Oyster Harbour Fish Traps, Lower Kalgan – approximately 14km from Albany CBD

The National Trust has managed the Oyster Harbour Fish Traps since 1966 after they were threatened by development. It is thought the traps were once part of a Noongar camp site where people had gathered for at least 7,500 years.  

The fish traps are designed in the shape of a crescent and only visible at low tide. They were first recorded by English explorer Captain George Vancouver in 1791. They consist of eight weirs made from thousands of stones. The traps caught huge numbers of fish as the Kalgan River rose and fell.  

Excavation of a 1m section in 2000, revealed more than 80 stones were used in this segment alone – the traps roughly cover an area of around 800sqm. Early European visitors to the Kalgan River also recorded Aboriginal huts, wells, fires and kangaroo traps, suggesting that at certain times of the year, the river and the Oyster Harbour foreshore were substantial hunting and fishing grounds.

This is the account of French Admiral Charles Baudin (1792 - 1854) who recorded the fish traps when he visited the Kalgan River on February 22, 1803.

Immediately after dinner, we set off again up the river reckoning to go far enough to find fresh water, but we had hardly gone a mile when we got into shallow water and found the channel closed by dykes made, like locks, by the natives. There was an island in the centre and the dykes were built one on each side of it and reached the banks. They were formed of the natural rock, but where there was none of it hollowed out by the current, the natives had placed stones which, arranged with skill and symmetry one beside the other, clearly shows they are not without intelligence.

Up to this point we had never found less than six feet of water and we were very disappointed at being stopped. Citizens Faure and Bailly were landed to have a look at the upper part of the river and reported that this appeared to be the only obstruction and that above the two dykes it seemed to be quite as deep and navigable as it had been up to this point. Just then the long boat arrived. It had been put afloat and followed us up. With this reinforcement, I decided to have my boat carried over the dykes and this was done much more easily than I thought.  We again set out and got another three-quarters of a mile when six more dykes, each rising higher above the water than the other (lower) one, completely blocked the channels forc ing us to return.

The water was still salt and there was about half a knot in the current. As at the first one, some went ashore to have a look round and there was no sign of a block on the far side of the dykes, but they could not see the river for any distance, as there were many bends in its course. We noticed that these latter dykes showed more intelligence than the first ones. We saw several openings which had larger openings facing the rising tide and those facing the falling tide were so restricted that it appeared rather difficult for the fish, which the rising tide enabled to enter quite easily, to find their way out again.

Forced to go back, we again crossed the lower dyke and thought of getting back as the night was drawing on. The banks of the river, so far as we went had a very pleasant aspect; the land is high and well covered with big trees. Everywhere we saw traces of fire and indications that the natives visit these places frequently, but at the places they met together, easily recognisable by the spots where they had made their fires, we found nothing to show what they used for food.

We collected several of their spears, which were found leaning against trees as if they had been put on one side. These weapons were crudely made and not nearly so well finished as the ones at Port Jackson. At the foot of a chain of high mountains running north and south in the interior, we saw many separate smokes which led us to believe that, for the time being, the natives were in the neighbourhood, but they were too far away for us to attempt to go there through un known country without provisions, so we gave up the idea.

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