Through Chowilla

Four day downstream meander in the creeks of the Riverland, 7- 10 Apr 2023

The River is Green

Five kayakers headed up to the Riverland to inspect the aftermath of the recent floods by paddling all the backwaters from the Chowilla Reserve back to just before Renmark, a distance of 68kms. Happily we can report that the river levels are back to normal, most businesses are open, and the whole area is looking magnificent: I have never seen it so green with so much bird life. If you can, get up there to have a look, the floods have done wonders for the countryside.

Good Friday

Charlie in the MurrayWe started our trip on Friday lunchtime from the launch spot near the Customs House Houseboats, crossed the river to get into Suders creek and off the Murray as soon as possible. Suders creek was its normal fast-flowing self, but now (thanks to the floods) with a new tree stuck right in the middle of the channel at the fastest spot, with associated eddies. This resulted in one capsize and a few near misses, not a good start to the trip! After getting organised again, we continued down the creek, avoiding the many snags to set up camp on Chowilla creek.

Leisure Saturday

A leisurely start next morning saw us paddling slowly down Chowilla creek, assisted by the current while we watched the scenery. A pair of wedge tailed eagles was spotted, along with many straw-necked ibis and the more common sacred ibis. We were also fortunate to see a lot of Black-tailed native hens, which we have never seen before. Apparently they are nomadic and take advantage of temporary wetlands, so the conditions after the floods must be ideal for them.

At the end of Chowilla creek we reached the Murray and turned left for a few kilometres to look for the next creek which would take us into Hunchee, and then RalRal creek. We stopped at the Chowilla Woolshed for lunch, where the full extent of the flooding became apparent; we were sitting on the bank at least 2 meters above the river, and could see the flood marks another 1 meter up on a building. Trying to estimate how wide the river would have been at the level was truly scary, I’m sure it must have been difficult to even find the main channel of the Murray at that level.

A Short Shower on Sunday

The third day dawned cool and overcast as the others had, but this time we were treated a short shower of rain, luckily we were all in our kayaks with wet weather gear on so we didn’t get much wetter than we already were. After turning off into RalRal creek we had a short detour to have a look at Lake Woolpolool, but the water levels were already too low to get over the regulator and into the lake itself. Maybe next time.

Portage in ChowillaJust after that there was a bit of excitement where the creek narrowed into almost a small rapid under a low bridge, with a tree waiting in the river downstream. With memories of Suders creek still fresh in our minds, some of us opted to do a short portage to avoid the obstacle, while the rest of the group took it in turns to carefully paddle through. Luckily it wasn’t as bad as it looked and no-one else went swimming.

After a leisurely paddle down the RalRal Wide Waters (which is actually a lake wider than the Murray itself), we found the entrance to Nelbuck creek and set up camp for the night. Peter put out his yabbie net and managed to supplement dinner with 2 nice size yabbies, although cooking them in a small hiking stove was a bit of a challenge.

Wrap up Monday

Next morning we continued down the creek back into the Murray and had a brief stop at the old Woolenook Internment Camp from World War II. Nothing much is left of it now except for a few plaques, but worth a look.

Another kilometre or so down the Murray and we found the imaginatively name Inlet creek, which we followed into Horseshoe Lagoon, and from there navigated our way through the creeks and lagoons back to Canoe-The-Riverland, where Ruth and Jim had kindly let us leave one of our cars for the shuttle back to our launch spot.

If you feel like a paddle in the area, be sure to contact them. They do organised tours and kayak hire, and have the best maps of the area: