Denmark’s Wilson Inlet is a wave dominated estuary with a catchment area of 2,263sq km.
It is situated 2km south east of the town centre on a narrow coastal plain between granite hills to the north and west and southern coastal dunes. The inlet is 14km long and 4km wide, covering an area of 48sq km. It has an average depth of 1.8m and its deepest point is 5m.
Its mouth is approximately 100m wide and receives its main water supply from the Denmark and Hay rivers. The Sleeman and Little rivers together with Cuppup Creek contribute smaller quantities. From January to August a sandbar blocks the inlet. When the sandbar opens, the inlet discharges through Nullaki Point at the eastern end of Denmark’s Ocean Beach into Ratcliffe Bay and eventually into the Southern Ocean.
It is thought the inlet formed around 6,000 – 8,000 years ago when rising sea levels flooded an ancient river valley. There is plenty of archaeological evidence, including fish traps, corroboree sites and ochre excavation pits, to prove Noongar people lived in the area for many millennia. The Noongar’s called the inlet Koorabup, meaning the ‘place of the black swan’.
The inlet takes its European name after Thomas Wilson, who discovered it during his 1892 expedition from Albany. Soon after Wilson’s discovery, Europeans began to settle in the area, the first being the Randall and Young families. Land clearing began in the 1920s and by 1982, 46 per cent of the catchment was privately owned. Today only 38 per cent of the original catchment area remains as forest or national parks.
A blue mussel and belon oyster farm, established in 2002, operates on a 12 ha lease on the south side of the inlet. Its first harvest was in 2005/2006. Many species of fish inhabit the inlet including cobbler, King George whiting, tailor, mullet, salmon trout and flathead. Fish found in the estuary include sandy sprat, yellow eye and sea mullet and blue mackerel.
Birds commonly seen in the area include the silver gull, Australian pelican, black swan, little black cormorant, grey teal, blue-billed duck, red-necked avocet and the Australasian shoveler.
This report of a boating accident at the inlet, was published in the Western Mail on September 9, 1922.
A wire was received at the office of the Commissioner of Police from Albany regarding the terrible boating tragedy at Wilson Inlet, Denmark, on the 3rd instant.
Four young men (all returned soldiers) named Edgar Rushton, Harold Weieht, Victor Green and K J Dickenson were concerned. It stated that a search was instituted by Smith Bros in motor launches on the 4th Last. Dickenson was found in an exhausted state on the shore in the vicinity of Pelican Point. He stated that he believed his companions were drowned. All except Rushton belonged to Mr Parry's survey party. Mr Smith states that a heavy gale raged at about 4pm and probably capsized the boat. Later, it was definitely known that the three missing men were drowned. The only survivor is progressing favourably.