Walgett to Brewarrina
Walgett to Brewarrina, 282 km, 8 days
Sun 6 March 2022, 36 km
Stay overnight at Barwon Inn which is about 5 km from Walgett on the road to Brewarrina and close to Dangar Bridge. Comfortable rooms but the water is bore water so bring your own. The manager kindly allows me to leave my car here for the week or so that I will be on the river. I scouted out a launch spot the previous evening. The best spot was where a dry creek bed joins the river about 300 m from Cabin 2. I trolley the kayak along a levee bank then along the creek bed. This is about 11 km below the weir at the Barwon/Namoi confluence. Two more trips see all my gear at the river and I launch at 9:30 am. The mozzies were a nuisance this morning but not yesterday afternoon. The flow is about 3800 Ml/day which is about 2 km/h current assistance and is over 4 m on the Dangar Bridge gauge. The river will be rising about 30-40 cm per day as flood waters make their way down the river predominantly from the Weir River which joins the Barwon just upstream of Mungindi. About 10 days ago they had close to 200 mm of rain in parts of its catchment. With the rising waters it means I get out on dry banks and the mud in the shallows has not fully softened yet. I've got my Hobie pedal kayak because my mild shoulder injury would prevent me paddling the 280 km to Brewarrina. I make comfortable progress of about 8 km/h easily avoiding snags. It's a beautiful river as it is relatively narrow and twisty. There is plentiful birdlife with nankeen, white faced and pacific herons, retailed black cockatoos, corellas, apostlebirds, white winged coughs and willy-wagtails being seen. I stop for a break at about the 36 km mark on the map (having started at about 11 km at Barwon Inn) which is measured from the weir at the Namoi/Barwon confluence. This is where the river takes a shortcut at high water but not today. It's a nice spot with weak phone reception but there are mozzies that follow me even as I start paddling. My plan is to take 8 days (35 km/day) so at 46 km I start looking for a suitable camp. At about 47 km I find that the short cut is flowing well. This will save me about 5 km. I go about half way and at 2:30 pm find a good camp on a ledge well above the water level with trees that will shade me from the afternoon sun. There are pools of water on the ledge from ground seepage but I am pleasantly surprised that there are no mozzies during the afternoon. Perhaps the pleasant breeze is keeping them away. The forecast is for maximum temperatures of about 30 degrees today and for the rest of the week. There were some dark clouds with a few drops of rain today. A couple thunderstorms pass through with enough rain for the water to run off and I need to dig a ditch to divert it away from the tent. Clearing skies in the half hour before sunset at 7:30 but ground is slippery so I spend most of the time in the tent. No phone reception.
Mon 7 March 2022, 39 km
Partly cloudy morning. The water in the bucket indicates that about 10 mm of rain fell yesterday. Up to 3 mm forecast for today. The tent is muddy underneath and gets packed up wet. Depart at 8:30 am and get through the fast narrow section near the campsite OK. Cloudy for most of the day looking like it could rain but there are a couple sunny periods which feel hot. There are large ti-trees along some sections of the river. At 2 pm I find a gentle bank with clear ground up high on which I make camp. This is at 92 km mark on the left bank just before Borumbil Station. I dry my tent before setting up but clouds come over so drying clothes is a slow process. A few mozzies are around but aren't biting much as I write this at 4 pm. Nice breeze but it feels rather humid. No phone reception.
Tues 8 March 2022, 40 km
The river rose about 40 cm overnight. Major flood warning for the Barwon River at Mungindi and minor flood warning for Walgett in about 10 days time with the river rising another 5 m between now and then. Start paddling at 8 am. After a km or so the river narrows and becomes a bit more snaggy but no problems at current water levels. There is a short cut that cuts off the loop to the 95 km mark but there are snags across the river so I don't take it. See a rainbow bee-eater, sacred kingfishers, pelican, sea eagle and a yellow spoonbill. At the 225 km mark the main flow goes through the short cut which saves 1-2 km. See an old fallen ring tree with a double ring at the waterline in front of Old Boorooma homestead. At 1:30 pm I decide to camp on a gently sloping bank on the north side of the river at about 133 km. It's warm but there is a nice breeze and some shade for me the relax in the afternoon. Wash clothes, have a swim and treat some water for cooking. Two bars of phone reception.
