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Sailing the Coorong from Salt Creek to Murray Mouth — 2-5th January 2024

Embarking on a memorable expedition, our team, comprised of Phil Doddridge, Greg Adams, and Matthew Eldred, set sail from Salt Creek around 11 am on Tuesday, January 2nd. The wind, as predicted, gained strength, facilitating a smooth 37 km paddle under sail to our initial campsite near Parnka Point, surrounded by mud. Notably, the Coorong’s water level was unexpectedly low. It was hovering around a meter below its optimal height. A recurring theme throughout the journey.

Through the mist

Day 2 dawned with a mysterious sea mist, casting an eerie atmosphere over our paddle. We also had a slower-than-anticipated southwest wind. Navigating westward through islands, coral reefs, and challenging sand flats, exacerbated by the low water level, proved a test of our resolve. The silver lining was the influx of birdlife drawn to the flats, offering a unique opportunity to appreciate nature.

Overcoming the hazards, including negotiating the needles and coral blockage we suffered minor skin abrasions but we considered it the small price of admission. Beyond this obstacle, the remainder of the journey to the Coorong cabins, where Phil’s car awaited, became a smooth paddle into the mist.

Day 3 greeted us with lifted fog and a return of southeast winds at 10-15 knots. Despite persistent low water levels and expansive sand flats, the familiar sights of the Coorong’s freshwater soaks, rolling sand dunes, and aqua-colored waters made it a classic experience. A change of plans at Tauwitchere barrage lock. The low water and high winds made crossing into lake Alexandrina not appealing.

Murray Mouth

Opting for the Murray Mouth as our finishing point allowed us to capitalize on favorable winds. We completed the 110 km paddle from Salt Creek.

Throughout the trip, our backyard revealed hidden gems from enchanting campsites and islands to diverse wildlife and concealed shacks. The journey was a tapestry of discovery, weaving together the beauty of our surroundings and the thrill of exploration.

Murrumbidgee River; Darlington Point to Hay – Sunday 22 to Friday 27 Oct 2023

The group

The Murrumbidgee River from Darlington Point to Hay is fantastic. The serpentine river ‘keeps you on your toes’ changing from peacefully calm, to requiring maneuvers past snaggy fallen trees and submerged logs. It provides stunning scenery, lots of wildlife including kangaroos and many different birds. The banks are covered with trees and there are beautiful campsites – what more could you want from a paddle?

Setting out

Bogged

Charlie and Marina Walker, Berny Lohmann and Peter Drewry joined Simon and Anne Langsford for the 230km paddle from Darlington Point to Hay. We set off in perfect weather with the river running at about 2.5m depth and the flow pushing us along at an extra 2km/h. Being a weekend there were many other people out enjoying the river, camping and fishing. We came across a couple of blokes that had well and truly bogged their car trying to launch their fishing boat. We stopped to lend some assistance and our colourful kayaks helped their friend locate the bogged car. The car wasn’t the only thing we saw stuck. We passed a canoe and a sit-on-top kayak both very wedged in fallen trees. Charlie thought about rescuing them but decided towing them all the way to Hay would be too difficult.

Wildlife along the river

Kerarbury homestead

There were lots of birds. Most notable were the flocks on Rufous Night Herons that appeared from the dense foliage of willows and other introduced trees. There were also many White Faced Herons and a few Pacific Herons spotted. Of course there were lots of Cormorants swimming, catching fish or resting on the fallen trees along the river. This year we also saw many Yellow Billed Spoonbills and a very large flock of Black Shouldered Kites. Our days started with Kookaburras laughing at the sunrise followed by a huge variety of birds calling the morning in. Whenever we stopped there were Swallows darting around and occasionally we spotted Kingfishers.

Finding Kerarbury homestead

Portage with Charlie

Peter was on a quest to find Kerarbury homestead. His wife’s grandfather had worked there as a wool classer. He asked around Darlington Point but no one could help locate it until we met a local at the Punt hotel when we went there for dinner before starting our paddle. Now with the knowledge that it was either 15, or 50km down river we set off hopeful of locating it. On the second morning’s paddle we rounded a bend to see the magnificent homestead. We stopped and chatted with the owner so Peter could verify it was Kerarbury. Then it turned out that the current owner was also related to Peter’s wife. It is a small world!

Twists, turns, mud, wind and other fun

By road the distance between Darlington Point and Hay is about 115km; by river it is about 230km. The river twists and turns often and the recent floods have provided some short cuts. Berny enjoyed the fast flowing water through some of these short cuts. However, we did need a portage in one which had a tree right across the water. Further down the same ‘shortcut’ Charlie had to get into the water to push our kayaks over an offending log.

Peter and shoes

In places the floods had washed away parts of the bank exposing the intricate tangle of tree roots.

There were a couple of very windy days, over 20 knots, but the trees on each bank protected us most of the time. We had short spells of paddling into the headwind, but soon turned another bend and enjoyed a tailwind along the next stretch. Berny’s kayak was particularly stable in the short choppy waves whipped up when wind and current were in opposite directions.

