Posts

Winter day paddles at Kingston-On-Murray/Loch Luna — 13 August 2022

It was a cold, rainy weekend in Adelaide. Up in the Riverland, we had a rain-free, mostly sunny (but still cold) weekend kayaking on the Murray backwater around Loch Luna.

Overarching in the Murray

Saturday morning we all met up at 10am on the river front of the Kingston On Murray Caravan Park, where we would be staying. It is a very convenient and safe launching spot, being on the park grounds, and the managers are always very helpful, a recommended place to stay if you want to visit the area: https://www.komcaravanpark.com.au/

Wooden Rowboat

New member Carol brought her husband along with his gorgeous hand-made wooden rowboat, which despite some misgivings, kept up with the kayaks with no trouble, and managed the narrow channels easily. The Murray is flowing really fast at the moment, thanks to all the rain they have been having in the rest of the country, and we made our slowly upstream for a few kilometres before reaching the entrance to the relatively still waters of Nockburra Creek.

We made our way slowly up the maze of backwater creeks up to Loch Luna, where we stopped for lunch just as the sun came out from behind a cloud. Perfect timing. After lunch we continued through Loch Luna to the Murray River for a look, before finding another backwater channel to take us back to where we started, and from there we took advantage of the strong flow to let the Murray River take us back to the campground.

Canoe Adventures

Relaxing in the Murray

We met up with Kym from Canoe Adventures while relaxing in the campsite, and had a long chat about the current state of the river and picked up some tips for Sundays paddle. They hire kayaks and run guided trips of the area, and are a goldmine of information about the local conditions if you ever want to visit up there: https://canoeadventure.com.au After a lovely meal in the Cobdogla club (country restaurants really give you a big serving ), we retired back to the campground for the night, with some braver souls camping out, while the wiser ones had hired a cabin.

Sunday morning was lovely and sunny. A bit cloudy over slightly as we set off again, this time to explore Chambers Creek, which eventually leads into Lake Bonny. Have paddled all the way there once, but it is too long a paddle to do in a morning.  So, we contented ourselves with just meandering around the different islands of reeds. We enjoyed the scenery for a few hours before making our way back to the cars, and head off back to Adelaide, interrupted for the customary pie stop at the bakery of course.

Winter day paddles at Blanchetown and Punyelroo — 30/31 July 2022

 ACCCC

The Adelaide Canoeing, Caving and Climbing Club. Maybe that’s what we should rename the club. There was some of all of that on the weekend trip to Blanchetown and Punyelroo.

Saturday

Paddling around Blanchetown

The winter weather in the Riverland is normally much better than Adelaide, but not for this trip. Five paddlers set from Blanchtown on Saturday morning. The sky was overcast with a stiff headwind and the temperature reading a chilly 9 degrees. A bit of brisk paddling soon warmed us up. We crossed the Murray and headed up Cumbunga creek, threading our way through the dead gumtrees. We tried not to disturb the pelicans while being serenaded by the cockatoos, who must be preparing for spring.

The channel soon narrowed as we approached Roonka Conservation Park. This is where our first mishap occurred. Having done this trip many times I didn’t bother bringing my GPS, wandered up the wrong channel, and soon found myself in a dead end. I was firmly wedged in a thick bunch of reeds which I had tried to push through. Despite much pushing and pulling I was stuck, and was slowly resigning myself to a winter swim. Julie managed to attach a rope to the end of my kayak and pull me free. Many thanks Julie.

After backtracking and finding the right channel we soon found the Murray again, and crossed the river looking for more backwaters. Going up the narrow channel behind Julia Island, we found a secluded lagoon where we stopped for lunch. This didn’t take long thanks to the cold weather, and we were soon back in shelter of our kayaks, continuing upstream. The lagoon narrowed at the northern end of Julia Island, and we had a short portage over a road before getting back into the Murray River again.

Heading back

We decided to head home on the Murray, taking advantage of a good tail wind and a fast flowing current. Thanks to the winter, we had the whole river to ourselves. We gently paddled past the golden cliffs and magnificent gum trees, still being serenaded by the local cockatoos, until we reached our launching spot.

The group split up here. Some going back to Adelaide, while the rest of us set off to Punyelroo Caravan Park. We would stay for the night before Sundays paddle.

Thanks to new member Ghanshyam for being well prepared  and brought an electric heater and kettle. We managed to stay up in the cold and chat for a while before retiring to our tents for the night. With two sleeping bags, an insulated mattress, a couple layers of clothes, and a beanie, I had a warm cosy night.

Sunday

Campground near Punyelroo

Next morning was a leisurely start as we waited for Abelardo to come up from Adelaide for the Sunday paddle. We set off from the Caravan Park, and headed directly across the river into the lagoon to try and find Punyelroo cave. This would have been much quicker if I had my trusty GPS. We eventually managed to locate the entrance and dragged the kayaks up out of the water. We then

replaced our PFD’s and spray decks with helmets and head torches, and entered the cave to do some exploring.