Wed 9 March 2022, 41 km
Depart at 8 am. After a few kilometres pass under a high level bridge. See some sandy beaches and a beer bottle from NSW Bottle Company dated 1968 on its base. Yesterday I saw one dated 1965. Both had plugs of mud in their necks and must be slowly drifting down the river whenever there is a good flow. Reach the Macquarie River confluence at about midday and paddle a short distance up it. A gentle flow is coming down. About a kilometre later near the 160 km mark there is a shortcut which I take that saves about 1 km. At about 172 km I check out a couple campsites but they are not quite right in terms of shade and overhanging branches. Soon after there are several large noisy pumps but I find a good campsite at about 2:15 pm on the outside of the bend just short of the 175 km mark. I can disembark in a creek and the is flat ground for the tent up high overlooking the river with some shade. There are quite a few birds here unlike last night's camp where there were very few. Here there are willy wagtails, woods wallows, red rumped parrots and I am sure I can hear budgies but can't see them. See a frog at my tent door. There is the remains of a campfire with rusted tin cans and melted bottle. The strange thing is that it is under an old low hanging branch so the fire must have been very old i.e older than the branch. Reasonable phone reception.
Thu 10 March 2022, 41 km
Water only rose about 4 cm overnight compared to 30-40 cm on the previous nights - the effects of the pumps just upstream which have been pumping continuously? Launch at 8 am, beautiful morning. Pass Marra Ck, no noticeable flow. See some pale coloured parrots with red underside rumps (blue bonnet parrot?). At 1:45 pm I find an easterly facing campsite at 216 km with a gentle bank to disembark. Green frog on my drybag which was left on the kayak last night. Did it come all the way today? Another larger green frog found on the back of my kayak. Weak phone reception.
Fri 11 March 2022, 42 km
Some mozzies outside the tent overnight. Fortunately they are not around during the day. Depart at 8 am. River seems to be wider and slower flowing than near Walgett but perhaps I'm getting used to it. Steady progress, light winds and starts to feel hot around the middle of the day. There is a shortcut just after the 250 km mark which is now the main river channel. It saves 1 km. See two large flights of pelicans high above heading west. See some sacred kingfishers and a couple budgies flying fast. Find a campsite at the bend before the 260 km mark. It has a gentle bank and some flat ground for the tent. Have a swim (water a warm 27 degrees C) and wash clothes. Weak phone reception. Goats on the opposite bank making human-like screams.. There have been far fewer goats compared to Aug 2020 when I paddled from Brewarrina.
Sat 12 March 2022, 29 km
Warm breezy night, 22 C at Brewarrina, 24 C in the tent. Four centimetre rise in the river overnight. Depart at 7:45 am. At 280 km mark I pass 4 Mile Camping Reserve with a concrete boat ramp. At 11:45 am arrive at "Beds on Barwon" (288 km mark) which has cottages and a camping area. I ring the Brewarrina Visitor Information Centre to see if there is a taxi that can take me back to my car at Walgett. There is no taxi in Brewarrina but Jenny arranges for her husband to drive me which he can do straight away. This offer is amazing and totally unexpected. The alternative was to wait till Monday and catch three buses via Dubbo to get to Walgett. This would take all day and mean a stay overnight in Walgett before returning for my gear to Brewarrina. Soon after 3 pm I am back in Brewarrina with my car. A thunderstorm is threatening so I book one of the lovely cottages at "Beds on Barwon". Flow at Brewarrina is 5200 Ml/day.
Sun 13 March 2022, 10 km
It takes a bit over 2 hours to do the 10 km round trip from "Beds on Barwon" to Brewarrina Weir and back. The extra effort pedalling upstream against the current was noticeable especially in reaches where there also was a headwind. By 11 am my car was packed and refuelled to begin the drive home.