Wellington-Goolwa via Murray Mouth

Wellington-Goolwa via Murray Mouth (25-27 March 2007, 85 km)


I timed my paddle around the edge of Lake Alexandrina to coincide with light winds a couple days after a front had passed thru.

Sunday 25 March 2007

I got up at before sunrise on a cool morning at Wellington Caravan Park, had breakfast and by 7:15 am I had launched from the grassy area on the northern side of the Old Courthouse. After about half an hour the river broadened as it enters the lake. I stayed on the eastern (left hand) side of the lake until I came across a sand bank a kilometre or two before Low Point at 9:15 am.

The water level in Lake Alexandrina (and also the river back up to Blanchetown) was about 60 cm below full level and as a result I had to stay a couple hundred metres from the shore as it is too shallow. Fortunately the bottom is sandy so there would be no problem if I needed to pull the kayak through the shallows. By now a light to moderate SE breeze had come up so I stayed relatively close to shore and headed for a stone cottage on McDougall Hill in the distance. This proved to be rather difficult with the shallows and the crosswind. My rudderless kayak had a tendency to weathercock into the wind and the shallows prevent me from hugging the shoreline. These were problems rarely encountered in the river since the wind was usually funneled along the river channel creating either a headwind or tailwind. Along the shoreline there were many piles of tyres that seem to have been dumped in order to prevent erosion of the bank. From McDougall Hill I headed west with the wind behind me till I stopped for lunch at 12 noon on another sandbank just before Poltalloch homestead.

After lunch, and watching a water rat swim past, I paddled for another two hours again with difficulty with a southerly crosswind. I arrived at Point Malcolm across the Narrows from Narrung and inspected the old lighthouse (built 1877). I then headed across the Narrows to a camping reserve just to the north of the ferry arriving at 2:30 pm. This was a nice spot with a sandy beach, green grass, toilets, picnic tables in a shelter and a good view to the old lighthouse. I talked to a Dutch lady who has spent the last three months on holiday based in Adelaide with her English husband. I had dinner in the shelter as the breeze was cool and had freshened and I went to bed at sunset (6:10 pm) after paddling 35 km for the day.

Monday 26 March 2007

There is a southerly wind all night but by the time I launched at 7:10 am it was coming from the north east. My aim was to camp near the Murray Mouth about 35 km away. I paddled to Point Mcleay with a nice tailwind (again having to stay a few hundred metres offshore due to shallow water) and had a break there at 8:45 am. I had more weight in the rear of my kayak than yesterday and the weathercocking does not seem to be as much of a problem in the short periods where I had a crosswind. I climbed a small sandhill and tooka bearing of 220 degrees to bypass the northern end of an island and head straight for the southern end of Tauwitchere Barrage at Pelican Point out of sight about 12 km away.

After paddling for 2 hours with a handy tailwind I arrived at the southern end of the barrage. However, there was no convenient landing spot due to rocks on the embankment so I paddled to the northern end where there was a self operating lock. Ten minutes later I arrived there to find that the lock was closed due to the risk of saltwater entering the lake. I climbed the bank and found an outdoor education teacher from Pembroke School waiting in a boat on the other side. She was overseeing two groups of Year 10 students. One group was sailing down the Coorong and another group was kayaking in Boundary Creek near Mundoo Island. She said that most of her day is spent waiting in the boat ready to come to the rescue if someone called for help. She also said that using the self operating lock is a very tedious process. I notedthat the sign lists 14 steps that must be followed. I managed to get the kayak up the rocky embankment by unloading some gear and then putting the trolley underneath the kayak whilst still in the water. The teacher assisted me in getting the kayak into the salt water of the Coorong and then headed off in her boat towards the mouth. It is a beautiful day enhanced by the clear, blue of the Corrong water compared to the dirty, brown lake water.

I had lunch, launched at 12:40 pm and paddled towards the mouth which was 10 km to the northwest. I passed some shacks on Ewe Island, which the teacher said was where Storm Boy was filmed, and stopped at Godfrey’s Landing to take the board walk to the beach. Here again I found the teacher waiting in the boat. I gave her my $5 radio (which does not work well) to help her pass the time and then went for the walk. When I returned she tells me that the forecast for tomorrow was for winds strengthening during the day. We talked for a while longer about kayaking and bushwalking and then at 3:30 pm I launched for the final 3 km to the mouth. I got close to the mouth but found there is a big sandbank extending in from the mouth so I set up camp at 4:00 pm about 500 m before the mouth. I then walked across the peninsula to the beach and return via the mouth. I cooked dinner and went to bed at 6:30 pm. The wind continues through the night.

Tuesday 27 March 2007

In order to avoid paddling the final 15 km in strong winds I decided to get an early start. I had breakfast at 4:00 am, packed up and was ready to launch at 5:40 am. However, I waited till it was lighter as I was worried a speed boat might not see me in the pre-dawn light. I launched at 6:00 am with a light tailwind and paddled to the northern side of the mouth. There was a school of fish just inside the mouth with seagulls feeding off then. There also was a larger animal, probably a seal feeding off the fish. I landed inside the mouth, walked to the mouth and took a photo of me there as the sun rises. I continued onto Goolwa Barrage, used my trolley to portage 500 m around via the road and launched again at 8:30 am. As I approached the bridge I met a bloke in a TK1. He said that several times he has paddled out through the mouth but that you needed to do it with the right conditions. I continued on into a strengthening northerly headwind and found the narrow channel to Goolwa Caravan Park (no longer operating), arriving at 10:00 am.

In the afternoon I walked the several kilometres into town and registered my trip down the Murray at the Signal Point River Murray Centre. The next day my friend, Jim from Adelaide, drove me to Wellington to get my car and then I stayed at his place for a couple nights.