Packrafting the Thomson River Gippsland Day #2: After a delightful night’s sleep on My Neoair (Womens) mat on the soft warm sand snuggled in my little poncho tent, I awoke to a morning you only dream of. Look at the quality of the light behind me! A camera can only capture a faint taste of it really. You just have to be there. And if you never have, or never will you are the poorer for it!
A deer had splashed by me during the night only I guess 5 metres from my tent. Here are its tracks (amongst my washing up) in the elven light of dawn.
I just could not stop snapping this rill on the living water.
And up closer:
Breakfasted, all packed up and ready to go:
Lots of other good spots to stop. Find your own. You are here for the solitude!
A faint mist woken by sunbeams.
Some pleasant rills as the sun gets up.
I know these rainbow lenses are a bane to photographers, but I love them.
Look at that for a camp on the right bank!
Or that beach on the left bank.
I think the rapids on the Thomson are a lot rarer than the Wonnangatta actually. There are so many long deep sections, but when it does fall away, it often does so a lot more. Della prefers the many small grade 1 drops and pebble races of the Wonnagatta – and I confess I am leaning that way myself. Age!
There are two bends like this along here on the right with cottonwoods leaning out majestically over the river.
It is a quiet section until the Triple Stage rapid.
You could lull yourself to sleep. I did once and awoke falling out of the boat as I dropped down the First Stage. I am still here. Just. Don’t repeat that mistake!
You are looking out for the second bend on the right with cottonwoods. This one.
The Mitchell Creek Track C34.4 (I think) used to come within walking distance of here – and folks walked in (or 4WD motorbiked!) and camped. It would be a good idea to re-clear this as a walking track, as it makes for an excellent one-day trip on the Thomson.
The only other possibility was the T9 track (now officially closed) off the Stoney Creek Rd. It went (goes) to within a stone’s throw of the river (just above the cottonwood with the DSE sign in the previous post). I made a walking track to the river some years ago off to the right at its end and we used to have one day trips on the river from there. Turning around at the end of the track is a bit of a challenge. Walk down first to check.
Anyway this is the campsite amongst the cottonwoods at the end of this particular Mitchell Creek track. If I were canoeing this section of the river over three days, I would probably stop here the second night (The first I would stop above the Gorge – on the right bank where the islands are – where Steve was fishing in the video).
There is one little rapid just below the cottonwoods, then this huge long deep pool. (It lulls you into a soporific trance. Beware!) Along here before the fires it used to be like a rainforest. There were stags wallowing on each side of the river roaring challenges to each other. A few still hanging about. One honked and crashed off on the left bank just here.
You have to be watching for the Triple Stager. I have canoed down it many times, but I have worked out (carefully) its every trick. For the novice, well it can all be portaged on the right bank. Again you are looking at a flat at the bottom of a gully (in this photo) and the river disappearing round to the left. The river splits in two. Do not take the left fork.
There are really five stages. In the right fork there are two small drops you can take unless the river is really high – and perhaps you should not be here? You can get out at the bottom of the second.
If you do not, this is the first stage. If you had come down the left fork you would fall out here – and find it difficult to get over onto the right bank and back into your boat or out of the water altogether safely. If you are in the right fork you can drop down it and pull over into slack water which you can see on the right below it. (I am giving directions as if you were facing down the river, which you would be).
And this is the second stage. Again you can sneak down it and pull over into slack water on your right hand side.
And that is the third stage around the corner. I suggest you have a good look before you try it. You can pull out there on the right and drag your boat a few metres past it in safely. The approach is to be on the left hand side of the river ready to swing to the right, then right again past the boulder at the bottom of the rapid which will otherwise have you out.
You can see what I mean looking back up it. That boulder on the right of the photo will have you out if you hit it head on or try to pass it to your left.
Still, you fall out there and it into relatively calm water. fall at the first stage and you will be a bit battered and bruised (if you are lucky) before you climb out here. When I came out, the boat was stuck on that last boulder and I had to go back into the maelstrom in order to retrieve it.
There are a few other little drops ahead:
Well, actually this one is a bit nasty. If in doubt, walk!
There is a long downhill slide:
Another little rapid:
Then a sinister deep pool with this enormous boulder seeming to block the entire river. Get out and look (on the left hand side). You can easily portage it on this side. If not, it is a very quick left turn, then a right, then straighten up and head for the middle drop. The one on the left will likely break your arm!
You can sort of see here:
Then around the corner off you go bum-pity bump down here, I usually use the right hand side. However you can walk around it on the left hand side. We have always called it ‘Crocodile Falls’ as a child’s inflatable crocodile was hung up here on a tree for a couple of years.
As you can see looking up it, there is no clear course. You can easily get side on to a rock and over you go, banging your knees and what-nots on rocks as you are tumbled along!
Just around the corner there is another small rapid folks often get hung up on. I still have not worked out which is the best course through this one. Some rapids are worse at low water. These last two are like that.
Next thing you see is the steepest staircase in Victoria which accesses the Chute Gauge. You can drive to here down the T1 track off the Stoney Creek Rd if you have a serious 4WD. Folks sometimes come here swimming, and suicidally throw themselves through the Chute! Madness really. I have even seen women with primary school age children letting them do such foolishness.
Just around the corner (to your left) the entire river falls out of a large pool through a chute which is narrow enough if you reach out you can touch both sides. You can easily come out in the little drop going into this pool. Swim immediately to your right if this happens. Remember the Chute is on your left. You do not want to get sucked through it accidentally!
It looks innocuous enough, and it is if you are lined up correctly. Go down the left hand side with your boat pointed slightly to the left.
And you will pop right out like this:
Gazing back from further down the river.
Along the river below the Chute on the right there used to be a veritable forest of pittosporum with an undergrowth of periwinkle, fringed with these cottonwoods. It was so green and lush I would have thought it was immune to wildfire, but the Seaton wildfire killed every single pittosporum (a native I had thought virtually ‘fireproof’). The cottonwoods survived, and the periwinkle, though it was singed came back too.
Yet on the dry hillside above the pittosporum withstood the fire. Glad I wasn’t there on the day though!
The river still has a couple of little rapids to throw at you. You could walk down to the Chute with the kids (with a couple of pack rafts) and paddle back safely to the Weir. It is about an hour.
I pulled over to have some lunch beneath a little stand of shady cottonwoods and found this deer wallow. No antlers though sadly.
It was a nice shady spot to have a (late) lunch though, you would have to agree.
Once you see that folks have been building toy dams across the river (as here) you know you are at the weir.
It is all heavy paddling now (the last half hour – no current) and somehow there is always a wind blowing up the weir wherever the wind may be blowing elsewhere!
And finally you are back at your car (the small silver Subaru Impreza – right) just near the new bridge which leads to the Stoney Creek Road and a back way to Walhalla, or on to the Springs, Mt Useful and Licola or Woods Point, Jamieson & etc. For me the road leads to the right, past the new RV camp and home to my darling Della who was good enough to drop me off at Bruntons Bridge to do this trip. Try if you can to find yourself a wife like that! . What a lovely two day trip it was though. I will do it again, and again! If I am not too old!
Ultralight Hiker Thomson River Canoe Trip 2006 (Video):
As a foretaste, here is Steve powering down one of the Thomson’s signature rapids:
Same trip here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n4ntrDS5GNE