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