Horseshoe lagoon is on the Bruce Highway, 70 kilometres south of Townsville, 30km north of Ayr. It is located on the right bank of the Haughton River, approximately 25km upstream of the river mouth. The out flow of the lagoon is via an artificially constructed channel on the north-west side. This channel flows north past a road crossing, where the channel turns into a more ‘natural’ looking creek with large paper bark trees and pandanus palms lining the banks. This continues to the railway bridge where the creek flows across open plains and ends at a tidal bund further downstream.
Horseshoe Lagoon is a high profile freshwater lagoon of about 76 ha, valued as waterbird and fish habitat. The main water body is a State Conservation Park but the foreshore is mostly in private ownership. Like almost all other freshwater lagoons in the Burdekin River Irrigation Area, many of its values have been lost primarily due to disruption to natural hydrology, elevated nutrient loads and invasion by aquatic weeds.
The dynamics of the lagoon have been changed significantly from its original state. Originally the lagoon received seasonal input which meant the level of the water dropped during the dry season each year. Now the lagoon receives almost a constant input of tailing water from cane farms to the south and east of the lagoon. Sunwater supplies the water to these cane farms which the farmers then use to flood irrigate their crops. Any water not absorbed by the ground runs into a drain which feeds into Horseshoe Lagoon.
The lagoon is a declared conservation park, however, there are a number of organisations and people who have interest in the management of the lagoon. A management group involving a variety of stakeholders has been trialed numerous times but continues to fadeout. An ‘overseeing body’ to manage the group has been identified as a necessity and keep the group running. Stakeholders that have been involved in the management of the lagoon include QLD Parks and Wildlife Service, Burdekin Shire Council, Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, NQ Dry Tropics, Sunwater, WetlandCare Australia, OceanWatch Australia, Conservation Volunteers Australia, local land managers and ACTFR who have included the lagoon/creek system in a number of their studies. In 2006, WetlandCare prepared a Plan of Management for the Lagoon addressing key management issues.
Aquatic and riparian weeds are a major problem for the horseshoe lagoon/ creek system. Anecdotal evidence suggests that hymenachne is becoming more prolific each year. Hymenachne starts in the drain that carries the water from the cane farms south of the lagoon, continues around the outer edge of the lagoon, completely fills the outflow channel and the low-lying paddock that the channel flows through and continues downstream in patches of outbreak. Downstream of the crossing where riparian vegetation lines the banks, rubber vine and chinee apple are competing the native vegetation. Further downstream near the railway bridge, water hyacinth, hymenachne and salvinia are constantly overtaking the waterway.
Burdekin Shire Council have coordinated a three year pest management agreement between them and the local land managers around Horseshoe Lagoon. Everyone involved puts in an annual sum of money which the council uses to arrange weed control activities, including aerial spraying, throughout the year. OceanWatch Australia, through their Tide to Table- Burdekin Dry Tropics project have provided their second round of funding to the land managers along the channel/creek system for weed control. These two programs combined have seen an increase in open water in the channel, however unless a more sustainable approach to weed management is found soon, the continued cost of spraying will become too high to maintain. Conservation Volunteers Australia have been involved with riparian weed removal (mainly rubber vine and chinee apple) and re-vegetation along the creek bank.
In the 2007, ACTFR conducted a study into fish passageway into Horseshoe Lagoon. This study highlighted two major fish barriers, one being at the crossing and the other being low oxygen levels in the creek due to the mass of weeds in the channel. Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries have addressed the issue of the crossing being a fish barrier by constructing a rockramp fishway across the crossing. The fishway is only designed to work in high flow events.
- Investigation of Potential Barriers Restricting Fish Passage Into Horseshoe Lagoon, Burdekin-Haughton Floodplain, North Queensland
- Veitch V. and Burrows D., 2007. Investigation of potential barriers restricting fish passage into Horseshoe Lagoon, Burdekin-Haughton Floodplain, North Queensland. ACTFR report no. 07/16
- Horseshoe Lagoon Plan of Management - December 2006 (2MB file) Produced by Wetland Care Australia
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