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Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Gascoyne River, Western Australia

Banana plantation

The Mighty Gascoyne River

At 760 kilometres, the Gascoyne River is the longest river in Western Australia. With a mild climate and few pests, plants thrive in the fertile red soils around the Gascoyne River at Carnarvon. There are 180 plantations along the river - 5 to 19 kilometres from the mouth where it runs out into the Indian Ocean.

There are 570 hectares for vegetables, 350 hectares for bananas and 100 hectares for fruit trees producing paw paw, mangoes, citrus, stone fruit, avocados, grapes, tomatoes, beans, capsicums and asparagus. The water is rationed and each plantation is allocated a yearly allowance.

Water is precious in this part of the world and if it wasn't for the Gascoyne River, there wouldn't be any plantations. It's an upside down river, it flows in the river bed for about 4 months of the year and under the dry river bed for the remainder of the year. Sounds confusing? Under the river bed are layers of sand and gravel that collect water when the river runs and are called aquifers. A well is sunk into it to extract the water. When the river dries up, these aquifers are still there, full of water, under the sand and provide water for these plantations and the town for eight months of the year.
And that's why they call the mighty Gascoyne River, the bloodstream of the town.