‘Worst I’ve seen’: Mighty Mary reduced to a trickle
THE once mighty Mary River has been reduced to a mere "trickle", crippling its water-reliant dairy farmers and turning away hopeful campers in the peak revenue season.
It's been six months since Kenilworth, which is in the middle of a prolonged drought, had "significant" rainfall, and the hinterland dairy and cattle farmers are struggling.
Third-generation dairy farmer Shane Paulger said the current situation was the worst he had ever seen.
Any hopes of rainfall relief are evaporating fast.
Many, like Bluff Creek Campgrounds, run onsite camping as a source of income.
Manager Lucas Johnson said about bookings were down about 15 per cent compared to regular years because they relied on the river for swimming.
But with the Australia Day long weekend fast approaching, he fears he'll be financially impacted further.
"We have only been here five years and have never seen it stopped flowing, but it's been like this for six weeks," Mr Johnson said.
"The locals say they've never seen it like this.
"When people call up, you have to be honest with them and say the river is not looking the best. It's like going to the beach when it's flat.
"I'd say our booking numbers are about 15 per cent down.
"Christmas Day was okay but Australia Day will be interesting, it will be quieter."
On the other side of the river, Kenilworth Camping is faced with a similar problem.
"Where Lucas is, and it's worse for him, the river is full of sand so the water goes underground," Mr Paulger said.
"We are opposite The Bluff, with four kilometres of river and it's down to a trickle here.
"It's bloody dry, the worst I've ever seen. I think we'd need 200mm to actually make a difference, it's very difficult."
Mr Paulger said he hadn't checked the Australia Day weekend bookings but wasn't surprised to hear numbers were down at The Bluff Creek Campgrounds.
"Camping business is severely affected, you can understand why, with no fires as well. Our site is very secure but you have to play by the rules," he said.
Mr Paulger said part of the problem with the river was caused by the banning of sand excavation about 10-12 years ago, which was only now starting to show its repercussions.
"It's sad to see the river so silted," he said.
"We used to be able to dig massive holes and extract the sand, big holes six-metres deep, now the holes are six-inches max.
"There's tens of thousands of cubic metres which need moving, not just a bucket load.
"It does a lot of harm by not clearing the rivers out - they got so much sand and gravel, now it's so shallow."