There are lots of trees in the river, creating snags, so you can’t just watch the scenery or relax too much. Even though the front paddlers kept a look-out there were snags that either caught someone momentarily. This year the water level was dropping as we paddled down, leaving the once sandy beaches covered in mud. Peter found a particularly deep patch and had to hunt for his shoes which the mud had sucked off his feet. The retrieved shoes and Peter needed a good wash before joining us again.

Personal best records

Camp 5

This paddle saw ‘personal best’ records shattered. Peter did a PB for distance 3 days in a row and Marina achieved the furthest she had paddled for a trip on day 4 with 164km completed. She then paddled another couple of days to reach a new record, 230km. This section of the Murrumbidgee is a very looooong paddle but we all agreed it was an addictive section, ever changing with another beautiful spot around each of the many, many bends.

 

 

 

Image below links to the GPX file

Trip Map

St. Kilda weekender with overnight stay in Community Hall — Sat 9-10 September 2023

St Kilda Weekend History

Another great weekender out to St. Kilda was conducted on Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th September. Weather, wind and tidal conditions were perfect for the ten club members who participated.

The St. Kilda weekender has been a feature of the ACC calendar for over ten years now. It is an easy trip requiring paddlers to carry minimal equipment. We stay in the St. Kilda Community Hall overnight and go to the pub for dinner and drinks.

It’s All About the Tides

The devil is in the detail of planning however and the critical elements lie in getting the tides just right. The trip takes in most of the Port River estuary which is highly tidal. On the wrong day the currents can be severe and in places the water just disappears at low tide.

I have used the tide in a couple of ways for this trip over the years. This time around I used the dodge tide to minimise the impact of tidal currents and extremely low water levels. A dodge tide is a phenomenon almost unique to Gulf St. Vincent and Spencer Gulf. It also occurs in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf Of Mexico. A dodge tide is where the water levels change minimally over a 24 to 48 hour period; it is if the tides miss a day! Last weekend we had a 15 hr tide on Sunday resulting in negligible current and change in water levels. The water level did not go below 1.2m during daylight hours which is most important when planning to explore the mangrove creeks of the Barker Inlet and the Section Bank at Outer Harbor.

I have also used spring tides (nothing to do with the seasons!) to create a fun “ride the tide” experience. On this type of tide we begin at Largs Bay and travel into the Outer Harbor Channel where the rapid inflow of water to the Port River due to the rising tide is quite amazing! With just an easy paddling effort you can achieve 10 or more kilometres per hour.

Departure from UniSA Kayak Shed

Departure from Uni SA Kayak Sheds

Thus trip’s group including Mark L, Abelardo, Terry, Greg, Anthony, Bella, Charlie, Marina, Giresh and myself. We assembled at the UniSA kayak shed near Adelaide Marina on the main arm of the Port River to launch for the 16Km paddle out to St. Kilda. This is the first time we launched from here and it was most convenient as we could leave our vehicles locked up securely in the compound. We planned to finish the trip here as well. Big thanks to club member Dr. Scott Polley, who is a senior lecturer at UniSA for granting access.

North Arm and Ships Graveyard

Paddling Amoungst Ship’s Graveyard (2)

The journey out to St. Kilda was via The North Arm and Barker Inlet which is such a stunning and little known part of Adelaide. Travelling up the North Arm we observed the maritime relics left abandoned in the “Ships Graveyard”  early last century. The remains of vessels such as the Glaucus, Garthneil and Seminole give an insight into early shipping in South Australia. You may find more information about this unique section of the River. 

Barker Inlet and Swan Alley

Even more captivating was the exploration of the mangrove creeks of the Barker Inlet. When paddling through the maze of creeks flowing off the “mainland” you get the feeling that you’re far from civilization. It’s a stunning, waterlogged forest. Exploring comes with a warning! You have to know the impact of the tides. Get it wrong and you can encounter fast flowing water that can wash you under low tree branches resulting in capsize and a heap of real issues. At the other end of the spectrum you can run out of water…the creeks go dry at low tide heights. The creeks are best paddled on a dodge tide with a water level of at least 1m which is what we had!

Exiting Swan Alley

Our journey entered the system via Swan Alley. We then took the Embankment Channel which is artificial and links  Burrows Creek, Post Creek and Garnets Creek. Due to the tide height there wasn’t much dry land for lunch. We exited Burrows Creek to find a small sand island to haul out on before returning to the mangroves and continuing down the channel.

Arrival at St Kilda and Community Hall

On exiting the mangroves the next target was the St Kilda Channel and down to the St. Kilda Boat Club to store kayaks overnight and walk to the Community Hall. The pub meal was a little disappointing for some…. squid snitty not up to the usual standard!

