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?
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
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
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.
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
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.