With two people and two cars the logistics for us was quite simple. We left a car at Fort Courage Caravan Park (about 2 km downstream of the Anabranch/Murray confluence and drove the other car and gear to Menindee. We left that car at the Menindee Burke and Wills Motel near the boat ramp. We had considered starting the trip from Tolarno Station which is about 100 km downstream of Menindee, and 20 km before the start of the Anabranch, but some roads were closed due to flooding and we had difficulty contacting Tolarno to find out if they were accessible to the general public.
If travelling solo and reliant on public transport, you can catch a bus between Wentworth and Broken Hill and train from Broken Hill to Menindee but services are infrequent and may result in a lengthy layover in Wentworth and/or Broken Hill.
I used a 4.0 litre Platypus Water Filter to filter river water. The water had a rather earthy taste which was OK for cooking or made up drinks but a little bit unpleasant for pure drinking water. Bill had an expensive military grade pump filter which produced water with only a slight earthy taste, presumably it filtered out finer particles. At no stage did we feel ill from the water although in the northern Anabranch the river water had a generally swampy smell with a few small algal scums mostly around the lakes where the water covered the floodplain and was slow moving.
On day 7 we met a farmer who offered us water from his rainwater tank. We accepted and this provided us with drinking water for the next few days (supplemented by filtered water for cooking). A few days later, at Anabranch Hall, we were able to refill from the water tank which
On the morning of our arrival at Bunnerungee Bridge on day 9, I heard on the radio that there was a red alert for blue green algae at the bridge. However, 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 had been rising continuously so it could be that the algae here had been flushed away in the two weeks after sampling.
The journey from Menindee to the Murray is 570 km. From past experience we know we can consistently paddle 30 km or more per day so we would need to start with 19 days of food. With the darling and the northern Anabranch in flood we knew would would be able to take some short cuts and a more realistic time frame would be 17 days of paddling (we ended up doing it in 14 days) so we would likely have a few days of spare food. We buried some food at Bunnerungee Bridge which is about two thirds of the way down the Darling/Anabranch from Menindee. The food we left was not essential, it mainly being treats.
I used the topographic maps obtained from NSW SIX Maps. I downloaded fragments of the etopo maps (see second dot point below), printed them, wrote notes on the maps (e.g. distances, information from earlier paddlers and expected Telstra mobile phone coverage) and highlighted sections such as the location of weirs. Then I finally laminated them for use on the deck of my kayak. You may be able to access copies of the maps here: Great Darling Anabranch Maps.
The distance measurements on the maps done made using the Footpath app
NSW SIX Maps Here you can view and print NSW topographic and Satellite images of the whole state. There are various tools such as distance measurement.
NSW SIX Maps etopo You can download for free a PDF of the relevant topographic map and then in Adobe (free version) you can use the "Snapshot" tool (go to Edit -> Take a Snapshot) to select the part of the map you want. Then you can right click in the selected area to print that part of the map. This provides you with the official topographic map which includes 1 km grid lines. However, it can be annoying when the river crosses the border of the map multiple times!
I also used Back Country Navigator (BCN) on my Android phone. This app allowed me to download the default maps for offline use on my phone. However, I rarely used it on the lower Murray because the maps listed above were sufficient. For the Anabranch I recorded our track with the Footpath app in order to determine the actual distance paddled as opposed to the river distance on the map since I lot of shortcuts were possible in the flooded river.
Gear and Safety (including Communications, First Aid and Kayak)
See the information described for my journey down the Darling. In addition it should be noted that there was sporadic Telstra mobile phone reception along the Darling between Menindee and the start of the Anabranch. Along the Anabranch there is no reception apart from a bit at the very start and end i.e. there is about a continuous 400 km of the Anabranch with no reception at all.
The most comprehensive site for paddling the Murray River and the other major rivers of the basin is Alan Davison's site and specific information about the Anabranch can be found here.
Menindee to Anabranch Offtake, 120 km (100 km paddled), 3.5 days
Anabranch Offtake to Bunnerungee Bridge, 261 km (214 km paddled), 5.5 days
Bunnerungee Bridge to Murray River, 190 km (174 km paddled), 5 days