American River

american-river-kangaroo-islandAmerican River is a small town tucked into native bush overlooking Eastern Cove and Pelican Lagoon. The birdlife is prolific and in season many species of wildflowers can be seen. Sheltered coastal waters and nearby deserted beaches offer wonderful opportunities for fishing, great walking and swimming.

The explorer Matthew Flinders visited the area in 1802 and named many features including Prospect Hill, Pelican Lagoon, Eastern Cove and Kangaroo Head where his crew were able to obtain their first supplies of fresh meat in months.

Sealers and whalers arrived soon after, many of whom escaped convicts. They used the island as a base for trading and salt. Piracy was common in the area.

American River gained its name from American sealers, some of whom built a trading schooner (from native timber) in 1804 at Independence Point on Pelican Lagoon. This was the beginning of the area’s shipbuilding history which was continued on by John Buick and Frank Potts in 1842. They were also the first to have farmed the area and their descendants still reside in the district.

Salt was needed by the sealers to presere skins. The salt lakes in the area provided the best available salt and an industry which employed hundreds, resulting in a settlement, port and the Island’s only railway at Muston on Pelican Lagoon. Gypsum from these lakes was exported from Ballast Head until 1992.

In the 1860’s rabbits were introduced to the area. Luckily they did not survive and its thought that goannas ate the young.

The tourist industry on the Island has its roots at American River. Nils Ryberg set up a guesthouse in the late 1890’s. Also established in the late 1890’s was a fish canning factory, situated north of American River along the Scenic Walk.

Excellent fishing has always been available at American River. Catches of over 70 dozen whiting in a day have been recorded. A local vessel the ‘Stella’ was the first vessel in South Australia to use craypots and so the birth of the cray fishing industry in South Australia began at American River in 1889. Gold and guano mining, timber exporting, yacca gum collecting and eucalyptus oil distilling were other industries carried out in the area.