Walpole to Denmark | Distance: 126km
The Irwin Inlet is the only inlet where canoes are provided to make the crossing. This is a change in pace and adds to the experience of walking this section and indeed the variety experienced when walking the Track end-to-end.
The Irwin Inlet is about 7km east of Peaceful Bay. At the point where the Track crosses it, the inlet is only 200 metres wide and is quite sheltered. Canoes, located in sheds on either side of the channel, have been provided for walkers to make the crossing. It is your responsibility to ensure that you read and follow all instructions to facilitate a safe crossing of the inlet.
The canoes are four metres long, are constructed of polyethylene and are quite light, strong and easy to handle. They have inbuilt buoyancy and a carrying capacity of 156kg, so are ideal for one adult with a backpack, or two adults without backpacks. As long as the canoes are not overloaded, and the safety instructions for their use are adhered to, they are very stable.
There are two single bladed paddles and a pair of life jackets supplied with each canoe. Never wear your backpack when canoeing and please use the life jackets. People walking alone who are not competent swimmers are strongly advised to ‘buddy up’ with someone who is a swimmer for the crossing.
It is very important that there are canoes remaining on both sides of the channel after you finish your crossing. If you take the last canoe in the shed to cross over, you must paddle back, towing at least one canoe behind you, which is to be left in the shed. All canoes are fitted with ropes to enable you to do this.
Do not be tempted to take a short cut and cross the inlet at the beach if water is flowing. Surges can topple you over and the sand can be very soft making it difficult to judge depth. Please also do not take a short cut down the dunes to the inlet mouth as this has caused significant erosion of the fragile dune and surrounding vegetation.
Always check current beach and inlet conditions with the Walpole Parks and Wildlife office before attempting this section in winter or early spring. To help with walk planning also check the latest coastal weather conditions and tide times.
For many months of the year, the Parry Inlet channel is easily traversed as the channel is completely blocked by a sand bar. When this is breached, the channel has to be waded. The water is usually not more than knee deep, but will occasionally reach more than one metre in depth during peak flows and at high tides.
When the sand bar is breached, the height of the water is determined by the tide. The water level in the inlet will have reached a sufficient level that warrants the Inlet being opened. The level of the water can be around 1m to 1.5m and at that height the water in the Inlet will start to overflow onto the Parry Beach bitumen road.
The cut is usually made at approximately 150m east from the base of the western dune by Shire staff and signs placed in the vicinity by Shire Rangers.
At high tide, the depth is highly variable as wave action forces surges of seawater into the channel. Sometimes the combination of high outflow, high tide, wind and large waves can make the crossing quite hazardous. When possible, signs at either end of Mazzoletti Beach will alert walkers to the hazardous conditions. There is an alternative route marked on the Bibbulmun Track map should this occur.
Conditions can change quickly, and even if signs do not indicate a hazard, walkers are still advised to examine the conditions in the channel carefully before crossing. Pick the shallowest route across and time your crossing to avoid wave surges. Make sure all your gear is waterproofed. Be sure to unfasten the waistband and sternum strap of your backpack before making the crossing.
If you have any doubts about crossing the channel safely, use the alternative route shown on Bibbulmun Track Map 7 and described in Guidebook 7.
Mazzoletti Beach, to the east of Parry Inlet, may be closed occasionally during winter due to severe storms and beach erosion. Walkers need to undertake their own risk assessment and information to make a decision is provided on the map and Guidebook. If the beach is not safe enough, walkers should take the alternative route marked in green on Bibbulmun Track Map 7.
Walkers are advised to contact the Walpole Parks and Wildlife district office for information about channel conditions before planning to make the crossing.
The Shire of Denmark last opened the Parry Inlet on 28 July 2017. The sandbar will have formed by now.
Walkers should assess the conditions and only cross the inlet if they have the necessary skills and experience. If you are at all unsure of your ability to safely cross the inlet you should take the alternative route as marked in green on map 7b.
For more information contact the Shire of Denmark on (08) 9848 0300 or the Parks and Wildlife Service, Walpole on (08) 9840 0400.