Preparation

When to go

Water levels

I think the best time to paddle the Murrumbidgee is in spring or autumn when the weather is not too hot and the flows will generally be reasonable. However, it is noted that flows in the lower Murrumbidgee my be low at any time of the year. My experience on the lower Murrumbidgee is that flows of about 200 Ml/day (minimal environmental flows) will mean that occasionally you may need to drag your kayak through the shallows or over submerged logs without significant delay.

Water NSW lists all the gauging stations along the river. Conveniently there is an app called WaterLive where you can use on you mobile phone to check the latest data. Using these sites you can monitor the flows being released from Burrinjuck and Blowering Dams and estimate when the flow will arrive at your start point.

Maps

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. River distances are given on the maps in the write-up of my earlier Murrumbidgee journey. See the links at each sub-page here.


  • 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.

or

  • 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!

GPS

I also used Back Country Navigator (BCN) on my Android phone. This app allowed me to download the topo and satellite maps from SIX Maps for offline use on my phone.

River Distances

Many years ago I measured the river distances with a map tool. I have found that these distances are accurate to about 3% when compared with GPS distances.

If you are seriously considering paddling the Murrumbidgee you should have a close look at my earlier journey. It was generally done at lower water levels and will give you a good idea of what to expect for those conditions.

Also see Notes on River Distances

FOOD

The longest stretch I did without food re-supply was 15 days from Wagga to Hay. Whilst there are towns in between, I elected to carry all my food in case of Covid-19 outbreaks (this section was paddled just as NSW came out of lockdown. When I left Wagga I had 19 days of food with me. Apart from stopping in towns and going to the supermarket, other options are to post food ahead to places like riverside caravan parks.

My food consisted of muesli, powdered milk and honey for breakfast. A variety of muesli bars for lunch and snacks and freeze dried meals or dehydrated meals for dinner. My wife supplemented the packages with treats such as biscuits where space allowed. I assumed that I would paddle 30 km/day and catered for enough food to last me that time between resupply points plus any planned rest days. I also carried a 5 day emergency supply of food for unexpected delays. This consisted of two dry bags that were stuffed far into the bow and stern of the kayak with a trailing string so I could pull them out.

Drinking Water

Generally I would start off with about 15 litres of water. This would last me several days. If I could not top up with tap water I would treat the river water. I only needed to do this once between Wagga and Hay and once between Maude and Balranald.

My treatment regime consisted of adding about half a teaspoon of alum to 5 litres of river water in a bucket and stirring thoroughly. You should start to see some coagulation after 5-10 minutes otherwise add a bit more alum, allow to settle for a few hours (or preferably overnight). Carefully decant or scoop off the clear water. Sterilize the clear water by filtration, chlorine (or equivalent) tablets, UV or by boiling. I generally used Aquatab chlorine tablets. The treated water tasted fine.

Gear and Safety

In addition to carrying standard kayaking and camping gear the following information may be of use.

Communications

Mobile Phone

The Murrumbidgee River flows through remote areas. Good mobile phone reception can only be expected in the main towns. Telstra coverage will be better than other phone companies. In many places there was weak Telstra reception especially from the top of the bank. However, often the signal was only good enough to send a text message and voice calls or internet use was not possible. In my day to day accounts I have given an indication of the strength of Telstra mobile phone reception at each campsite.

Emergency Beacon

As an emergency beacon I carried a Garmin InReach Mini. This unit also can send and receive text messages by satellite. It can be paired with a mobile phone for ease of typing messages.

Radio

I carried a small pocket radio to keep in touch with the outside world. I usually could get good reception.. This enabled me to get news and weather forecasts.

Solar Panel and Power Banks

To charge my phone and I had several power banks and a solar panel. The solar panel I used was a folding 10W Solar Mobile Charger from Jaycar. I found it most useful to attach it to the back deck of my kayak and use it to charge a power bank. It's by far most effective in full sun and generally I could produce enough electricity from the solar panel to keep my phone fully charged.

First Aid

In addition to standard first aid items and personal medication I carried antibiotics. Before the trip I visited my GP and explained what I was about to undertake. He prescribed Amclavox as a general antibiotic for infected sores, ear or chest infections etc, and Metronide for giardia.