The cave

Punyelroo cave is supposed to be about 3 kilometres in length. I don’t think I have ever managed to get more than a hundred meters into it before my enthusiasm gives out. We spent a good twenty minutes crouching under low roofs, scrambling over fallen boulders, banging helmets on rocks and bruising shoulders on rocky walls before called it quits. We sat for a while in the pitch darkness and total silence, imagining what it must be like to trapped in a place like that. After emerging back into daylight and fresh air, we got back into our kayaking gear and carried on up the lagoon.

The Murray river levels were high due to all the rain the country has been having. The caravan park manager told us that it was now possible to paddle all the way up the lagoon into Swan Reach, and then join the Murray river again. We reached the top end of the lagoon, and sure enough the channel was high and clear, with a good current flow.

Not enough space go under

We slowly made our way upstream, paddling right over the bridges and pipes that would normally stop us. Our luck lasted right up to the end of the channel, a few meters from the Murray. The raised river level now worked against us. The footbridge across the channel, normally easy to paddle under, was now impassable. Only a few centimetres of clearance, and no easy landing due to all the reeds.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. By standing up in the kayaks, it was possible to climb up over the bridge, and then drag the kayaks out of the river through the reeds. After everyone was over, we had a well-deserved rest and snack on the grassy bank. Shortly after, we took advantage of the current to take us back down the river back to Punyelroo and the (heated) cars, and headed back to Adelaide

Four day/three night Murray River backwaters trip in the Riverland — 26 May 2022

The Murray river was flowing strongly, so eight paddlers decided to take advantage of this to do a four day, one-way trip down the river with the current. Thursday morning we dropped off one car at our finishing point at Canoe-The-Riverland, and continued up to the Border Cliffs Campground to start our trip.

Many thanks to Canoe-The-Riverland for allowing us to leave a car at their place for the car shuttle at the end of the trip. They are the experts in the area, run guided kayak tours and have a range of accommodation if you want to explore that part of the country.

Suders Creek

The weather was warm and sunny as we crossed the Murray to find the entrance to Suders creek and get into the backwaters of the Murray. Suders is normally tricky, with a fast current and lots of obstacles, but today it was no problem thanks to the higher water level, and we were soon through it and into Hypurna creek and calmer waters. After regrouping we carried on into Salt Creek, Slaney Creek and into Chowilla Creek, making good time with the current. At the entrance to Pipeclay Creek we called it a day, and found a good place for the evening camp, having done 12 kms.

Monoman Creek and the Dingy Derby

Paddling down Chowilla

Next morning was chilly and foggy, giving the river a surreal atmosphere. After a hot coffee and some breakfast we packed up wet tents and headed out on the river again. We were making good time with the current, so we decided to detour into Monoman Creek, at bit longer and narrower, but also more scenic. This area is normally popular with campers, but with the cold weather and it being a week day, we had the place to ourselves. After re-joining Chowilla Creek, the waters became wider and more sluggish as we approached the Murray River again. I was very confused as we passed under the Chowilla regulator as I remembered it as being a lot larger and more imposing, until I realised that the increased water height had made it seem a lot smaller.

After about 3 km on the Murray main channel we turned into the entrance to Native Box Creek, just after Chowilla Homestead, glad to be back in the narrow secluded backwaters again. We enjoyed a slow paddle down the creek enjoying the scenery, but slightly confused by a large number of big arrows and warning tape fixed to the trees. We set up camp for the night near to the junction with Little Hunchee Creek, and were just starting to relax when we were disturbed by a number of tinnies with large motors rushing past. After some hurried searching on Google we discovered that there was a dingy race the following day, luckily some more searching revealed that we were no longer on the course, and we should be well on our way before the race started the next day. Something to check on for the next trip.

From Big Hunchee to Ral Ral

Cool and misty morning in Chowilla

Next morning was again cool and misty as we paddled down Big Hunchee Creek until we eventually entered RalRal Creek, and the waters narrowed again as we were surrounded by large gum trees. Just before Calperum Station we passed the entrance to Lake Woolpolool and, since the water levels were high, we decided to go in have a look. The lake was full, but unfortunately the waters were not high enough to paddle across the road and into the lake itself, and we had to content ourselves with sitting in the duckweed at the entrance looking over the regulator.

Back on RalRal, we continued ambling down the creek past the gum trees and picking our way through the snags until we reached the Wide Waters section of the river. Here we were treated to a flock of pelicans and the occasional swan taking advantage of the large body of placid, sheltered water. We found the entrance to Nelbuck Creek with no problem thanks to the GPS, and paddled slowly upstream back towards the Murray. We set up camp for the last time a few hundred meters before the Murry, where the creek was still narrow and the gum trees still large.

