Backward Glance: Mooloolah River - historical place
  • Wednesday 01 June 2016
This week’s Backward Glance features the history of the beautiful Mooloolah River. 

A lot of water has flowed down the Mooloolah River past Point Cartwright since 1861 when Lieutenant Heath, a marine surveyor of the Royal Navy, reported on his investigations in the “Spitfire”.  The Mooloolah River was one of the rivers that carried the beginnings of European settlement into the hinterland before Cobb and Co travelled along the new road towards Gympie in 1868. 

Following the enactment of new land laws in 1861, Edmund Lander applied for a run called Mooloolah Back Plains and by 1862 he had established an out station. Lander’s homestead was situated on the Mooloolah River at a point 5km above the head of navigation and 18km from the river mouth upstream from the mouth of Sippy Creek. 

He had come to the region with the pioneering Westaway family, bringing 500 head of cattle. 

Lander is buried in the Mooloolah cemetery not far from the corner of Caloundra Road and the Bruce Highway. Many of the Westaway family of Meridan Plains rest there too.

Other prominent locals, Clement and Margaret Prentis, married at Woombye on November 10, 1885 and lived at Petrie Creek, Bli Bli, where they farmed fruit and sugar cane. 

Clement had selected Portion 59 on the northern side of Petrie Creek in 1878 and named the property “Mt Pleasant”. 

He operated bullock teams, snigging logs and produce across to both Maroochy and Mooloolah Heads and became the second wharf caretaker at Mooloolah Heads. 

In 1915, holiday huts were located adjacent to William Pettigrew's sugar shed on River Esplanade, near the present site of Charles Clarke Park. 

The owners of the huts included J Howe, J Bate and C Clarke, C Burnett, E Townsend, E Burnett and H Foote. 

Charles Clarke moved to Mooloolaba in 1925 after five years as manager of Palmwoods - Buderim tramline.

As Mooloolah Heads became a popular holiday destination, a boarding house was built by Charles Clarke in 1928 on land he purchased in front of the public wharf on River Esplanade. He also established a store, cafe and a fleet of hire boats. Clarke's wife conducted the boarding house until her death in 1942. Charles Clarke continued to operate his business at Bondoola, which in 1962 consisted of a cafe. In 1976, the building and land were sold. Today a multi-storey apartment block is situated close by.

In 1965, Charles Clarke Park was named in recognition of his contribution to the development of the area. Six holiday huts were built along the Mooloolah River front and four others on the ocean foreshore following the initial auction of allotments on The Spit in 1939.

Bill Kuskopf was one of the initial hut owners. He later removed his hut and built a house on the site. The Kuskopf family was well known in the Maroochy district for their fishing and building skills. Harry, Bill and Edward (Eddie) Kuskopf were three of nine sons of Harry Kuskopf senior. All three brothers lived at Mooloolaba, where they had a slipway on the Spit. Eddie became a professional fishermen and Harry, who also fished, constructed a number of buildings in the locality and designed and built a wide range of boats. 

Today Mooloolah River is a river of contrasts. Ocean going fishing trawlers come and go, the river gives shelter for pleasure cruises and high rise developments, homes and resorts nestle along its banks. 

When the big ships head into and out of the Port of Brisbane it is up to Mooloolaba’s Pilot Station crew who are skilled mariners to make sure all runs smoothly. The Mooloolaba Pilot Station situated on the Mooloolah River works around the clock meeting up with ships off Point Cartwright where they also disembark after escorting large vessels out of the Port of Brisbane via the North West Shipping Channel. Whether the vessels are going into port or leaving they meet at the same point off Mooloolaba where they either take over control or hand controls back to the captain of the ocean going vessels. 

There are numerous stories about this special river and this is a taste of just some.

Thanks to Sunshine Coast Council’s Heritage Library Officers for the words and Picture Sunshine Coast for the images.

Image captions:

Hero image: View north along River Esplanade from the Mooloolah River bank, Mooloolaba, December 1934.

Carousel images:
Image 1: Bondoola Boarding House, opposite the Mooloolah River at Mooloolaba, ca 1935.
Image 2: Anchoring place, Mooloolah River, Mooloolaba, ca 1925.
Image 3: Boat moored at Scott’s Jetty on the Mooloolah River, Mooloolaba, ca 1920.
Image 4: Residences and shops along River Esplanade, Mooloolaba, ca 1935.
Image 5: Children from Alexandra Park departing on a boat trip from the wharf at Point Cartwright in January 1956.