Bowman Park

Crystal Brook's greatest asset

In a conversation with one of the many people who use the free-camping at Bowman Park a woman told me that she was talking about visiting Crystal Brook but was almost put off by being told that there was nothing to see there. Having got to Bowman Park she realised that this advice was far from true.

Bowman Park is about five kilometres up the Crystal Brook from Crystal Brook township; it has an area of about half a square kilometre. There is an article on it in Wikipedia.

This page is about my personal involvement and views on Bowman Park, in particular regarding the further development of the Old Homestead Garden. I've had an involvement with Bowman Park for many years, including controlling hoarhound, boxthorn and feral pepper trees, and for several years the Bowman Park Astronomical Association (no longer active).

After a period of less involvement for some years I took a more active interest again in mid 2018 following four years involvement in the development of Gleeson Wetlands in Clare. The experience gained in developing the multi-award-winning Gleeson Wetlands gardens can be of great value in developing the Bowman Park Old Homestead Garden.

This page was written 2018/07/25, last edited 2023/12/15
Contact: David K. Clarke – ©


I, David Clarke, the author of this page, am greatly concerned about climate change and associated problems. The changing climate is a threat to all I hold dear, including Bowman Park. For that reason I do what I can to end the use of fossil fuels and support solar and wind power.

Bird's-eye view of the eastern side of the park
Drone photo
The free camping area at the bottom of the photo, Ferguson's Restaurant and the old homestead buildings and garden are largely concealed by trees, the track up to the lookout tower (which is partly concealed by a Callitris tree) is at the top left.

Homestead garden area of Bowman Park, June 2018
Drone photo, 2018/06/16
Homestead garden area after mulching, November 2018
Drone photo, 2018/11/05
The first mulch pile, 2018/07/25
Newly spread mulch, 2018/07/25
An area that is very much in need of weed control, 2018/07/25
An area where I had sprayed the weeds, image 2018/07/25
Flowering wattle (Acacia notabilis?) in an area that needs mulching; 2018/07/25
In June 2018 I started inquiring about again taking part in the development of the Old Homestead Garden at Bowman Park – pictured in the drone photo on the right (the ruins of the main building of the old homestead are on the lower right of the photo).

It seemed to me that what was most needed was heavy mulching, primarily for weed control, but also for moisture retention. I emailed Port Pirie Regional Council on 2018/06/11 asking if they would be willing to provide a truck load of mulch at no cost – as Clare and Gilbert Valleys Council has done many times for the Gleeson Wetlands project in Clare. A load of mulch was delivered by late July.

Council delivered four or five more loads of mulch over the next few months and I spread them. The second drone photo on the right, taken 2018/11/05, shows the garden after mulch had been placed in most of the places where it was needed.

In June and July 2018 I went back to poisoning feral pepper trees on the Crystal Brook at Bowman park; I had done quite a bit of work on this fifteen years earlier. I intend to continue with this when convenient.

What is most needed? Money or voluntary work?

Obviously grants have been obtained and used to place signage, obtain native plants, build paths and carry out limited stabilisation work on the ruins.

Council resources are limited and it seems that the Port Pirie Regional Council has decided that the Bowman Park Homestead Garden had too low a priority for them to provide gardeners, even occosionally.

With the township of Crystal Brook being only five kilometres from the park and with the park being the town's greatest asset it is a great pity that a few more of the towns-people are not willing to put in some volunteer time in the garden.

As of 2019/01/01 it seemed that no one other than me had done any work in the garden apart from some weed spraying from the time I renewed my interest in June 2018. My apologies if I am mistaken on this point.

How best to control weeds?

My experience with Gleeson Wetlands in Clare, where both poisoning and mulching have been used to control weeds has convinced me that, while both are to some extent necessary, mulching is by far preferable, because it is much safer. If you accidentally cover a plant with mulch, you can easily uncover it; if you accidentally spray it with poison it will die. Mulch also conserves soil moisture and prevents successful germination of weed seeds.

The garden situation in June 2018

When I again took an interest in the Bowman Park garden in June 2018 a number of natives were established, but weeds were threatening to take over. There had been recent planting of many seedlings and some natural regeneration of other natives. There was no indication of any other recent or consistent work.

Early mulching of the garden area, July 2018

As mentioned above, Port Pirie Regional Council delivered a load of mulch in July. I discovered this when I visited the park on 2018/07/24. I started spreading it the next day and finished spreading the available mulch on 27th. Much more is needed; I would estimate at least another four loads.

Most of the photos on the right are an attempt to show how mulching can improve the appearance and weed control in the garden area.

