Finding just the right conjunction of time, three days of delightful spring weather and enough water to make the river canoeable is harder now than it was before the bushfires years ago when the river height was over 1.8 metres on the Waterford gauge all summer. Now it rarely is. Last winter was quite dry so there have been few days when we had time, where the river has been at this height and the weather suitable – but the last three days looked auspicious, and even though there were only 1.75 metres on the gauge we thought we should try it before the opportunity was gone for yet another summer.
This section of river is Eagelevale around 25km down to the Kingwelll Bridge along the Wonnagatta Road (2WD). At this height we spent a little over 10 hours paddling, so it is definitely at least a two day trip (we took three, as you can see) – and it would still be very enjoyable if you took a whole week!
Here we are ready to begin just before the swing bridge at Eaglevale. There is a vast (empty) camping area here (even with a toilet).
There is the bridge just upriver. The ford across the Wonnangatta is just below it. That is where you cross if you are driving in to the Station (which we have done many times). I would not recommend crossing if the water is (much) above 1.8 metres on the Waterford gauge if you value your expensive 4WD. You also need to keep a careful eye on the forecast as it is easy to get trapped on the wrong side of the river (for months even!) and not be able to get your car back across. A friend of mine had his car on the wrong side of the river once for two months – so beware. The Hernes, Wombat and Zeka Spurs are very steep (particularly the first two), can become suicidally slippery after rain and you may not be able to get back up them.
Swing Bridge at Eaglevale:
And off we go. Spot in the lead as usual:
But old Tiny is still going too at 17 1/2! Both dogs look like they are going to enjoy the trip.
I love the granite outcrops, and this evergreen lady.
Mostly this section of the river is just pebble races,so it is quite suitable for children so long as you look out for snags such as log jams and walk around them on the inside edge.
Spot decides we can fit under that one.
This sky is what Della described as ‘tenebrous’. What a wonderful vocabulary!
Some places the river is a magical mirror.
Paddling it is great fun though.
Lots of ducks along the river this year. As you paddle along, (you will have to imagine this) the air is just full of birdsong. A hundred different voices raised in a wonderful musical medley. Along this section there are lots of clear private paddocks, (mainly on the true right bank – though you cannot see them from the river, so that it feels like you are enclosed by wilderness) which received some protection from the worst excesses of the terrible wildfires, so that the birdlife in this section is something like what it was before the fires.
This shag was so replete s/he could barely fly. It waited always until the very last minute before it lumbered off looking something like ‘The Spruce Goose’. I always try to get a snap of a bird taking off. It is awfully hard to do (especially when you are canoeing the river with both hands too) but sometimes you succeed.
And, how good is that:
There are lots of logs you have to watch out for. Sometimes they will occasion a portage.
You do not want to get stuck under one! Tiny agrees.
More of that tenebrous sky!
From where we live (10 km from Morwell) it is approximately a 3 1/2 hour drive (safely) to get to Eaglevale. You turn off just after you cross the Waterford Bridge (on the Dargo Road) at Guy’s Caravan Park and head up the Wonnangatta Road (one of my all-time favourites). It is nearly an hour and a half to Eaglevale. There are a number of places you can camp along the way, eg: Black Snake Creek, Kingwell Bridge, Bullock Flat and Eaglevale. There are also some places between where you can get down to the river or pull over into the bush.
What this means is that was we were dawdling getting ready and didn’t leave Churchill until around midday. It was after three before we were on the river. We spent a leisurely hour and a half paddling. There were lots of other grassy flats where you could camp. We chose this one on the true left bank just before a large granite outcrop. There was a small stream entering on the left which made a little bay or anchorage for our boats – but we pulled them well up on the bank – as I have been caught out by flash-floods before.
What a delightful little grassy spot amongst the black wattles. Behind Della and Spot is the small stream I mentioned. It had quite a number of deer wallows in it.
We washed our breakfast dishes about 100 yards above our camp just above this interesting feature. We saw two places on the river like this where iron compounds were staining the rocks with ochre.
Spot inspects the cleanliness of our dishes.
There is our tent way along there. Plenty of room for a dozen tents, but we would have been somewhere else in that event!
Here is Della checking out the wallows for cast antlers. She has lots of crafty projects to use them on.
And here she is next morning setting out again from our little harbour.