Balranald to Murray River

You can also read about my earlier journey down this section here (2008) and here (2016)

Sun 18 Sep 2022, 19 km

Do car shuffle* from Balranald Caravan Park to Boundary Bend Caravan Park and return. Launch at 11:20 am. Flow is about 3 kph. River level at Balranald Weir  is about 6.3 m and 14,000 Ml/day. The river level is rising slowly to a minor flood peak expected in late September. Overcast day with a cool breeze. Water extends over a lot of the floodplain. Arrive at Yanga Woolshed at 12:45 pm, covering the 11 km at about 8 kph. Have lunch and look at the very informative displays. Interesting to read that the tiger snake population has crashed since the old days. They once fed on the plentiful frogs which have decreased due to lower river flows resulting in the reeds beds vastly diminishing in size. Paddle 8 km to Balranald Weir and camp on the large flat open area on the left bank. A lounge chair near the fireplace gives us comfort. The clouds start to clear but it is still windy. We covered 19 km according to the GPS which matches the 19 km measured with the Footpath app. Weak Telstra phone reception. 

Mon 19 Sep 2022, 34 km

Cool night and windy at times. Water level rose 1 cm overnight. Have a morning campfire. Beautiful morning and perfect for paddling. Launch at 9:10 am and paddle till the 53 km mark (Footpath app measurement) where we make camp at 2:40 pm. Along the way we took two shortcuts, saving about 4 km so that we paddled about 30 km according to the GPS. We had two breaks along the way. At the first stop we admired the swamps near the river. Water was flowing at a fair pace out of the river through natural levees into the swamps. Much of the swamps were covered in Azolla (duckweed) making them look like a well manicured lawn. What has amazed me on this trip is the clarity of the water. When I filter it and backflush there is virtually no sediment. I suppose the rain that has fallen this year has landed on well vegetated ground and much of the water in the lower Murrumbidgee has passed into and out swamps allowing the sediment to be removed. At our second stop I was able to find four scar trees. However, on this trip I have yet to see any ring trees. One or two mozzies but they are not a problem. Weak Telstra phone reception. Go to sleep with a cacophony of frog calls.

Tues 20 Sep 2022, 34 km

Another beautiful morning but the winds are forecast to strengthen and rain tonight and tomorrow. Water level rises 1 cm again but my tent, which is on a natural levee close to the waters edge is safe from inundation even though it is only a few centimetres above water level. Launch at 8:15 am and paddle till 1:40 pm with a couple breaks along the way. Sunny morning and much the same as yesterday with land flooded either side of the river. Take some shortcuts which save about 5 km. As we approach Manie Station the bank on the side of the river is a bit higher meaning we should be able to find a dry campsite at least 50 cm above water level. We turn the corner where the river takes a general southerly course and soon after we find a grassy bank on the river right on which to camp at the 87.5 km mark (app). With 10-25 mm of rain forecast overnight a gentle grassy bank is desirable. 34.5 km of map river distance covered but actual distance paddled  is 29.5 km. With just 13 km to paddle tomorrow to the confluence to meet Alan Davison (who has just paddled the Wakool) we have time to wait for rain to ease in the morning before departure. Reasonable phone reception. Flies are a bit of a nuisance and there are some mozzies.

Wed 21 Sep 2022, 14 km

Rain overnight, 17 mm recorded at Balranald. Rain radar is relatively clear so I agree with Craig for an 8:30 am launch. The water level has risen 3 cm overnight. The tent has leaked onto my sleeping bag. The zips are also dodgy so perhaps it's time for a new tent. Paddle to the confluence, arriving at 10:20 am. Take a few shortcuts along the way. Plenty of flooded forest but the banks are higher so finding a reasonable campsite would be easy along here. The water seems to be backed up the Murrumbidgee for a kilometre or two from the confluence. The clear Murrumbidgee water mixes with the more turbid Murray water. Alan arrives at 11 am and we spend the afternoon  chatting around the fire. Flow at the Wakool confluence about 40 km upstream is about 40,000 Ml/day and a height of 8.1 m.

Thu 22 Sep 2022, 15 km

Cloudy morning with no wind. Loud frog calls throughout the night. The water level in the Murray has risen 3 cm overnight. Launch at 7:45 am and make good progress arriving at Boundary Bend at about 10:15 am after taking the shortcut that saves about 1 km at an average of 8.7 kph for the morning. Since Balranald we have paddled 106 km as opposed to the map distance of 116 km i.e. 10 km of shortcuts.

*If paddling alone or if otherwise a car shuffle is not possible there are some public transport options (times are approximate and the info is current as of Sep 2022):

a) paddle to Robinvale Caravan Park (about an extra 100 km beyond Boundary Bend), catch the early morning (about 4:30 am) bus to Balranald.

b) paddle to Boundary Bend Caravan Park, catch the afternoon bus (about 2:30 pm) or night bus (11 pm) to Robinvale, stay in a motel or caravan park and catch the morning bus to Balranald.