Return via Bird Island and Outer Harbor

Sunday began with even better weather for our journey out to Bird Island and the Outer Harbor breakwater. Bird Island is a sand spit that has been increasing in size since I have been visiting the area. I first remember it some 20 years ago as a couple of hundred metre strip of sand running northward from the breakwater without much vegetation but plenty of bird life. It is now a couple of kilometres long and well covered with vegetation and trees. It is an important bird breeding area and one of the few location in Adelaide that Pelicans raise their young. The sand flats to the NW of the breakwater are stunning. It is easy to imagine you’re in the Bahamas!

There were also plenty of long nosed fur seals on the breakwater. Several young ones swam some distance with us and may have never seen a kayaker before.

St Kilda Dusk

The group had a slight incoming tidal current to push us the final few kilometres back to the shed. On the way we got to see one of the Naval ships under construction and were warned by Mark to stay out of the “Restricted Zone”; no saboteurs allowed!

When back to the shed it was a quick clean up of gear on the nice lawned area of the UniSA compound. A great weekend had by all!

 

Overall statistics (Links point to GPX track files)

 

Peer Paddle at Blanchetown exploring Cumbunga Creek and Julia Island in the Riverland – 2 Sep 2023

Preparations

Our WhatsApp initiative is working well! Berny Lohmann suggested a Peer Paddle at Blanchetown exploring Cumbunga Creek and Julia Island on Saturday 2nd September 2023. The forecast was looking great with temperature in low twenties, sunny sky and good river flow.

Wasn’t long before Rob and Robyn Phiddian had expressed interest and as we are looking for more members to put hands up to lead Peer Paddles. I thought this would be a great opportunity to support Berny, at least by offering to drive him to Blanchetown. Berny had reported good flow there so I was keen to experience the conditions (having missed out on the flooding event in 2022).

Launching and Cumbunga Creek

We met at the carpark opposite the Caravan Park (which is still not operational following flooding) at 10 am by Paisley Riverfront Reserve, north of the bridge. Parking was nice and easy with grassy beach for launching our kayaks. After Berny’s well prepared safety briefing we launched at 10.30am and headed across the river. There was a noticeable eddyline so we angled our way upstream to accommodate the obvious flow – probably about 2 to 3 knots. After surviving the crossing without mishap we navigated our way through the numerous dead gumtrees and logs and into Cumbunga Creek.  When I bumped over a submerged log I thought maybe I should have brought my plastic kayak!  We were soon being welcomed by screeching Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos as we followed the Creek and headed north. The flow was still obvious, but nothing like mid river channel.

This section of the Creek is very open and must have been the main channel in time past! Paddling was easy with lots of Pelicans flying overhead and Cockatoos sticking their heads out of tree hollows to see who was paddling through their stretch of the river.

Roonka Conservation Park

It wasn’t long before we reached Roonka Conservation Park where the channel narrowed considerably and we had a first sighting of old homestead ruins from a bygone era.

The Cockatoos were soon replaced by Parrots emerging from hollows. The discussion soon turned towards whether they were Regent Parrots or Superb Parrots. Peter Vincent, where were you when we needed identification?

Berny, Rob and Robyn had paddled here previously so there was no problem finding the correct channel as we moved further north towards Reedy Island and Julia Island. Berny successfully led the way through the narrow channel at the northern extremity of Roonka Conservation Park and into the main river channel.  From there we headed downstream and into the channel east of Julia Island and past the Bedrock Waterski Club on the SE end of Julia Island. Judging by the ski jump and two observation towers, this area may get busy during the summer months. Thankfully this time we had the river to ourselves.

Tummies were staring to rumble by now. We went up to the northern extremity requiring a short portage across the small service bridge leading to Julia Island. After moving the kayaks to an easy launch site leading to the main river channel we unpacked lunch just below the old homestead off Murbko Road.

Lunch

We spent lunch soaking up the scenery and looking at the timber wedged in nearby trees. It was very helpful to gauge the river height during the 2022 flooding. Lunch was followed by a very relaxing paddle downstream in the main channel. We made our way along the western side of Julia Island, passing Roonka River Adventure Park and back towards the stunning cliffs below Murbko Road.

We paddled close into the cliffs and mostly had the river to ourselves aside from the occasional houseboat. The scenery was stunning with several sedimentary layers showing in the cliff.  We noticed more Whistling Kites and Cormorants along this section of the river, with the Kites nesting in stick nests high in the eucalypts while the Cormorants favoured the willows allowing easy access to the water. We encountered several nests in the willows with baby cormorants well camouflaged by the dying branches and leaves. The chicks were still covered by white down and not making any movement as we paddled by.

Just before arriving back at the launch beach we spotted a dead gum with several river height markers – 2022 at the top of the tree. One can only imagine what the river flow would have been like!

Packing and heading back

Arrived back at start at 3pm after a very enjoyable 17.5km paddle. With a short lunch break, overall time was 5 hours on a perfect day. Checking my GPS, top speed of 11km/h for an 80m section about 2km before reaching our launch point gives an appreciation of river flow.