September 2018

Someone else had sprayed some of the many weeds in the garden area since June. That seems to be all that has been done apart from my work. It is a pity that with such a valuable park so few people make an effort to look after it. At least the council, and the contractors doing tree trimming, have been obliging in providing mulch for me to spread.

Mulch update July 2019

From about October 2018 to July 2019 council had only supplied one load of mulch in spite of many requests. I rediscovered a source of mulch in July 2019, as discussed in my page on the revegetation of the Crystal Brook Central Park (or Railway Reserve).

The soil in the garden area

I tested the acidity/alkalinity of the soil in early September 2019. It was pH 9, that is, highly alkaline.

The brook area

In the first few days of January 2019 I sprayed most of the Scotch thistles and artichokes and some of the African box thorns and remaining Peruvian pepper trees in and near the brook adjacent to where the snake house used to be. It was not as big a job as I expected.

The thistles and artichokes may have got a start because of the gaps left after I killed the feral pepper trees. Maybe the best news is that there are a lot of young gums showing up in the same area.

The proposed Crystal Brook Energy Park will be a boon for Bowman Park

In mid 2018 there is a question about whether or not the proposed Crystal Brook Energy Park will be built. If it is built, Neoen, the owner, has promised $80,000 per year for community funding. Plainly Bowman Park would be very well placed to apply for a part of this money, especially given its proximity to the proposed wind turbines.

Unfortunately, there is a determined and quite dishonest opposition campaign underway. I hope, for the sake of Bowman Park, Crystal Brook, the community, the region, the state, the nation and the planet, that the Energy Park will be built.

A suggestion for more plants

Carpobrotus glaucescens, a native pigface
Native pigface
Photo taken at Armagh, near Clare, 2015/09/26
This native pig face has been very successful at the Clare Gleeson Wetlands. It can be easily propagated using cuttings. I suggest that it could be useful in the Bowman Park Homestead Garden, but I'd like other people's opinions. (My email address is at the top of this page.)

I have planted a number of pig face cuttings of two species. As of the beginning of 2019 a number of these have taken successfully.

Myoporum parviflorum
Photo taken in Gleeson Wetlands, 2015/04/04
Creeping boobialla is another native plant that could be good for filling in some of the many empty spaces in the garden.

It can be grown from cuttings.

This suggestion was added on 2018/11/06.

I planted about fifty creeping boobialla rooted cuttings. Perhaps half of them had survived up to the beginning of 2019.

What needs attention?

Mid 2020

Following the working bee of 2020/05/17 the garden is in pretty fair shape. More planting could be done.

Along the creek: control of box thorn, pepper trees is needed and possibly also of scotch thistles and artichokes.

This section added

The Crystal Brook in Bowman Park
and climate change

Salinity (mg/L)
Flow (L/sec.)
The table on the right is a record of the salinities and approximated flow rates that I recorded at the ford in Bowman Park over the period from 1989 to 2002 (just before my retirement in 2003). I received the data from Heather Mazengarb of the Department for Environment and Water on 2021/11/16.

The last recording was a trickle in January 2002. I retired in September 2003. It is possible that there were no more recordings in that 20 month period because there was no flow to record.

Apart from a few high flows following rains the record shows a clear declining trend in base flows and increasing trend in salinity. (The base flow for a spring in a creek is the flow from the spring itself, without any additional flow in the creek. As I was employed by the groundwater division of the Department of Mines and Energy I was more interested in base flow than in the higher flows following rains.)

I didn't go on formally recording the flow at the Bowman Park ford after I retired, but I can recall that there has been very little, if any, flow at that point over the last ten or more years.


BoM State of the Climate 2020

This report states that "Australia’s climate has warmed on average by 1.44 ± 0.24 °C since national records began in 1910, leading to an increase in the frequency of extreme heat events."

A graph in the report shows that most of the temperature increase has happened since 1985.

While it is not definite I strongly suspect that the decline in flow in the Crystal Brook at Bowman Park is due to climate change. This has resulted in higher temperatures, longer summers, and (of particular relevance to the Crystal Brook) more demand on soil moisture, sub-flow and groundwater due to transpiration by all the red gums along the valley. When water is available to them, as it would be in Bowman Park, either on the surface or through the alluvium in the creek bed, red gum trees transpire more water in hot weather than in cooler weather.

In ?October 2021 SA Water released some water from Beetaloo reservoir into the upper part of the Crystal Brook. It was flowing through Bowman Park and the township at the time I was writing this section.

On another page I have written about apparent climate change impacts on the red stringybark trees in the Clare hills about 80 kilometres to the south.