Anabranch Offtake to Bunnerungee Bridge
Anabranch Offtake to Bunnerungee Bridge, 261 km (214 km paddled), 5.5 days
Day 4, Thu 9 Feb 2023, 24 km (from Offtake)
The level at the Anabranch offtake is about 9.3 m (and falling at about 6 cm per day) with a flow in the Darling of about 20,000 Ml/day. The flow into the Anabranch is about 3500 Ml/day. 36 deg forecast with 41 tomorrow so we want to make good progress today so we can finish earlier tomorrow. Lots of mozzies at night and morning, must be because we were camped amongst the shady redgums. Launch at 7:30 am, enter Anabranch after about 11 km. Bridge is above water, but no clearance under, so paddle to north along the road about 100 m where the road is underwater. We follow the flow, find the clearly defined channel and make good progress. In places the water spreads across the floodplain and the direction of flow is difficult to determine. GPS becomes useful at these times. Generally you just need to follow the flow. In the still waters there is some evidence of blue green algae but mostly the water looks OK. Some budgies around. Generally the countryside is open blackbox plains. At about 26 km into the Anabranch we find a spot on the left bank with some trees that will give us dappled shade and the ability for us to string up our tarps. 36 deg forecast but it is not too hot when we finish for the day at 12:10 pm. Weak phone reception, only good for text message. Spend afternoon after under a tarp, a few dunks in the water. Get bucket of water to wet my shirt in frequently.
Day 5, Fri 10 Feb 2023, 34 km
41 deg forecast today. Nice sunrise, swarms of mozzies during the night but I was OK in my tent. Bill forgot his tent poles so has been sleeping with my mozzie net but not very happily. Launch at 7:20 am. Pass the Redbank Ck confluence without any sign of it as we are generally paddling across a floodplain rather than a well defined river channel. Generally easy paddling following the flow sometime in a wide channel that may end in sapling thickets. But there are plenty of options to go around as the river is quite wide at such high levels. See a Major Mitchell cockatoo and some galahs, the first cockatoos we have seen all trip. Often we are paddling on the flood plain. We take two significant shortcuts although the second did not save much. Soon after the second shortcut we find a campsite at about the 71 km mark on the left bank. We paddled 34 km non-stop in 5 hrs and covered 45 km of river distance. The paddling was quite pleasant with a good current and a tailwind. Our camp has some trees and should get some dappled shade as the sunsets. Hot, windy afternoon requiring many dips in the water to stay cool. Lay under the tarp and read. Fortunately there are no mozzies. Near sunset I find stone artefacts and very old bone fragments in the sand near my tent, possibly an Aboriginal camp from many years ago. Ground very hot in the tent as I had pitched it on a sandy area that had been in the sun most of the day. Wycot Gauge: 4.98 m, 29983 Ml/day
Day 6, Sat 11 Feb 2023, 47 km
Launch at 7:20 am. At Cuthero about 3 km downstream the bridge is underwater but the fence lining the edge is not, however, we can skirt around it just scraping over the top strand of wire. On the western edge of Lake Mindona we can take some shortcuts and paddle across a floodplain where we see lots of pelicans. The lake itself is not visible from our route due to trees. We agree to continue to the yards at 122 km hoping they have a structure to provide shade for our tents but there are only fences. Soon after at Hunter Waterhole there is some fast water such that we think there are rapids from the noise as we approach. In any case the water is flowing much faster now, perhaps more than 4 kph in places compared to the 1-2 kph previously. Also it seems that we have now caught up with the flood peak. The water seems fresher compared to the generally swampy smell of the water above Lake Mindona. At last night's camp we were probably 50 cm below the peak and it dropped about 3 cm overnight but now the water level is encroaching on dry land. See some goats stranded on a small island on the floodplain. A few galahs around. We go for another 10 km before we find a camp spot with good shade from the afternoon sun. This is at the 131 km mark (of the Anabranch) meaning we has covered 60 km of river for the 46.6 km paddled in 7 hours with only one short break. W-SW breeze makes it pleasant at the camp with the temperature in the low 30s in the late afternoon. Get get a visit from Peter of Popiltah Station as he passes by on his jetski. He invites us to drop by when we pass tomorrow about 25 km downstream.
Day 7, Sun 12 Feb 2023, 37 km
Windy night easing at sunrise. Launch 7:20 am, measure river flow at 4 kph in a faster section. Take some shortcuts near Lake Popio (don't see the lake) and paddle down a creek to Peter's Popiltah Station arriving about 9:45 am. His son Sam is just leaving by boat and says Peter is out but we can help ourselves to rainwater from a tap. Paddle against the current up Popiltah Ck back to the Anabranch. The bridge over the creek is well underwater with some posts above water. River is more confined to banks now than previously. Keep going, just managing to duck under the Haul Rd bridge (which otherwise would have required a portage) at the 171 km mark (of the Anabranch) and at the 181 km mark make camp at 1:10 pm on the left bank where some large gums will give us afternoon shade. The GPS says that we have actually paddled 37 km of the 50 km map measurement. Today is warm at about 30 deg but with a cooling SW breeze.
Day 8, Monday 13 Feb 2023, 42 km
Cool night and windy at times, nice sunrise, water rose 3 cm overnight. Launch at 7:20 am. Take a few shortcuts then skirt Nialia Lake and get glimpses of the expanse of water. Swarms of carp are common. At Yelta Lake we try to take a shortcut along the levee but it is breeched and the water flows into the lake through a fence. We backtrack to the river but are rewarded by a stunning display of a flock of pelicans gliding above in circles. Consider camping at Stony Crossing but the shade is not good so continue to 183 Weir where water is flowing over the spillway/road. It is not safe to cross the road by kayak so we decide to camp here and launch on the other side of the road in the morning. The shade is not the best but it is only about 30 deg today so it is OK. We are entertained by the carp jumping to try to get over the road. Yabbies are also migrating upstream around the edge of the stream. 42 km paddled to cover 49 km of river. 183 Downstream Gauge: 3.54 m, 3166 Ml/day
Day 9, Tues 14 Feb 2023, 30 km
Water rose 3 cm overnight. Launch at 7:25 am. River is mainly wide like the lower Murray but there still is some current. We manage to paddle around the end of a bridge, which is just above water level, at Nindethana Station about 8 km upstream of Bunnerungee. A SE headwind on some stretches but we arrive at Bunnerungee Bridge by 11:30 am having paddled 30 km which covers 32 km of river. It doesn't look attractive under the the bridge which we thought might be a shady spot to camp. There is a fair bit of rubbish and it is not flat. We paddle back upstream about 500 m to our food cache and decide to camp there. This morning on the radio I heard that there was a red alert for blue green algae here but the water quality seemed to be better than further upstream which we had been swimming in and drinking after filtering. When back at home I checked on the internet, the sample had been taken on 1 Feb but the alert issued on 14 Feb. The river has been rising continuously so it could be that the algae here has been flushed away in the two weeks after sampling.