Canoeing the Macalister Again

Yesterday was the first decent day of Spring: 28C and with enough water (1.73 at Licola – ideal) for a decent trip down from Basin Flat to Cheyne’s Bridge. This is one of the few sections of river that you can canoe alone (as you can readily hitch a lift back to your canoe after dropping it off at Basin Flat. Aother is Hernes’s Spur to Eaglevale ont the Wonnagatta – but you will want a pack raft for that (See: wind was 21 km/hr from the North-West again ideal if you want a bit of an assist!

I made the trip in 3 3/4 hours allowing a quarter hour for lunch and three small portages (a small log jam and the two grade 3 rapids where I am loathe to come to grief alone at my age – though I have shot them a hundred times in the past. The first one just below Burgoyne’s Track still has a log stuck in it but is now canoeable. The second one has a (hidden) rock in the chute which has had me out a few times. Once I spilled my old Mauser 30:06 into the river there and it stuck between two rocks right in the middle of the rapid. It was some trick to recover it! You can try and imagine diving in this. (I was younger then!)

I was very pleased with my sub 4 hour time. I was not racing though. I used to complete the trip in under four hours when I was in my late 30’s so it is good to see that my upper body strength is still OK at 70. Now to get that knee fixed!

The riuver starts out sun-drenched, flat and wide. You just know you are going to enjoy this trip!

Could have avoided this log jam by taking the left fork. Many people have drowned side on to logs like this in shallow water. The canoe tips upriver, fills with a tonne of water and you are trapped in it (particularly if it is a kayak) with your nose two inches under the water! If in doubt, get out! I always have an open canoe, either (the current Old Town Pack Angler) Canadians or kayaks with holes which are open to below your knees (like the Perception Minnow). Inflatables may be safer. We have a couple of Alpacka pack rafts which we love.

A real Huck Finn day.

Lunch stop. There are dozens of delightful spots where you can camp for the night. The river abounds with of deer, trout and red-fin perch. 

The only thing I needed to make the day perfect were Della (away crafting) and the dogs – need a second person to look after them through the car shuttle. There will be another day!

It is a great section of river for white water training purposes (for folks who already have some experience in canoes). It begins with wide slow flat water and the occasional pebble race, then gradually moves on to Grade 2. Some of these are tricky and require you to develop navigation skills. Then there are the two Grade 3 rapids (below Burgoyne’s) which can be shot again and again on a lovely fine day such as yesterday was.

Things to remember:

Stay in the centre of the current.

Lean in towards rocks (plastic boats – the reverse for inflatables).

Never get side on to the current (or logs).

Beware of overhangs, logs etc – stick to the slower edge of (such) bends.

If in doubt get out and check first.

Don’t be worried about portaging. Better to be a live mouse than a dead lion – better still to be a live lion! If you hurt yourself badly alone in the wilderness you will be sorry! Why you should not do silly things like take your shoes off in a river or cross on logs! And never jump! Softly, softly, catchee monkey.

I only took a few snaps. You can view more detailed pics and instructions eg here:

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