Clayton Bay

 

UPDATE

Water levels are back to normal in the Lower Lakes are of the Murray River (which includes Clayton Bay).  As a result, the "barrier" I mention in the text below is now underwater and poses no threat to boating in the area.  The wetlands and shallow swamps on the eastern side of the township are full of water again and the birds and fish have returned.  Good to see things back to normal.

Clayton Bay sits on the Lower Murray, between Lake Alexandrina and Goolwa.  It, like all other Lower Murray towns, has suffered badly as a result of the drought.  At one stage, the jetty was high and dry and the bay looked like drying out altogether.  Now, the powers that be have built a barrier right across the Murray, cutting off the rest of the river from Clayton and Goolwa.  This barrier runs from Clayton, across the river to Hindmarsh Island.

Since this barrier has been in place, the water level at Clayton Bay has risen so it is now back to its "normal" height.  I don't know what is causing the water level on the downstream side of the barrier to rise (maybe the outflow from the Finniss River?), but Clayton looks a lot better for it.

Clayton Bay Jetty has water under it again.

Anyway, back to it.  Clayton is about 16 kilometres from Milang, which itself is about 20 k's from Strathalbyn, which is not far from Mount Barker.  Straight along the South Eastern Freeway from Adelaide will lead you to Mount Barker.

Clayton was my stomping ground in the 80's.  My grandparents lived there, so I spent countless hours exploring and fishing the place.  It was not very well known then and was a very quiet spot.  Carp were around in huge numbers, but there were a couple of spots where Golden Perch (Callop), Silver Perch and even Murray Cod were regularly caught.  I remember watching two teenage lads fishing from the old pumping shed platform years ago.  They had a mixed catch of all three (Callop. Silver Perch and Murray Cod) lined up on the shore.  Easily two dozen fish.  Today, this area is no more.  The pumping station is gone and so are the reed beds.  The whole area is exposed due to the low water levels.

As mentioned above, downstream of the barrier, which includes the bay itself, there is now plenty of water.  The bay is shallow, with a sandy/muddy bottom.  There are reed beds along the shore of the lake, so it's a nice little wetland area.  The lake is good for canoeing and swimming.  Jet skis can be used here, but the locals don't like them much.  I haven't seen many skiers, although conditions often appear perfect for skiing, but it may be because the bay is quite small.

There is a small boat club, which was quite popular at one stage.  Clayton was the ideal base to sail Lake Alexandrina or head downstream to Goolwa.  Now, it's one way only - towards Goolwa.  Upstream is blocked by the barrier.

The boat ramp alongside the jetty is a good one, and the jetty has been upgraded, so launching a boat and jumping aboard is very easy.

At "the back" of Clayton, there was an extensive backwater system which was excellent for canoeing, but his has all dried up.  Activities are confined to the bay itself.

Across the bay, there is another cluster of homes.  This is also Clayton, although it's better known as "Old Clayton".  There are no shops or anything here, but there is another boat ramp.

Clayton has a small shop, where basics can be bought.  There used to be a restuarant attached to this shop, but I am unsure if this is still the case.  Both the shop and restuarant were well known for yabbies. 

There is a caravan park at Clayton.  It is small, but there is a cabin available for hire as well as powered and unpowered sites.  It is a nice little spot though.  Camping here is great.  It''s usually quiet and the setting is ideal; right on the shores of the lake.  The amenities block is very basic but functional.  All sites are well shaded and fairly well screened although they are quite close to one another.  No campfires are allowed, gas fires only. 

The entrance to the park.

You can fish from the shore of the lake or find a nice quiet spot amongst the reed beds in a canoe or dinghy.  Carp are likely to be the main catch, with the possibility of Redfin.  Shrimp can be netted from the jetty using a hoop net baited with meat.

If you are into bird watching, the shallow edges of the wetalnd areas are magnets for water birds.  The grasslands and dry backwater areas are also home to a number of different species.

Clayton can be enjoyed at all times of the year.  It rarely gets too hot, with temperatures on a par with Victor Harbour or Goolwa.  It lies in quite a sheltered spot, so is protected from the worst of the wind.

It is a shame to see the Lower Murray in the state it's in.  Clayton has suffered also, but there is still much to enjoy here, the peace and quiet not the least of it's attractions.

The barrier that effectively cuts off the Murray from Goolwa (and Clayton).