This was my first time paddling at Blanchetown and I highly recommend this trip exploring Cumbunga Creek and Julia Island. A very easy 2-hour drive from Adelaide with a coffee and pie stop at Truro Bakery (a must visit if you haven’t already stopped there). Berny managed the trip very well and I appreciate his assistance with Peer Paddles.

After loading our kayaks and before heading of back to Adelaide, Robyn spoilt us with tea and cakes while we talked about the trip. Keep an eye on the calendar and the next river paddle.

Overall statistic (Links point to GPX Track Files)

Morning in Chowilla

Four days exploring the creeks in the Chowilla reserve, in the Riverland — 19-22 Aug 2023

From Plan A to Plan B

Enjoying the calmness of ChowillaThe original trip was planned to traverse the Lindsay River. But the high river levels put paid to that, as the whole Lindsay Island was closed to the public. Making the best of a bad situation, we changed the trip to the Chowilla area, where high water levels open up a lot of normally dry creeks.

We launched at midday on Saturday and crossed the Murray to find the entrance to Suders creek, which is the entrance to backwater area. This is normally a challenge, with the entrance to the creek being narrow and fast flowing, but this time the levels were high and the current very manageable, and we were soon through to Hypurna creek, which we followed up for a few kilometers before setting up a base camp where we would stay for the next three nights.

Setting camp for the trip

After setting up camp and relaxing for a bit, we went off for an afternoon paddle to check out if the short-cut through to Salt Creek was open, as we planned to take that route the next day. Luckily the normally dry creek was easily navigable so we didn’t have to change our plans. We then retired back to camp to start dinner and sit around the campfire solving important world issues.

Day 2

Next day was an early start as we didn’t have pack up the camp. We were soon paddling through wide creeks and flooded trees through to Salt Creek.  We followed it upstream for about 8km to a horseshoe lagoon which we normally bypass. Encouraged by the high water levels we decided to explore it. We were rewarded with yet another new creek which took us back to Salt Creek, cutting 4kms off our trip.

After a few hundred meters on Salt Creek we found an unmarked creek which was flowing in the right direction. We decided to throw caution to the wind and set off down it into the unknown. Flowing water is always a good sign as it has to go somewhere. We were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves ending up in Hypurna Creek, which is where we were planning on going. After a gentle 5km paddle downstream we ended up back at camp. We were soon relaxing around the campfire discussing the next day’s paddle.

Day 3

Lunch break before paddling the MurrayNext morning, after a quick breakfast, we set off back up Hypurna Creek to do another circular loop in a different area. We passed the entrance to a shortcut to Wilperna Creek which had been planning on using, only to find that the water level was not quite high enough to make it passable. Disappointed, we carried on up to Salt Creek to have a mid-morning break and talk about our options. After a bit of discussion we decided to continue to the Murray, and follow that around to the entrance to Wilperna Creek.

Normally we try to avoid the main channel of the Murray, too big and too busy. But this time we found the river pretty much deserted. A relaxed paddle had us going down the river at 10 km/h. There was a lot of water in the river! At that pace we were soon through Higgins Cutting and did the 8kms to Wilpurna Creek with no trouble at all.

Wilpurna Creek is one of my favourite creeks, narrow and winding, with not too many obstacles. But it can be hard to find, as the entrance is small and is just downstream from the NSW border. Unfortunately the sign for the border is about ½ a kilometre away from the actual border, on the wrong side of the creek. Luckily my trusty GPS had the entrance marked with a waypoint. We practically floated down Wilperna Creek, around fallen trees, escorted by curious emus and seeing the occasionally kangaroo, and were soon back at camp again.

Chris had bought his yabbie nets along (I don’t know how he fits it all in his kayak), and had got lucky while we had been away. That night he treated all of us to some fresh yabbie meat snacks.

Day 4

Salt creek navigationOvernight our luck changed, and we had a bit of rain. Nothing heavy, but just enough to turn the ground into sticky mud, 10 steps were enough to add a few kilograms of the stuff to your shoes. After breakfast the camp was packed up quickly and carefully, trying to avoid most of the mud, and stopping occasionally to scrape the worst of off your shoes. Most of the gear went into the kayak reasonably cleanly, but the kayak cockpits ended up decidedly brown.

We paddled back down Hypurna Creek, aided by the current, paddling through trees which normally line the side of the creek. Some paddlers decided to do the portage back the Murray, while the rest decided to try paddling back up Suders. The portage point is well signposted, but we couldn’t find any of the signs, can only think that they must have been underwater. Kayaks were soon carried across to the Murray. The rest of the paddlers set of to try our luck going up Suders Creek. This proved to be an anti-climax, as it was an easy paddle back to the Murray and the cars.

We quickly threw  all the gear back in the cars, loaded the kayaks on the roof and put on some presentable clothes.  We then headed back to Renmark and the nearest bakery to indulge in a cup of hot coffee and some unhealthy treats before heading back to Adelaide, and a lot of washing of kayaks and gear.

