Darling River, Menindee to Anabranch
Menindee to Anabranch Offtake, 120 km (100 km paddled), 3.5 days
Day 1, Mon 6 Feb 2023, 14 km
Meet Bill at 8 am at Wentworth Bakery, drive both cars to Fort Courage Caravan Park on the Murray just past the Anabranch confluence. We can leave a car there for $50 per week. Transfer Bill's gear to my car. Leave at 9 am headed for Menindee. We don't need to go all the way via Broken Hill because Tandou Rd is open so we can save 100 km of driving. Arrive at Menindee at 1 pm, lunch at Maidens Hotel near the boat ramp. Load up the gear into the kayaks. Everything including 20 days of food packs in OK. I can leave my car at the nearby Burke and Will's Motel. Launch at 2:45 pm. The river height at Menindee Town is 9.04 m down from a peak of 10.25 about a month ago and falling now at 12 cm/day so the banks are a bit muddy and some of the shortcuts I thought we could take are not possible. Some of the ones we do take have a shallow entry as we cross the natural levee. Fences can be a problem meaning a shortcut is blocked. Pass Weir 32 which is well under such that we don't quite know where it is although the gauging station is visible. Make camp on high ground at the 15.5 km mark (river km from Menindee) on the left bank about 2 km past the weir. We paddled 13.8 km in 2 hours. A few flies about but a pleasant breeze on the warm afternoon of about 33 degrees. Lots of rainbow beeeaters around the camp. Good Telstra phone reception.
Day 2, Tues 7 Feb 2023, 32 km
Pleasant overnight temp. Just the tent inner and cool enough to pull up the sleeping bag during the night. I had my sleeping mat inside my sleeping bag liner. Works well so I don't sweat on the plastic mat. Outdoor carpet strip's under the tent prevented prickle penetration and gives the ground a nice smooth feel. A few mozzies at dusk but not a problem. Start packing a bit before 6 am and launch at 7:15 am. Can take some shortcuts including one that saved about 6 km but another shortcut did not pay off as it seemed to follow an old river channel and did a big loop. Quite a few spoonbills and ibis sighted during the day. At about 12:15 pm we find a shady spot on the left bank at the 59.5 km mark of the Darling since Menindee on the map. We paddled about 32 km (GPS stopped working). Put fly up over tent inner for shade. Pleasant in the tent at 2 pm.
Day 3, Wed 8 Feb 2023, 43 km
Warm night of about 22 deg in the tent. Occasionally hear a swarm of mozzies outside the tent. Launch just after 7:30 am. Good flow in the river. We can take some shortcuts, some of them are shallow and one of them saved about 4 km. We make good progress and, with only one short break, we continue till about 1:15 pm where we think we have a relatively shady campsite. This is 50 km by river downstream of last night's camp, we had to paddle 43 km to get here (the 109.5 km mark since Menindee). A few mozzies and flies about. Good phone reception.
Day 4, Thu 9 Feb 2023, 10 km (to 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 Offtake 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.