They don’t look like much, but the Lake Clifton thrombolites are in fact a living relic from the earliest days of life on our planet.
Unlike the famous stromatolites of Hamelin Pool in the Shark Bay World Heritage Area, the Lake Clifton thrombolites aren’t very well known, and not much of a fuss is made about them.
However, the thrombolites have a similar significance to Earth’s natural history, and can be visited as part of a day trip to Mandurah and the Yalgorup Lakes, or as a detour on the way Down South to Bunbury or the Margaret River region (as opposed to the 8 hour drive up to Shark Bay to see the stromatolites!).
Visiting the Lake Clifton Thrombolites
Lake Clifton is in the Yalgorup Lakes National Park, less than half an hour’s drive south of Mandurah along Old Coast Road. The thrombolites sit in shallow water along a 6km-long section of Lake Clifton’s eastern shoreline.
Most of the lake’s shores are not easily accessible, but at one point a boardwalk/jetty has been built out over the shallows to allow people to view the thrombolites without damaging them.
An aerial view of the thrombolites viewing area:
Looking out upon the thrombolites at Lake Clifton, it’s hard to believe that those hundreds of very ordinary-looking rocks sitting in the shallows are alive.
Well, maybe that’s exaggerating just a little bit. It’s really only the thin film of bacteria on the surface of the rock that is alive. However, the calcium carbonate structure underneath the biofilm was (and continues to be) accreted by a form of life that is just about the closest thing you will ever see to what “life” looked like at the dawn of time 3.5 billion years ago – which is pretty amazing.
When to Visit?
I’d say the best time of year to visit is probably during late summer and autumn, because you get a better view of the thrombolites when the water levels are low. The photos on this page were taken in April 2009, and as you can see, the thrombolites stick up well above the water line.
On all other occasions when I’ve stopped to see the thrombolites, they’ve been almost completely submerged. It didn’t really matter though, because the water’s so shallow and clear.
Getting There from Perth or Mandurah:
To get to Lake Clifton from Perth, you can either drive through the Mandurah town and suburbs then down Old Coast Road along the Harvey Estuary, or else just stay on the Forrest Highway and backtrack north up Old Coast Road for a fairly short distance from where it meets the Forrest Highway.
Turn West off Old Coast Road onto either Clifton Downs Road or Mount John Road. You’ll soon reach a parking area in the pleasant shade of a woodland. From here, it’s a short and easy walk down to the lake and on the board walk.
Please Care for the Thrombolites
They may look a lot like stepping stones, but they are not to be stepped on or even touched! The thrombolite-forming organisms are extremely rare and are listed as “critically endangered”.
Last Updated: 14th May, 2015.
First posted on 20th October, 2013 by Bonny.
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