Overall statistics (Links point to GPX track files)

Saturday 19 August – Customs House to Campground, recce in the arvo – 11.95Km

Sunday 20 August – Salt Creek, Horseshoe Lagoon, Hypurna Creek – 24.1Km

Monday 21 August – Salt Creek, Wilpurna Creek, Murray River – 26.0Km

Tuesday 22 August – Campground, up Suders creek back to Customs House – 7.45Km

A weekend paddling Finniss River and Currency Creek — 10-11 June 2023

Day One

On Day 1, the paddlers packed their kayaks at Wally’s and were on the water by 9 am. They paddled 14 km to Clayton Bay where they stopped for lunch at 11:45 am. The winds were light from the north around 5 knots in the morning. After lunch, they skirted Hindmarsh Island before diving back northwest up Currency Creek. It wasn’t long before the old flour mill became their marker and point of interest. Once they made it to the flour mill, it was a quick paddle across to their campsite.

Tents were erected quickly to make time for the optional sunset paddle up Currency Creek to the main road bridge. The paddle up the creek is narrow only a few meters across, surrounded on both sides by tall reeds. They came across a portable cool room which had been washed down last winter.

Arriving back at camp, they were greeted by a fire prepared by Peter. With ample wood, the fire kept them warm while they told stories of camping sites past.

 

Day Two

On Day 2, there was not a breath of wind on the water. A slow start on the water by 9:30 am as it was hard to leave the fire and get into wet paddling gear. The paddle was easy as the predicted 8-knot crosswinds came late. There were no detours on the way back to the Finniss Channel. Once in the channel, they took the opportunity to explore some backwaters before finishing the trip.

Overall Statistics:

Day 1 35.2km

Day 2 21km

Total 56km

Parnka Point Car Camping – 6-7 May 2023

Arrival at Parnka Point – Pelican Campground

It’s been a while since Adelaide Canoe Club (ACC) has car-camped at Parnka Point, so I was keen to visit the area to experience the high water levels (after last visiting here with Matt Eldred in Oct 2021 when we sailed from Parnka Point to Goolwa). This location was a favourite of Eddie Andriessen so I was keen resurrect the Car Camping tradition.

With fingers crossed for some good Autumn weather, I had earlier booked Campsite No 1 at Pelican Campground, providing room for 14 campsites and semi-sheltered protection should the forecast wind and rain arrive. We had a good take-up with Peter McLeod, Mark Loram, Charlie and Marina Walker, Abelardo Pardo, Berny Lohmann and Terry Holder booking for the weekend. I was pretty excited about this trip, as National Parks had advised that there was plenty of water and prolific birdlife in the area, particularly pelicans and ducks.

We all arrived at various times during Friday afternoon and set up camp, keen to get settled before rain arrived. Hopefully not much following the downpour on the drive from Adelaide. Berny saved the day by bringing along his recently purchased gazebo – this made our stay nice and cosy. During our stay we checked out other campsites and agreed 5 and 7 also have potential, particularly when no wind is forecast and with easy access to the water.

Rain overnight which along with the sound of surf made for authentic autumn camping on the Coorong.  The forecast 17Kn SW had not appeared on Friday and we were presented with very calm conditions in the morning although an overcast day.

Paddling South Lagoon to Long Island

Bit of a slow start after casual breakfast, on water about 9.30am to meet Peter at the Boat Ramp in his plywood Sabre dinghy, Boat No 1461. Slight breeze from the SW had built up, enough for Peter to make headway and practice his tacking. It wasn’t long before the sea kayaks were leading the way down the south lagoon towards Long Island with Peter following.

The aim was to paddle south and explore the cutting at Hack Point and hopefully circumnavigate Cow and Long Island. Sunshine was occasionally breaking through so all looked promising.

We had a short stop at the derelict Coorong Wilderness Lodge. It is still in pretty good condition but could use a refurbishment. Stunning views of the South Lagoon.

We continued paddling south, trying our best to avoid the limestone “bommies” that seemed to pop up when least expected.

Peter under tow

It was not possible for Peter to stay with the kayaks so we agreed to meet up around Hack Point. The cutting just south was easily navigable so we continued further south along the eastern side of Cow Island. Too cold for a beach stop so we had the occasional on-water snack and refresh. Nice sandy beaches on the eastern side of both Cow and Long Islands:  perhaps next trip?

The small channel between Cow and Long Islands also looked navigable, but we continued further south around Long Island, leaving Round and Swan Islands for the future.

Back from Long Island

After rounding Long Island we made our way back towards Hack Point and hopefully Peter and his dinghy. It wasn’t long before Abelardo spotted Peter in one of the small bays opposite Bull Island – apparently becalmed. Abelardo and Charlie went in to investigate and soon had Peter under tow. Once they had re-joined the group Berny also helped out with the tow.

Safely returned to the boat ramp we left Peter to get his dingy loaded up and head back to the campsite.

