RIKKI Grinberg has picked up plenty of rubbish at South Ballina, but never thought she would uncover a maritime mystery.
The owner of the Ballina Beach Village and her husband Bernard yesterday found the rusted hull of a steel vessel which "popped up" on the southern bank of the Richmond River at Mobbs Bay following Friday's storm.
Ms Grinberg said the wreck wasn't there on Tuesday.
The couple have lived at South Ballina since 2009 and regularly ride their bikes from the caravan park east to South Wall, and pick up rubbish from the roadside and in the bush on the way back.
Ms Grinberg said she was "really excited" when she found the wreck, which had been covered in dead grass - and even had a tree growing in its middle.
She said the previous owner of the caravan park, Chasla Reid, whose family has long connections with the South Ballina district, told her about a vessel that ferried passengers across the river which had sunk at South Ballina in the late 1800s.
"She told me it would turn up one day," Ms Grinberg said. "And this (the wreck) has just emerged.
"We go down this road twice a day sometimes, and I have walked on this land and it (the wreck) wasn't showing.
"I'm just amazed no-one has seen it before."
The vessel is about 7m across at the widest point, and approximately 20m long. Its resting place is metres above the current waterline.
Clem MacMahon, president of the Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum, said the size of the vessel would be consistent with the type of craft used to ferry passengers across the river, but was unable to confirm its identity.
Ballina Shire Council's cultural development officer, Kate Gahan, said further inquiries would have to be made about the craft.
Cliff Murray, in his history of Ballina titled Across Three Bridges, refers to a ferry that sank in the late 1800s, but doesn't name it or identify where it went down.
This find follows the recent confirmation that a wreck discovered several years ago off the Ballina coast by local fishers is the twin-screw MV Limerick, sunk by the Japanese during World War II.
Locals are reminded that shipwrecks are protected under the NSW Heritage Act.