From Plan A to Plan B
The 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.
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.
Next 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.
Overnight 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