Still plenty of daylight remaining, so Charlie and Peter decided to explore Bluff Island in the north lagoon while others relaxed at the campsite.  I explored the Sandy Beach walk from campsite No 5, further north towards Avocet Campground – birds everywhere!

Lovely evening cooking our meals under the Luci lights from the protection of Berny’s Gazebo. The plan for Sunday was to explore the north lagoon, weather permitting, but probably not The Needles as a 14Kn SW was forecast about 3.30pm.

We must have had a good day’s paddling as most of the group turned in by 8pm.

Paddling North Lagoon to Rabbit Island

Sunday Departure – still Perfect

More rain overnight but not as heavy – less water in my tent! On water around 9.30am, having agreed on a more realistic departure time, Peter opting to paddle his kayak this time. We had agreed to explore Bluff and Rabbit Islands following Charlie and Peter’s successful circumnavigation on Saturday. As you can see from the departure picture, the Coorong was like glass with no sign of wind. Winds were forecast to pick up mid-afternoon, so the planned return paddle to The Needles was assigned for another trip.

With the constant sound of breaking waves each night, we were keen to check out the beach, using the Cockle Fishers track just south of Hells Gate. An easy paddle back past the boat ramp to a small beach used to unload vehicles and equipment, and perfect for landing our kayaks.

The first interesting encounter we had was the Cockler’s car graveyard adjacent to the track, with only a few that appeared to be in working order. We were soon at the beach with the track only about 500m across the well used dunes. Plenty of cockle signs, either from an old coastline or aboriginal middens. We could see breaking waves almost at horizon level, showing how dangerous the Coorong coastline can be to kayakers attempting circumnavigation.

Back on the water

Pelican Squadron

Too chilly standing on the beach, so we were soon back on water and making our way to the eastern side of Bluff Island. We still had the sun breaking through the clouds, only interrupted by several flocks of pelicans flying in formation – stunning, they seemed to go on forever. I have never seen so many pelicans on previous trips and this hopefully sets the trend for future trips.

The pelicans must have attracted the rain, as the clouds released on our kayaks, leaving a nice pattern on the still waters. Not very heavy and it wasn’t long before the sun broke through again.

We could see clear water on the eastern side of Rabbit Island. The sound of cars from the Princess Highway were now audible as we hugged the east side of the Coorong waters. We found our way out of the little bay (thanks to Charlie and Google Maps) on the south of Rabbit Island. We eventually found the shallow channel leading us around the northern end of the island. Plenty of shallow areas with jagged limestone outcrops.

Snake and Needle Islands were now so close and very tempting but not for this trip. The wind had started to pick up. We lifted the pace and sought protection from the south westerly from the lee side of Bluff Island for a short rest before heading back to camp. Timing was perfect as we were about 100m away from shore when the full front arrived.

Return Trip

We had already packed up tents and loaded non-paddling gear so didn’t take long to wash and load kayaks. Then, on our way by 2pm and heading for Meningie Bakery for a hot coffee and debrief.

May not have been perfect weather, but much better than forecast and some very pleasant time on water. We ended up paddling 17Km exploring the south lagoon on Saturday and then 16Km for Sunday’s paddle. Not a bad effort and will definitely repeat this trip.

The Coorong is looking great with a very obvious increase in the bird population. We returned with the promise of some great trips in the next 12 months.

Mark Loram

Click in the maps at the bottom of the page to download the corresponding GPX files.



Long Island Paddle Sat 6 May 2023

 

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: https://www.canoetheriverland.com/


Sunset at Murrumbidgee River

Murrumbidgee River, Darlington Point to Hay, 30 Jan – 4 Feb 2023

A good week in the oasis of the Murrumbidgee River

Anne and Simon Langsford lead a fantastic trip down the Murrumbidgee River, from Darlington Point to Hay. Paddlers included Berny Lohmann, Robert, and Robin Phiddian (AKA Rob & Rob), Terry Holder, Courtney Kirkwood, Simon Delaine, Hugh Stewart, and Peter Vincent. The group met at the Darlington Point caravan park on Sunday evening after a car shuffle that left two cars at Hay. It had been raining much of the late afternoon.

A bumpy start (Monday)

The weather cleared overnight for a 9 am start on the water, after parking the cars. Anne and Simon L gave a briefing about what to expect for the trip, including the dangers of snags lying under the water. The group slid their kayaks off the muddy banks, gathered in the water, and set off, passing under the Darlington Point Bridge. The river was flowing at a good pace, and it was nice being able to coast and watch the trees go by. But soon whistles were blown, and we turned to see an upside-down kayak! Robert had been pulled into some bushes and capsized.

Simon L, tailing the group, swiftly rescued Rob, and his kayak, though Rob’s paddle was lost in the roll, likely dragged underwater and lost in branches. The group continued down the river, learning how to spot dangerous ripples in the water. Unfortunately, one was spotted too late, and Terry badly hit a snag on the side of his boat which soon began leaking. We applied duct tape  as a temporary repair, luckily mostly holding for the remainder of the trip. We made camp after 36km.

