Narrandera – Darlington Pt

You can also read about my later journey down the Murrumbidgee here.

Narrandera – Darlington Pt (17-20 April 2005, 102 km)

David and I paddled this 102 km section as four separate day trips from a base camp at Lake Talbot Caravan Park in Narrandera. In 2015 the manager at Lake Talbot Caravan Park was very unhelpful with regards to leaving a car in the park whilst we paddled for several days down to Darlington Point. I suggest that if secure parking is needed then you should try Narrandera Caravan Park on the Newell Highway. In contrast, the manager at Darlington Point Caravan Park was very interested in our canoe trip and was only too happy to provide free parking for our car. In 2005 Christine and Angela dropped us off at each days’ start point and picked us up at a pre-arranged end point. The weather was beautiful with temperatures in the low to mid 20s with light winds. The nights were generally warm but the temperature did dip as low as 5 degrees just before sunrise.

Sunday 17 April 2005

We launched, at 7:45 am, from the Brewery boat ramp just upstream from the Narrandera Newell Hwy Bridge headed for Yanco Weir 23 km away. The current was reasonable at about 2 km/h, 3000 Ml/day and a river height of 2.22 m. The river was snaggy with many sandy shallows so an extra 0.5 m in river depth would have been good.

Not long after launching we pass the Narrandera Town Beach where I point out to David what I thought was the wreckage of an old paddlesteamer in the middle of the river. The wreckage was no more than a big boiler and some bent metal. Some days later we visited the Narrandera Museum which had a story about the PS Wagga Wagga which sank on 11 November 1918 at the Town Beach. It is amazing that it is still there after 87 years and many floods.

We have rest stops at some of the many sandy beaches at 9 km and 18 km (65 minutes to paddle each segent) and arrive at Yanco Weir at 11:20am. We disembark in the shallow water at the weir on the south side of the island and carry our kayaks up to the gate and wait for Christine to pick us up. In October 2011 five of us paddled from Narrandera to Darlington Pt with good flows over two and a half days camping out of the kayaks along the way. The portage of Yanco Weir was done by disembarking at the weir wall on the southern side of the island (all of the flow goes through the weir on the north side of the island) and using trolleys to move the kayaks about 100 metres downstream to a dirt ramp on the southern shore of the island. A photo of the weir on the south side of the island is here.

Monday 18 April 2005

At 7:55 am we launched from the boat ramp just below Yanco Weir on the south bank of the river. Our destination is the Coleambally Ski Club at Billenbah Reserve 23 km down river. We had hoped to pull out at Gogeldrie Weir another 9 km downstream but a reconnaissance a couple days before found that there is private property on the southside and high fences on the northside of the weir preventing acess to and from the water. Again the current was about 2 km/h with a flow of 2500 Ml/day. We paddle for 9 km and have a rest at Nandirong Bend and then paddle for another 6 km to a large beach across from and upstream of Euroley Beach. We pass the Leeton Ski Club which has many caravans and green lawns and arrive at our destination-the more modest Coleambally Ski Club at 10:55 am. We then drive onto Whitton Punt Reserve to check this out as a pull out point for the next day. There is good access here but a call to State Water (69530700) tells us that releases of water from Gogeldrie Weir will be reduced significantly over the next few days. Therefore, we decide to paddle from Colleambally Ski Club to Whitton Punt Reserve on Wednesday and from Whitton Punt Reserve to Darlington Pt on Tuesday.

Wednesday 20 April 2005

We depart Coleambally Ski Club at 8:30 am for the 19 km to Whitton Punt Reserve. There is no current due to the influence of Golgeldrie Weir 9 km downstream. Along the way we pass the Coleambally Canal which supplies water to the rice fields in the Coleambally Irrigation Area to the south. After 75 minutes we arrive at the weir and pull out beside the boom on the south bank. We carry our kayaks about 200 m to the weir and launch from the concrete ramp immediately below the weir. This ramp is steep and slippery near the waters edge and is not recommended. An alternate launch site would be about 150 m downstream from a sandy bank*. The portage to the steep ramp takes 45 minutes for two near empty kayaks. Just as we launch a helicopter flies overhead several times. We wonder if we are under surveillance in case we sabotage the weir.

* In October 2011 we portaged to the sandy beach. The easiest way to reach the beach is to follow the dirt track downstream from the weir wall for about 200 metres and where it crosses a dry creek bed, descend into the creek bed towards the sandy beach. The creek bed is relatively smooth and free from obstacles and the easiest way to the waters edge with trolleys. In 2015 we did this portage again with fully laden double kayaks and trolleys. It was hard work especially off track in the creek bed. An alternative would be to portage through the caravan park on the north side of the river but due to high fences and steep rocky banks downstream of the weir it looks like it would also be a long portage and a difficult launch.

The flow from the weir is only about 400 Ml/day and we encounter many shallow sections that we just scrape through. Only twice do we need to pull our kayaks through the shallows. The second time, near WhittonBeach, I take the opportunity for a swim. The water is refreshing but not too cold. In several sections the snags almost block our passage through. We arrive at Whitton Punt Reserve at 12:20 pm. We average about 5km/h below the weir mainly due to the drag on our kayaks from the shallow water.

Tuesday 19 April 2005

Access to Whitton Punt Reserve is off Uroly Rd about 3.5 km from the Sturt Hwy. Turn off Uroly Rd, immediately cross the canal and follow this road to the end and enter the reserve. The river is nice here and it looks like it would be a good place for car based camping. We launched at 8:30 am. The current is about 1.5 km/h with a flow of about 1200Ml/day enabling us to paddle about 8.5 km/h. We have a break after 7.5km and then again at Hulong Beach (14 km). Along the way we pass two sand mining operations. There are some shallow sections but the depth is alright. We past some grand old homestead buildings of Tubbo Station overlooking the river. There are lots of sandy beaches and we stop for lunch at one after 20.5 km for the morning (the GPS reading is matching the map measurement to within a few hundred metres). We cook 2 Minute Noodles and hot muesli over a fire during our 75 minute lunch. We set off again at 1:00 pm and have breaks at Glennies Beach and Point Beach where I sent Christine an SMS that we are due at Darlington Pt at 3:45 pm. There are numerous Nankeen Night Herons along here. As we approach our destination the river seems to become shallower and snaggier. After paddling 38.2 km for the day we arrive at Darlington Pt at 3:40 pm. This was at a moving average speed of 8.1 km/h for the day. Just as I take a photo of David and the bridge, Christine drives across in the car to pick us up.