American River, South Australia

American River, South Australia

Infobox Australian Place | type = town
name = American River
state = South Australia

caption =
lga = Kangaroo Island Council
postcode = 5221
est = 1842
pop = 227 "2006 Census" Census 2006 AUS
name=American River (Urban Centre/Locality)
maxtemp = 20.6
mintemp = 8.8
rainfall = 435
stategov = Electoral district of Finniss
fedgov = Division of Mayo
dist1 =
dir1 =
location1= 35 km. from Kingscote

American River is a town situated on the western shore of Eastern Cove, on Australia's third largest island, Kangaroo Island. It was discovered by Matthew Flinders in 1802.


In 1803, a group of American sealers camped for four months in the area. They arrived on the brig "Union" and built their own schooner "Independence" from local timber. The town takes its name from this time. A memorial plaque and accompanying anchor (recovered in 1969) from an early American whaling vessel is dedicated to the crew of the "Union". [cite web|publisher=Australian Heritage Database|title=Memorial Plaque and Anchor, Tangara Dr, American River, SA, Australia |accessdate=2008-08-04|url=;search=place_name%3DAmerican%2520River%2520%3Bkeyword_PD%3Don%3Bkeyword_SS%3Don%3Bkeyword_PH%3Don%3Blatitude_1dir%3DS%3Blongitude_1dir%3DE%3Blongitude_2dir%3DE%3Blatitude_2dir%3DS%3Bin_region%3Dpart;place_id=7423]

Frank Potts was the first official settler in 1842, before moving to the mainland and establishing the "Bleasdale" vineyard and winery at Langhorne Creek [cite web|title=Frank Potts - A Pioneer of 1836|url=|accessdate =2007-06-14] . John Buick, a professional boat builder, built the first house in the town in 1844. [cite book|title=Birth of American River|author=Thomas,C|publisher=Islander Press|date=1978] It was fashioned out of local stone, pug and sput timber and remained standing until 1985. [cite web|publisher=Aussie Heritage|title=First House, American River|url=|accessdate=2008-07-30]

Somewhat erroneously, the waters of Eastern Cove, upon which the township is located, have been referred to as American River, compounding the illusion that the township is connected in any way with a river.

A fish canning factory existed for a few years from the late 1890's, remnants of which may still be found on the shore north of the town proper. [cite web|title=Postcards - American River, Kangaroo Island|url=|accessdate =2007-06-06] . Gypsum was mined at Flour Cask Bay, later at Pelican Lagoon and trucked to nearby Ballast Head, from 1956 until 1986 [cite web|title=PIRSA minerals - Gypsum|author=Government of South Australia|url=|accessdate =2007-06-06] .

Until the 1980s the town was serviced regularly by the ketches "Falie", "Nelcebee" and "Ulonga", (last service 15th April 1982), operated by RW Fricker & Co. Consequently, on cessation of this service the wharf area for some time was a redundant commercial facility, resulting in the removal of several buildings and fuel facilities. Recently however, the advent of oyster farming has seen new shedding erected and increased activity, in harmony with recreational boating activities.

The population has increased steadily in recent years, while nearby hamlets in the vicinity of Eastern Cove, such as Island Beach and Baudin Beach, South Australia have become more prominent.

Electricity supply to American River was only made permanent in 1967, whilst a common effluent disposal scheme is progressively being implemented.


The establishment of guest houses at American River in the early part of the last century were the forerunner of today's tourism industry on Kangaroo Island. Ryberg, Lierich, and Linnett, are names synonymous with the development of tourism at American River.

Nils Ryberg, a Swedish born immigrant, settled at American River in 1884, and ten years later built the original "Ryberg House" on the site of the present Kangaroo Island Lodge, exclusively for tourist accommodation.

Ryberg added to the building over several years, before selling to John and Valerie Linnett in 1913. Ryberg House was completely rebuilt in 1928, and remains today [cite web|publisher=State Library of South Australia - Mortlock Pictorial Collection|title=Kangaroo Island Residence|accessdate=2008-06-12|url=] . Fishing trips were an integral part of the business, with three boats, "Warrigal", "Linnette" and "Linnette 2" comprising the fleet which operated until 1985.

The business was operated until John Linnett's death in 1955, after which time his four sons, Keith, Lionel, Leon and Gordon continued under the name of Linnetts Pleasure Resort.

Leon Linnett assumed sole proprietorship in 1971, expanding the resort with the erection of several new wings and refurbishing the reception, administration and restaurant areas in 1980, when the resort became known as "Linnetts Island Club".

Leon Linnett sold the property in the late 1990's to an Adelaide based consortium that trades under the name Kangaroo Island Lodge. [ Cordes, Neville, "Linnetts - A Kangaroo Island Dynasty" 2005, Statewide and Global Group, ISBN 0 909630 37 2]


The general store ( with fuel outlet and bottle shop) on Scenic Drive serves the immediate community, whilst the town supports a Country Fire Service brigade and South Australian Ambulance Service depot. An active sports and community association maintains a focal point for weekly meals and community awareness, whilst an annual fishing competition in January is popular. An extensive wharf with mooring facilities for large commercial fishing boats was completed in 1964. A new, triple berth boat ramp with floating pontoons was completed in July 2008.

In recent years several new land subdivisions have seen increased development within the township, highlighting the need for improved effluent disposal and water supply. A Community Wastewater Management Scheme is nearing completion.(CWMS) [cite web|title=American River CWM Scheme|author=Kangaroo Island Council|url=|accessdate =2007-06-14]


Since the withdrawal of services by ketches to American River, there has been no direct freight service.

During the 1980s, there was a passenger ferry service operated by John and Ann Hamlyn between Cape Jervis and American River, using the mono hulled "Valerie Jane".

Air services were operated for a number of years by Emu Airways, utilising a privately owned airstrip located to the north of the township. Air Transport regulations subsequently rendered the airstrip unsuitable for commercial flights. An accommodation venue at nearby Muston publicises access via an alternative, private air strip. [cite web|title=Muston Heights|author=Kangaroo Island Coastal Connections|url=|accessdate =2007-06-20]

Pelican Lagoon

The marine and coastal area around American River, incorporating the Pelican Lagoon Conservation Park has been included in the Register of the National Estate. and is considered ecologically significant as an important refuge and breeding area for many species of fish, which in turn provide an important food source for many species of fish, birds and mammals. It is a nursery area for the King George whiting and supports 56 species of waterbird. The area is also used by the Australian Sea Lion. It is also the home of a local pod of Bottlenose Dolphin. Fishing was prohibited in the aquatic reserve prior to its declaration in 1971. The area incorporates Pelican Lagoon Conservation Park. [cite web|publisher=Australian Heritage Database|title=American River Marine and Coastal Area, Sapphiretown Rd, American River, SA|accessdate=2008-07-30|url=;search=place_name%3DAmerican%2520River%2520Marine%2520and%2520Coastal%2520Area%2520%2520%3Bkeyword_PD%3Don%3Bkeyword_SS%3Don%3Bkeyword_PH%3Don%3Blatitude_1dir%3DS%3Blongitude_1dir%3DE%3Blongitude_2dir%3DE%3Blatitude_2dir%3DS%3Bin_region%3Dpart;place_id=100822]


External links

* [ Kangaroo Island]
*cite web |url= |work=South Australian History |title=Kangaroo Island |publisher=Flinders Ranges Research |accessdate=2006-04-25

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