Before 1893 the Macleay River’s mouth was at Grassy Head, 8km north of its present position. In the 1800s, Macleay Valley settlers relied wholly on ships to bring in supplies and take out produce. But seagoing vessels could negotiate the Grassy Head mouth only at very high tide, and sandbars in the river’s lower stretches sometimes prevented them from reaching Kempsey.
Plans were put forward in 1890 to create a new mouth by cutting a channel from the river to the sea closer to South West Rocks. But before a decision could be made, nature intervened. In 1893 two floods carved the required channel close to where engineers had been considering building one of their own.
In 1901 the old mouth was closed and the pilot station at Stuarts Point moved to South West Rocks.
The end of the river mouth’s southern wall is a great fishing spot as well as a must-see for anyone interested in the Macleay’s history and its journey. Waterbirds such as this pelican are plentiful around here, as might be expected in an environment rich in aquatic prey.
The river’s existing mouth, also known as the New Entrance, has been tidied up by engineers since two floods carved it out in 1893.