Horseshoe Lagoon

Next morning we were treated to the sight of a large emu wandering around completely unfazed by us, probably because he was on the opposite side of the creek. Camp was packed up quickly, either due to practice, or the desire to get back to the cars, and we were soon on the Murray heading downstream and looking for the entrance to Horseshoe Lagoon. The waters changed after we entered the lagoon, with gum trees slowly being replaced with reeded banks as we made our way through the maze of channels towards our finishing point at Canoe-The-Riverland.

The drivers were send off to retrieve our cars from the launch point while the rest of us slowly unpacked our kayaks and enjoyed the sun. Kayaks were quickly loaded, and we headed off to the nearest bakery for the customary coffee and pasty.

Map and GPX file

Click in the image below to access the map of the trip and its corresponding GPX file

Chowilla RalRal Map

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.

Saturday

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.

Surfing

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) .

Murray River: Lindsay Island Circumnavigation — 15-18 April 2022

Settling down

Things didn’t start well. Some of us decided to travel down a day early to avoid the traffic and find a suitable launch and landing spot. We soon discovered that the tracks in the Murray Sunset national Park didn’t match the maps we had, and some of the tracks were blocked due to the high levels of the river. Eventually we managed to find a suitable spot at the mouth of the Mullaroo Creek near the regulator, sent out new directions to the rest of the group, and settled down to wait for them around the campfire.

Next morning, after everyone arrived, we launched into the Murray River above the regulator. The regulators are wonderful for the health of the river but they don’t make life easy for kayakers: it would be virtually impossible to portage a loaded kayak around the regulator.

Toupnein Creek

We made very good progress down the Murray thanks to the strong flow adding 2-3 km/hr to our speed. After a civilized lunch on the lawn at Lock 7, and a chat to the lockmaster as he let us through, we carried on down the Murray to the entrance to Toupnein creek. The creek was also flowing strongly, carrying us between banks lined with magnificent gum trees. We quickly found a lovely site and stopped for the night.

Swim in Kulkurna beach

Next morning we woke up to another perfect day and, after a leisurely breakfast, we packed up camp and drifted down Toupnein creek again until it re-joined the Murray again. We stopped below the Kulkurna Cliffs on a sandy beach for lunch, and took the opportunity for a cooling swim. After lunch we made good time down the Murray, helped along by the current, and took the opportunity to have a look at entrance to Salt Creek, wondering how to organise a trip which would include the Lindsay river and into Salt Creek and from there to Chowilla. Maybe next time.

Lindsay River

From there it was a short paddle past Higgins Cutting to find the entrance to Lindsay River. Luckily this turned out to be wide with not much flow, as from now on it was all upstream! After a few kilometres we found a nice secluded backwater and landed to make camp. Tents were soon put up, wet paddling gear was changed for more comfortable clothes, supper was made and eaten, and the group settled in around the campfire to discuss solutions to the world’s problems.

Day 3 saw everyone packed and ready to leave at 9am, we made good progress up the Lindsay, which was still wide and slow. Eventually we made it to the junction with Mullaroo creek, had a break for lunch and turned up into the Mullaroo. Progress was now a bit slower as the creek was narrower, with a faster current to overcome. It was also more interesting, with lots of twists and turns and fallen trees to navigate past. This kept us occupied until about 3pm, when we called it a day, found a nice campsite and stopped for the night.

Here comes the rain

Peter decided that, since the weather had been so perfect with warm nights and no mosquitoes, he would skip putting up a tent and sleep under the stars. This proved to be tempting fate too much, as a few hours later the clouds rolled in and the first few drops of rain started to fall. After a hurried meal, and an even more hurried putting up of a tent by Peter, everyone skipped the normal evening conversation and had an early night.

Navigating obstacles

It rained lightly but steadily through the night, but luckily cleared up by morning. We were on the water 30 minutes early as everyone had had an early night. We were eager to get going before the rain started again. The creek slowly got narrower and more choked the further we went upstream, but we managed to navigate all the obstacles without having to resort to getting out of the kayaks and dragging: somehow there was always a way around or through the fallen trees. About midday we finally spotted the finish spot with warm dry cars waiting.

Packing back

Kayaks were hurriedly unpacked and loaded onto the cars, carefully trying to avoid getting too much mud into the cars. Everyone now relaxed as the adventure was over, or so we thought. The overnight rain had turned the tracks out of the park into a slippery mess, churned up by all the departing Easter campers. After about 20 kms of frantic sideway sliding, wheel spinning, and steering wheel gripping, we finally made it back onto the sealed road, and then on to Renmark to have the customary bakery stop to swap stories and say goodbyes.

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.