Loxton Riverfront Holiday Park, Murray River, Katarapko Creek — 14-15 May 2022

The variable weather continued over the weekend and resulted in the Wardang Island paddle with overnight stay on Goose Island being cancelled. However, it was replaced with Plan B, a paddle down Katarapko Creek with more favourable weather. Mark, Abelardo and Hugh joined Phil at Loxton Riverfront Holiday Park on Friday afternoon/evening. We started enjoying a pleasant meal at the Loxton Hotel to plan the weekend’s paddle.

The plan B

The plan was for a relaxing paddle from Loxton Holiday Park upstream to Katarapko Creek’s northern entrance, then back south via the Creek to re-join the main river for a 4km run back upstream to our starting point at the Caravan Park. A nice and simple paddle, no need to waste time with car shuttles.

While a night on Goose Island would have been very pleasant, the banks of the Murray River and Katarapko were a very attractive alternative.


Sunset on the Murray

A boat in the Murray

We were up and about just after sunrise on Saturday morning after being serenaded by several kookaburras in the nearby trees. A quick breakfast, then down to the riverside to load the kayaks before leaving the cars back up near reception until our return.

On water about 9.30am and headed upstream into the current – bit stronger than expected so we soon realised we had a solid day’s paddling ahead. We made some sections a bit easier by switching sides to the more protected bank to avoid the worst of the current.

We encountered a range of houseboats along the banks. The most interesting was an unusual vessel called “Kookaburra” that looked like she would be more comfortable at sea than in the river. After a chat with the caretaker we learnt that it originally came from the West Coast with grand plans to be refurbished – as often happens, the job was bigger than the owner expected.

Camping in a sandbar

Decided we’d had enough exercise by 3pm, so started to look for suitable campsites – and just around the next bend we spotted an extensive sandbar we’d checked out during a Bass Strait training paddle in 2020. We were still a few kms short of the northern entrance to Katarapko, but this was too good to resist. We had covered a distance of 22km with an average speed of 4.6km/hr. River flow against us was probably about 3-5km/hr, so not a bad effort.

Wasn’t long before we had our tents erected and we were relaxing, enjoying the evening, with not a skerrick of wind and a promising sunset followed by stars breaking through the cloud cover that we had experienced for most of the day.

Cheese War

We had a perfect evening at our sandbar camp topped off by an unofficial “cheese war” between Mark’s Heysen Blue, Phil’s Haloumi, Hugh’s 18 month old English cheddar and Abelardo’s Manchego …. the edge definitely going to the Manchego and homemade quince paste from the Abelardo. Of course this was matched with a nice Malbec from Bleasdale Winery at Langhorne Creek.

The return

Down Katarapko Creek

Slept well so were back on water just after 9am on Sunday. Beautiful sunny morning at departure. Another 3 km before we reached the northern end of Katarapko. As expected the current was flowing strongly into the creek so all ensured we were careful to avoid any potential “stoppers”. Our speed soon increased as we entered the creek – a much more relaxing days’ paddle compared to the previous day.

Quick stop at our favourite campsite (No 19) to check the weir conditions. The weir looked navigable with the limestone rocks totally covered by water. Soon confirmed this, as the sound of running water we heard overnight was the excessive water flowing over the weir.

After selecting the best path mid-channel, we were soon in white-water conditions but safely over the weir without a scratch on the kayaks – unlike last time! My GPS showed speeds from 5 to 12km/hr in this section.

Most of the campsites were occupied and several people also fishing near The Splash Regulator. Plenty of Whistling Kites circling their nests as we approached their territory – all looking very healthy with the extra water in the system. Even had a friendly emu at water’s edge as we paddled in close.


Camping in a sandbar

We had made good time and had paddled 20 km since setting off, so selected a kayak-friendly bank for a lunch break at about 1pm before tackling the river again and heading back upstream to Loxton for the last 4km. The wind had picked up and we were a bit surprised as we entered the main channel and had waves breaking over the kayaks. The last 4km leg upstream was much easier with the tail wind gusting to 15 knots resulting in us catching the occasional wave – who would have thought when paddling the river.

