Balranald – Murray River
For a description of my trip from Redbank Weir to the Murray River in high water conditions in October 2016 see here.
Balranald – Murray River (7-9 April 2008, 93km)
Monday 7 April 2008
I started packing at 5:15 am and launched at 6:45 am. I had a break at 6.8 km and then continue to Balranald Weir (17.8 km) arriving at 9:30 am. I used the trolley (The Humble Kayak Trolley - apparently not available anymore but similar to the Kayak Buddy) to portage around the weir and I am on the water again at 10:05 am. This Figure shows a plot of the river level and flow downstream of Balranald Weir from 1978-2008. The last 10 years show a much reduced flow with the last 5 years being even worse. I was uncertain as to how fast I would be able to proceed but whilst I certainly was impeded by the low water levels (less than 200 Ml/day), my worst fears of having to do a lot of portaging were unfounded. I stopped again at 21 km, a bit later I saw a couple on the riverbank but they don’t see me (they are the only people I see all day) and then I stopped for lunch at 29 km (12 noon). There was a nice sandy beach at 28.3 km and I continue on 38.6 km (2:05 pm). The river was quite snaggy and I just scrapped through several times. At 3 pm I made camp on a shelf at about 42 km just before some snags that would require a short drag of the kayak to get past in the morning. There are sheep on this side of the river so I was optimistic that there would be no shooting during the night. I went to bed at 6:40 pm. There seemed to be plenty of fish jumping during the night.
Tuesday 8 April 2008
I launched at 6:40 am, pulled the kayak past the snag just downstream and then continued to 48.7 km paddling at about 5-6 kph. I soon passed snags where I need to drag the kayak a few meters through the shallows then stopped again at 56.3 km and 63.7 km. It was good paddling with only an occasional slow down due to snags. I had lunch at 71.3 km (12:05 pm). There seemed to be some logging on the opposite bank as there was a lot of noise from chainsaws. For the next 8 kilometres the river becomes very snaggy and several times I had to get out of the kayak to drag it across logs or sand. At 78 km (2:10 pm) the river is at its northerly point after which it heads south towards the Murray. This is about the place that Sturt recorded
...the river took a general southern direction, but, in its tortuous course, swept round to every point of the compass with the greatest irregularity. We were carried at a fearful rate down its gloomy and contracted banks...
He must have had much higher water levels than me. At 81 km (3 pm) I have to pull the kayak past more snags along side a sandy bank so I decide to camp here after paddling 39 km for the day. Since lunch I’ve been averaging 4 kph compared to 6 kph before lunch.
Wednesday 9 April 2008
I slept well and I noticed that I must be under the Melbourne to Asia and Sydney to Perth flight paths. There was a noisy pump about 1 km to the north which seemed to have been pumping all night. Since I was only 12 km from the Murray I had a leisurely breakfast and 2 cups of coffee rather than none. I launched at 7:20 am and several more times I had to drag the kayak past snags including one time past a rocky bar. I noticed on the banks in some places there seem to be limestone rocks and this reminded me of some rocky outcrops that I remembered seeing in the Murray near Boundary Bend. Near “Weimby” some old cars had been dumped down the riverbank – it seemed this was common practice along the river years ago. For the last 3 km or 4 km the water seemed deeper and some of the snags had been cut so I made good progress to the junction and arrive there at 10:05 am. My memory of this Murrumbidgee junction from a few years ago was that it was very narrow and windy however this was not my impression as I paddle these last few kilometres. When I entered the Murray it seems a very wide and straight river with not much flow in either the Murray or Murrumbidgee. This is in contrast to Sturt in January 1830:
At 3 p.m., Hopkinson called out that we were approaching a junction, and in less than a minute afterwards, we were hurried into a broad and noble river.
...and such was the force with which we had been shot out of the Morumbidgee, that we were carried nearly to the bank opposite...
I had a break here at the confluence and made some phone calls (and compare that to Sturt who was already hundreds of miles from "civilisation" and venturing even further into the unknown). It was satisfying to find that I was able to paddle from Maude in the 9 days that was my most optimistic estimate. I then paddled the 12 km to Boundary Bend arriving at 12:30 pm. I unpacked everything and carried it all up to the rest area opposite to the general store and waited for Ron from Hay Caravan Park who has kindly offered to pick me up and drive me back to Hay. We arrived back in Hay 5:30 pm.