Maude - Balranald
Maude to Balranald, 180 km, 6 days
Mon 22 Nov 2021, 29 km
Drive from Hay to Maude to meet Keith, Joy, Roy and Derek at 8 am. Unload gear and do car shuffle to Balranald Caravan Park. Can leave cars there in a carport. Return to Maude and launch midday from upstream north side of new road bridge yet to open. Flow at Maude is 11,000 Ml/day. Paddle till 1 pm, have lunch and see ring tree in a billabong. Launch at 1:45 pm and continue till about 5:10 pm with short break on the way. Pass Nap Nap Station along the way. Camp on right bank at about 29 km mark. GPS matches map distances. Nice grassy spot with light tree cover. Mozzies out at dusk. Weak phone reception but enough for internet.
Tues 23 Nov 2021, 33 km
Warm night. Mozzies active in the morning. Launch 7:35 am. At about the 35 km mark on the map* we see a structure, a roof over a tree stump 20 m away from the right river bank. Find it is sign posted as Sturt's blaze and launching place. Previously unknown site now is known from the 2012 date on the plaque at least. Many cabins just downstream of Toopuntal that looks like an informal caravan Park with an amenities block. Paddle another 8 km to where Raven-Hart thought Sturt had launched. Dry creek bed now flooded with flow out of the river. Morning tea here. High cloud of the impending change forming. Paddle to about the 51 km mark and stop for lunch at a camp with picnic tables. Continue to Lachlan River, paddle up Lachlan for a couple hundred metres then at 2:20 pm settle for a campsite on relatively high ground on Lachlan true right bank surrounded by swamps. There is a gentle flow up the Lachlan from the high Murrumbidgee presumably draining into the Great Cumbungi Swamp. Warm humid afternoon. A few drops of rain start to fall at 4 pm. We set up a large tarp that we bought in Balranald. Light brief showers on and off during the late afternoon. My GPS recorded 34 km but others recorded 33 km which I will accept as a more accurate measure. No phone reception. Rain during the night from 8 pm as forecast.
*See the red dot marked on the relevant map.
Wed 24 Nov 2021, 32 km
Able to pack up with only one rain delay which was spent under the tarp. Launch at 8:20 am. Wear shorts expecting rain but after one hour and a brief shower of rain I change to long pants to prevent sunburn. Paddle to Sandy Bend, 11 am, for morning tea at about 15.5 km for the day. Paddle for another hour or so till a lunch break, on the way we had a lucky escape. A large tree trunk broke near the ground and fell across the river just behind Keith and I and just to the side of Joy who had some leaves brush her kayak. Quite large waves were generated. Paddle for another hour or so to reach Redbank Weir. Find that a high fence prevents an easy portage around the weir but we land and camp on the nice green lawn near the sheds. We plan to float the kayaks under the weir gates in the morning or alternatively to carry them over the low fence to launch on the shore between the high fence and the river. Warm humid afternoon. Swim and dry clothes in the hot sun. Dark clouds approach from the north.
Thu 25 Nov 2021, 25 km
A bit of rain overnight and hot and sticky. Overcast in the morning so we could pack up without rain delay. Start floating the kayaks at 7:30 am. Portage possible on south left bank but through long grass and ease of disembarking and embarking is uncertain. Flow at Redbank is 9,000 Ml/day. We launch the kayaks just (20 m?) upstream of the weir on the right bank on a makeshift boat ramp which is a gap in the reeds. Floating kayaks under the weir gates goes smoothly and we launch at 8 am. Cloudy skies but warm with light winds. See kangaroos which hop away along the dry land between river and swamp. Morning tea at a spot with reed beds stretching into the distance. At 12:40 pm stop for lunch in an open area on the right bank. Nice spot. Light rain starts and we decide to make camp here before the forecast heavy rain sets in. This is about 25 km from the weir according to the map distances but 26.8 km according to my GPS but 25.3 according to another GPS. Not quite the 30 km we wanted to do but a good campsite and setting up dry is a bonus. Tents and tarp up quickly. Rain stops and it's almost sunny. No phone reception. Rain starts again and continues till 11 pm when it starts to get windy. 10 mm rain in Balranald during the night.
Fri 26 Nov 2021, 36 km
Launch at 7:45 am. Cool windy but sunny. Southerly wind does not cause much headwind due to twists and turns of the river. Lunch at the Tala Ck regulator at about 25.5 km for the day. Paddle at a good rate after lunch and paddle around the bridge at 59 km from the weir. It is flooded with the railing above water but you can paddle around the ends. We hoped to camp at out 2016 site with metal picnic table at 60 km on the right bank but it is just past a pump that it operating noisily. We find a nice spot on the left bank about 500 m downstream, arriving at 3 pm. My GPS reads almost 38 km but the map distance and another GPS reads 36 km. Large pile of sawn timber offcuts near camp as in a number of other places along the river. Swamps also behind camp. Reasonable phone reception.
Sat 27 Nov 2021, 34 km
Fairly warm night so could have the tent fly open. Beautiful reflections on the river in the morning. Launch at 7:30 am and paddle 12.7 km to stop for morning tea at 9:15 am. See a deer running away. 20 km left to Balranald. Paddle another 12 km for lunch. Stop at a regulator that is letting water from the wetlands back into the river. This water is clear and black and makes for good reflections. The contrast as it enters the murky river water is stark. Arrive at the boat ramp just past the bridge in Balranald at 1:30 pm. Load car, drive Derek to his car in Maude and stay in motel in Hay overnight. At a hotel in Hay, meet kayakers Simon and Anne from Adelaide Canoe Club who have just paddled Darlington Point to Hay. We eventually realise that we met several years ago on the Goulburn River. A koala falling from a tree into the river was the notable memory of all of us and confirmed that we had met previously.