Days without incident: 0 (Tuesday)

Another 8:30ish start on the river. A smooth day of paddling until Terry capsized on a snag after lunch. This got us accustomed to calling out snags as some can be easy to miss. Bird life was proving to be wonderful. Australasian Darters were spotted, and Rainbow Bee-eaters visited our camp late in the evening. Despite a shallow stream of water flowing right beside our camp, the mosquitos were not as bad as we had feared. This was a theme for the whole trip.

Getting into the groove (Wednesday) 

Last night ‘boat-monitor’ Berny heard water lapping at the kayaks, so he rose to shift some forward. Each morning it was clear the water level had risen. Being day three, everyone was quicker getting their boats packed. Saw the first small motorboat of the trip. We came across some shortcuts on the river which we took advantage of after checking enough water was flowing through. Peter, in his durable plastic kayak, checked on one shortcut but had to turn back. We had westerly winds for much of the day and by the end most people were getting exhausted. Started looking for campsites, but a few good options had houses nearby. Eventually found a suitable camp in a small forest reserve after travelling 43km. Many of us enjoyed a refreshing swim close to shore where the current wasn’t too strong.

Halfway (Thursday)

I (Simon D) didn’t check the elevation between my tent and the river last night. Turned out it wasn’t much, and the rising water got very close! Another quick getaway this morning and we soon passed a bridge marking the very approximate halfway point. It was a windy day but luckily there weren’t too many straight sections of river, plus everyone’s fitness levels seemed to be rising so we were mostly able to power through it. Rob & Rob were doing a remarkable job keeping up in their much smaller 12ft Carolina Perception kayaks. Saw more birdlife today, including Yellow-billed Spoonbills, Sacred Kingfishers, and Peter was excited to spot a White-bellied Sea Eagle after spotting them on previous trips. We made camp after 42km, landing on a beach beside a large, forested area. Some enjoyed another swim and wash. The wind became quite intense in the evening, and we retreated to our tents for an early night.

‘Love the fallen tree’ (Friday)

It was a very windy start to last night but not all of us had the same experience. Hugh had his tent flattened soon after getting to bed, yet Terry said he heard the wind but barely felt it. The day started with action when Courtney backed up from shore into a branch and capsized. Luckily her insulated coffee floated. The wind was still blowing so she put on a cag to prevent wind chill. Today was forecasted to be the windiest day and it felt like it.

We came across an interesting section of river where a tree had fallen most of the way across. Peter and Berny were up the front and chose a zig-zag route to the right. However, the middle route at first look seemed viable. Courtney was next and chose the middle section but found a large log laying just beneath the surface. Fortunately, she acted quickly, remembering the advice given at the start of the trip, and leaned into the log to prevent the flowing water from capsizing her boat (a technique known as ‘love the rock’ in white water kayaking). She did well to keep calm while flowing water kept her kayak pressed up to the log, as Simon L and Peter devised a rescue plan.

After Peter traveled back upstream, Simon L attached a rope between Peter and Courtney’s boats. Some hard, upstream paddling from Peter eventually freed Courtney’s boat from the log. A good rescue effort. Though slower in the straight sections, Rob and Rob’s shorter, plastic kayaks cruised through these tight sections. At lunch break Simon L had the group discuss what happened. We reflected on how crucial the ‘love the rock’ technique was in that situation as it’s unknown how big that log was or what lay beneath the surface. In future tight sections, we held paddles above the head horizontally, earlier, to hold the group back while the front-runner (mainly Peter) found a safe route.

Back on the water after lunch, we heard barking dogs by a house and Anne said on the last trip the dogs tried to herd them off the river. This time we sneaked by without the dogs noticing. During the afternoon tea break, we discussed how much longer to continue as campsite opportunities would become less frequent the closer, we got to Hay. A short, sharp shower fell after setting off for the final leg before camp.

After 41km we pulled onto a wide beach for camp. The weather was kind enough to let us set up tents before unleashing wind and rain. Simon L set up a tarp for the group to shelter under, and this action seemingly stopped the rain. Turned out this campsite is a bit of a rookery for White-necked Herons now, with many nests scattered high in the forest. These White-necked Herons were abundant for most of the trip, taking advantage of all the recent wet weather.

Back to civilization (Saturday)

A perfect start to the final day. The wind and rain of yesterday had mostly subsided and the sun was out but not too hot. We pulled up for morning tea on a beach about 18km from Hay. Anne said they’d tried to camp here on a previous trip but were told to move on as the farmers were planning a party. Hugh, Peter, and I decided to sprint the final stretch into Hay. The whole group made it into Hay by around 1:30 pm after 30km. People were relieved to have made it and surprised by how fast the trip went. Simon L looked after the kayaks while Anne and Berny drove everyone else to pick up their cars from Darlington Point. The group farewelled Rob & Rob and the rest drove back to Hay for a pub dinner at the New Crown Hotel. Now, off to clean a muddy kayak.