We had covered a distance of 24km for day 2, with an average speed of 5km/hr. 6km against the River flow, so, again not a bad effort. Phil recorded speeds of 8.7km/hr on one of his surfing runs on final leg.

The Debrief

We arrived back at Loxton Riverfront Holiday Park around 2pm covering the 46km over two days in a range of conditions. We collected the cars, packed up, then off to the Highway bakery at Waikerie for a debrief to complete a great weekend. For all those looking forward to Wardang, we anticipate scheduling another trip later in the year.

The Map

Here is the map of the trip and the corresponding GPX file (uploadable to Google Earth or a GPS) .

Campground site and sunset

Katarapko: Murray river backwaters 19-21 November 2021

Six brave paddlers ignored the weather forecast of “showers with possible heavy showers” to drive up to Katarapko in the Murray River National Park for a weekend of camping and kayaking the backwaters of the Murray River. Fortunately the weather forecast was wrong, there were no heavy showers, just showers! Most of the group arrived Friday lunchtime, slightly delayed due to road closures and new roads that didn’t quite seem to agree with what the map showed.

Setting Camp

After setting up camp quickly we all jumped into the kayaks for an afternoon paddle. The river level was probably 2m higher than normal, due to strong flows in the Murray and an artificial flooding event that was in progress. As a result some normally dry creeks were now navigable. We took the opportunity to spend a few hours exploring Piggy creek before returning to camp. Highlight of the evening was waiting for Abelardo to arrive. Everyone was curious to see if he would navigate the route in the dark, never having been there before. Fortunately he arrived safely, having benefited from some last minute instructions.

Rainy Saturday

Two paddlers in the Murray River

Two paddlers in Katarapko Creek National Park

Saturday morning arrived overcast, but no rain to speak of. We headed up Katarapko creek to the junction with the Murray river, and then into Sawmill creek which was very navigable thanks to the high water levels. From there we turned right into Eckert creek and followed that up into Eckert Wide Waters Lagoon. By this stage the rain had increased to a steady drizzle. It was not unpleasant and we kept up a good pace as no-one wanted to stop and get out of their kayaks. We found the northern entrance to the Wide water with no problem, and kept paddling up Eckert creek.

The increased water helped with this, but also made it hard work going up the current. We reached the Murray and, since no-one wanted to stop for a break, immediately started on the downhill run back to camp. We made good time with a strong flow in the Murray helping us along. After a very scenic shortcut through the Ajax Achilles Lakes we arrived at Lock 4. Due to the good pace we had been making, this resulted in an enforced lunch stop as the Lockmaster was having his  from 1 to 2 o’clock.

After a hasty lunch (still drizzling, and everyone was starting to get cold) we passed the time warming our hands on a public electric barbecues.  Eventually the Lockmaster arrived and gave the bedraggled paddlers a bemused look. After remarking that he could think of better things to do that day instead of paddling in the rain, he let us through the lock. From there it was a short paddle back to the camp and a warm cup of coffee and soup, just as the rain started to ease up followed by a glorious sunset.

Perfect Sunday

Paddlers in Katarapko CreekSunday morning dawned with no rain in sight and none forecast. After rapidly packing up, we eagerly paddled back up Katarapko creek, and Sawmill creek back up the Eckert creek. This time we turned left to head towards The Splash, an area which is normally narrow, but due to the low lying banks, spreads out into a large floodplain when the waters are high. First problem was a road bridge which we normally paddle under, this time we had to get out and do a short portage due to the water levels. Not much of a problem now that the weather was cooperating.

The Splash did not disappoint, as the creek spread out and we were soon paddling amongst flooded gum trees and bushes, admiring all the bird life which was now making the most of the sunshine after a few days of rain. Too soon we re-joined Katarapko creek, and had a stiff paddle back up to the camp-site, and a long drive home, broken by the customary bakery stop.