Lake Clifton Walk Trail
Start - End of Mount John Road
Length - 5.8km (Loop)
Rating - Orange
Terrain - 4x4 Track
Vertical Climb - 66m
Time - 1-2 hours
Signed - Yes, Follow the Orange Markers
Date Hiked - 10th April 2020
Best Time - All Year Round
Traditional Custodians - Pinjarup People
Directions - From Mandurah take Old Coast Rd south for 27km until you reach the signs for Lake Clifton and the Thrombolites (Lakeside Parkway). Follow this until you reach Mount John Road, turn right and continue on to the car park.
The Hike - With a crazy Easter period upon us (remember COVID-19?), the regional borders of WA were closed off and all plans had to be postponed or amended. Originally we were going down to Funbury to see my family and the plan was to take my niece to Shannon National Park to do a hike as part of a belated birthday experience. With lockdown in place and everyone encouraged to practice good physical distancing, it was going to be a very different four day break. I still wanted to go hiking as it is one of the only activities that we were still allowed to do provided all precautions were taken and you avoided popular or narrow trails. With that in mind I started to look at places I'd been meaning to visit but were a little down on the list.
Lake Clifton was one of those areas, a hike I'd always meant to do on the way back from a visit to Funbury but never quite got around to. Being within the borders of the Perth/Peel region made it perfect and it would be one of those hikes where running water and wildflowers were an essential part of the experience. While on paper the trail didn't look thrilling but the opportunity to gaze upon something truly ancient was something I was willing to travel all this way for. I must clarify that while many people were stating that everyone was to stay home all the time, travel for exercise is allowed within your local area (Perth/Peel for me) so I was quite comfortable with this trip given we would only be hiking and then driving home (that was the plan but didn't quite work out). Driving down the Kwinana Fwy on the morning of Good Friday with minimal traffic was a funny experience, not battling all the city folk trying to get to their holiday spots in the South West. We arrived at Lake Clifton with no one else in the car park and it was a lovely sight to see. The facilities here are all you need for a walk, just a car park, modern toilet block and information boards.
With the soft morning light being the best for photography, we disembarked the car and made out way to the Thrombolites first. A small side trip from the trail head, you follow the boardwalk through the Melaleuca (Paperbark) and out onto the expanse of the lake. The Thrombolites are the main spectacle here with the micro-organisms forming clusters resembling round limestone rocks. Closely related to some of the first life on earth that formed around 570 million years ago, their presence here and other sites in WA (Lake Thetis in Cervantes being another) is still a bit of a mystery to scientists but it's pretty cool that they are here. Stretching out on the banks of the lake, it's a magnificent sight to behold and imagining how long it must have taken to form some of the larger structures is mind boggling. The jetty that stretches out into the water is there to protect these delicate formations and is now the nesting site of what I believe are Scarlet Robins (or Welcome Swallows as Caris has now corrected me). The whole lake system around here is a haven for bird life and I could have spent a long time sitting and waiting for all the different species that call this place home. With plenty of photos in the bag it was time to move onto the 5km walk trail before the UV started to rise.
As I said before, the trail doesn't look thrilling when you look at it on a map but with the dearth of hiking trails available in Perth, I'm not going to complain about it. The limitation here is that there is such a thin strip of land that Yalgorup National Park inhabits between the shore of the lake and what has been allowed to be private property. With this in mind my goal was to not simply take endless shot of the straight trail as it extended into the distance but do what I've taken great joy in doing over the past couple of years, slowing down and finding the little details that fascinate me. This is far from a monotonus area to explore so while the trail may be fairly straight forward and boring, the variety of things you'll see if you really look closely is immense. While not in the ideal time of year for wildflowers and maybe a month or two away from getting the right conditions for the mosses and fungi that love the cooler and wetter times, I was happy to see different kinds dotted all over the various tree species. One of those tree species I was happy to find was the Tuart, an endangered tree that calls the coastline stretching from Mandurah down to Busselton home. There were some real thick boi examples here that thanks to the national park status of this area will hopefully be left alone for a long time. A series of information boards can be found along the trail, highlighting you to the various flora and fauna that is found in the park. Caris got very excited when she saw that Bungarras live in the area so we started looking for all the different animals tracks and scratchings along the trail. One thing we didn't need to search for because it found us was a flock of either Carnaby or Baudins Cockatoos. We heard their screeching from a distance and they flew all the way over to us and landed on a nearby tree just to have a look at the funny intruders. I got a couple of shots in before they decided that we weren't very interesting and left.
We found some Zamia seeds that had gone through an emu and had been deposited on the trail so were now on the lookout for another kind of animal. After a couple of kilometres of walking we reached the turnaround point, marked by some large limestone and wood barricades to stop people driving onto the lake (the trails here are all management tracks). Excited about navigating the only two turns on the track, we were soon a little bit higher than the first half of the track and a bit more exposed. This meant we got some fleeting views of the lake and some different species of plants to look at including more Grass Trees and some Hakea. The grass trees reminded Caris of her old school song and decided she would belt out a rendition of it for me given we were sort of in her old neighbourhood. The TrailsWA map showed the loop doubling back to rejoin the first section but I didn't see an obvious track leading you that way so we continued along the management track. The final part of the walk is through a mix of Peppermint thickets and old Tuart trees with plenty of soft sand to contend with. We saw a few kangaroos here along with some 28s (parrots) but they were all too quick for my camera. Being right up against the fence line of the private property isn't the best experience but the quality of the Tuart trees along here made up for it. Unfortunately we didn't get to see a Bungarra but perhaps on another visit we might be luckier. With the hike over we found only one other car in the car park so our physical distancing was ace. It didn't stay that way though as on the way home we found an old Golden Retriever wandering along Old Coast Road so stopped to pick it up and after a few phone calls it was reunited with its owner.
Final Thoughts - While this had been on my list for quite a while, the reasons for not visiting weren't because of the quality of the trail. This is a really unique part of Perth and I'm glad circumstances led me here this Easter.
Yes the trail is a little basic but if you spend your time looking and exploring then it becomes a really enjoyable experience. Add in the natural wonder of the Thrombolites with some bird watching and this is a really fun activity to partake in.
I'll definitely be back over the lockdown period to explore the other walk trails that are found along the lakes and estuaries in Mandurah.
Get out there and experience it!!
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