Darling River Canoe Trip

Introduction

This is the description of my 1680 km kayak trip down NSW's Darling River from Brewarrina to Wentworth over a period of 65 days from August - October 2020. It is a journey that is not completed very often - certainly a lot less than paddling journeys down the Murray River. Part of the reason for this is that the river flows through remote countryside with vast distance between towns. This makes the logistics a bit more difficult. Another reason is the variable nature of the flows. Unlike the Murray which always flows (and since the building of the Snowy scheme it is supplemented by a lot of Snowy River water), the Darling can go through long periods of no flow or very low flows. The periods of good flow are not usually predictable unless a flood is coming down from the headwaters. In this case, it could take a month or two for the waters to reach Bourke or Brewarrina.

The journey itself from Brewarrina is not dangerous at all at relatively low flows such as what I experienced. There are no rapids although there are faster sections especially upstream of Bourke but these are easily negotiated. At low flows I think the biggest danger is not on the water but on land around the campsite. Snakes can be a danger although I did not see one until my final day near Wentworth. Slipping on the steep banks could be another danger if you fall heavily. The remoteness of the area can mean that the effects any injury or illness can be multiplied if professional medical treatment is required. However, having said that you do pass homesteads on a relatively frequent basis some of which may be abandoned and on both sides of the river there is a road one of which is usually within a few kilometres of the river.

If you are seriously considering paddling the Darling you should have a close look at River Kings site. It has a lot of great information and it is what I followed for my journey. It is the first site to give a detailed day by day account of a journey down the river from a paddler's perspective and is a valuable resource.

Another valuable resource is ETA Unknowns site. This has much detail for planning a journey down the Condamine/Balonne/Culgoa/Darling system including an analysis of past flows, towns and facilities along the route, maps etc. It also has a description of his journey down the Condamine/Balonne/Culgoa Rivers.

However, everyone has different experiences, as conditions always vary, so the more you read up on earlier journeys, the more prepared you will be.

Long distance paddling journeys are as much a psychological challenge as a physical challenge. The enormity of the journey to get to you. The day after leaving Tilpa, Wilcannia seemed a long way away. What made it worse was the thought that Wilcannia is then only halfway down the Darling. Would I be sick of paddling the Darling by then? However, these thoughts did not last very long. Over the course of the next day or two there was a brilliant sunrise, I camped near a magnificent canoe tree and I saw a good variety of birdlife from sea eagles to the ever present black-fronted dotterel. I was especially excited to see flocks of budgies. They were difficult to see but their chatter brightened the day. On the fifth day I reached the Coach and Horses Campground in the Paroo-Darling National Park there where other campers and good mobile phone reception gave me a connection to the outside world just in time for Fathers Day. From Wilcannia it was all downhill both literally as well as figuratively.

For a history of rowing and paddling journeys down the Darling River see Murray-Darling Journeys.

This description is broken up into eight sub-pages (click on the links below or on the three horizontal lines at the top left corner of this page):

Not included above were rest days at Bourke, Wilcannia, Menindee (Broken Hill) and Pooncarie.

Go here for links to my kayak trips (and those of others) on the rivers of the Murray-Darling Basin and for further information (sample pages, reviews etc) on the book Murray-Darling Journeys.

Alternatively

For a description of my trip on the Murray River see: Murray River Canoe Trip


For my description of my trip on the Murrumbidgee River see: Murrumbidgee River Canoe Trip


For my description of my trip on the Edward River see: Edward River Canoe Trip


For a description of my trip on the Goulburn River see: Goulburn River Canoe Trip


If you have any questions or comments please contact me on mcbremers@gmail.com

Mike Bremers

Map courtesy of MDBA