Tour of Lefevre Peninsula

The Loop

Great suggestion from Mike Dunn on the WhatsApp channel on Friday for a paddle with a difference – doing a loop of the Lefevre Peninsula. The plan was to  launch from the Outer Harbor area, paddle down the Port River, portage across Bower Road into West Lakes, paddle south to Oarsman Reserve,  portage again across Military Road over the Tennyson Dunes and into the sea again – just in time to catch the southerly wind for the 13km final leg back to Outer Harbor. Distance was estimated to be about 28km. We had an ebb tide to begin the paddle so expected to work on our way up the Port River.

I felt I couldn’t resist Mike’s suggestion and was feeling pretty good about our Training Session at Tiranna Way on Friday so agreed to join up with Mike for his adventure.

The Start

Departure was from the small boat ramp just down from the Royal South Australian Yacht Squadron (RSAYS) at 9am, plenty of space for leaving our cars. Once we had loaded our very important trolleys for this paddle, as it requiring a couple of portage sections we were on our way by 9.30am.

Our sightseeing started with the Container Terminal – no shipping in sight so we explored underneath the concrete wharf which looked all very well maintained. As we approached Port River past the Snapper Point Power Station the ebb tide was very evident and even managed to practice some ferry gliding.

Mutton Cove Conservation Park

We had the river to ourselves as we paddled up past Mutton Cove Conservation Park. It’s great to see the increase in mangrove growth. This was a regular lunchtime break and the area has gradually improved, largely thanks to the local community group.

The regeneration of Mutton Cove Conservation Park become very evident as we approached ASC and were almost swept into mid channel by the tidal flow coming out from the small creeks that have been restored. This was all noted as a potential area for some whitewater skills practice when tides are favorable.

We made sure we were on the correct side of the Exclusion Zone buoys of the ASC building to ensure we didn’t set of any alarms. Brought back lots of fond memories to see a Collins Class Submarine on the Hardstand outside the Production Shed. The work on the Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) seems to be progressing well with one in the water for final fit-out prior to Trials and another on the hard stand under construction.

Snowden Beach

Near Snowden Beach we spotted a small wooden boat in the distance. As it approached we saw it was skippered by club members Bernard and Frances Goble. They were doing a Sea Trial prior to departing for the Wooden Boat Festival in Hobart. Bernard had previously given Mike a call to advise that we might encounter them on water. We kept them company as we paddled into Port Adelaide and stopped at Cruickshanks Beach for a leg stretch and lunch.

After lunch our little flotilla continued on its way under the Birkenhead Bridge. We past all the construction happening around the old Fletches Dock and then up into Port Creek and what used to be called Port Misery when sailing ships moored there.

Crossing Bower Road

Water was becoming shallower as we approached the railway bridge before Bower Road. We said our farewell to Bernard and Frances. It was great having their company as we explored the Port. I’m sure our little flotilla was observed by a few of the locals.

We soon ran out of water after managing to navigate the many small rocks leading up to Bower Road. We must approach the council about a nice sandy beach for future trips! The portage across Bower Road went well, interesting dodging traffic with a 5m kayak in tow.

The new home for Paddle South Australia and West Lakes Canoe Club is looking near to completion. It should be a great venue for aquatic activities. We rolled our kayaks down to the beach and were soon back on water for the West Lakes leg of the paddle. Plenty of rowing activity around so we kept out of the way as we approached PAC Rowing Sheds and a busy event.

The forecast southerly had picked up as we approached West Lakes Boulevard bridge. And yet another surprise as we approached a group of kayakers – club members Bella and Anthony out on the water with visiting family.

Oarsman Reserve

We soon reached Oarsman Reserve and brought out our trolleys again. We navigated Military Road and found our way down to the beach via the backstreets of Tennyson. Much easier portage and no rocks to avoid.

The wind had certainly picked up and we searched the horizon for Matt Condon paddling his Audax up from Semaphore to join us on our final leg.

After safely getting through the surf on the Tennyson sandbar we headed further out and headed for Semaphore with Matt. Swell was on our beam and wind picking up so we delayed putting up sails until we reached Semaphore South when the wind was on our backs. I hadn’t used my sail for over 12 months. I asked Mike to stabilize my kayak until I got the Pacific Action rigged and we headed towards Largs Bay. All went well and Matt kept us company until Semaphore then headed back to his beach.

No wind

We had Outer Harbor breakwater in sight but the wind had dropped considerably. Down sails and back to paddling – just as well as the conditions as we rounded the breakwater were very messy but thankfully no water traffic around. Soon had the Overseas Terminal in sight then around the corner and back to our departure point. We both agreed we would sleep well that night after 32km and roughly 6.5 hrs in our kayaks. A fantastic paddle in various conditions with lots of interesting sites on the way.

Thanks Mike for organsing and many thanks to Bernard, Frances, Bella, Anthony (and family) and Matt for joining us during our adventure.  This is definitely a paddle that we will repeat, so keep your eyes on the calendar.