Salt. The summit of the Cliff was formed of Limestone.

The Northern extreme of the Cape is formed of magnificent cliffs of Limestone, two Hundred feet in height, presenting two magnificent ranges of Caverns; two of the lower range are superb; the roofs and sides being covered with bieutiful Stalactytes of great magnitude and exceedingly brilliant; in one of them was found Stalagmites of extraordinary size, adhering to Nodules of Granite with which the base is covered. The outer or greater Cavern is about Fifty feet wide and from forty five to fifty in height, its extreme length about one hundred feet.

The sides, roof and Stalactytes present an extraordinary assemblage of Colours, from the immense variety of Liverwort and minute Fungiae with which they are covered; some of the Stalactytes were observed to measure from Twelve to fifteen feet.

The Sea makes a breach into each of the lower range over blocks of Granite; the Scene is truly grand. The upper range we could not inspect from the perpendicular nature of the Cliff, but from their exterior appearance there remains no doubt of their grandeur.

It is worthy of remark that the whole Coast of this Bay is a perfect source of Active Springs, discharging themselves on the Beach in rapid rills of considerable extent of Six or Seven Yards.

C. Fraser
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