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.
Frank Potts was the first official settler in 1842, before moving to the mainland and establishing the Bleasdale vineyard and winery at Langhorne Creek. John Buick built the first home in the town in 1854.
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.
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. Lierich and Linnett, are names synonymous with the development of tourism at American 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. Gypsum was mined at Flour Cask Bay, later at Pelican Lagoon and trucked to nearby Ballast Head, from 1956 until 1986.
Until the 1980’s the town was serviced regularly by the ketches Falie and Nelcebee, (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 have become more prominent.
Electricity supply to American River was only made permanent in 1967, and the town remains today without reticulated water or a common effluent scheme.