Canoeing into the New Year

There was 2.05 metres of lovely water on the Waterford gauge and 1.60 on the Crooked River gauge and several above 30C degree days to look forward to so we filled the 15 litre Esky keg with ice (and some celebratory cans of champagne for Della) tossed all our gear into two cars and headed off (of course with the two dogs) to Eaglevale intending to canoe down to Kingwill Bridge over a (very) leisurely three days. This is an excellent height but we enjoyed the trip before with only 1.75 on the Waterford gauge.

It is (roughly 2.5  hours down to Bullock Flat then a further 2.5 hours down to (unsignposted) Neates Track thence  a further 3 hours down to the Kingwill Bridge. There are several other intermediate camping spots where you can enter or exit the river, some of them so well concealed that no-one at all was there even though both at Eaglevale and Kingwill Bridge folks were pretty much ‘cheek and jowl’ having at long last escaped the covid tyranny for a brief respite.

This trip could be achieved in one (hectic) day if you were of such a mind or you could take your time, enjoy lots of refreshing swims, picnics under shady trees and etc and just take your time. ‘There is nothing quite like messing about in boats’ as Ratty (or Mole) opined in ‘Wind in the Willows’.

People have become hugely suburbanised and seem to actually prefer to crowd together madly so that there was absolutely no-one else on the river – which is actually the way we prefer it. I would estimate that you could find a truly delightful spot to set up camp every couple of hundred metres or so, so that there are literally hundreds of spots people could have been camped along the river completely out of sight of each other instead of being camped 3 metres away from each other, but ‘to each his own’ I guess!

I have written about this trip before in the three linked posts starting with A Wonnangatta Spring so I will not belabour it here. I will mostly just post a heap of snapshots so you get the idea. We do also love the section above Eaglevale (which is so much more tranquil and undisturbed – being largely trackless National Park).

You can read about it in the posts starting Packrafting the Remote Wonnangatta. We do also love the three day trip down from the Kingwill Bridge to Meyers Flat just below Waterford. A further delightful three day trip can be had from Waterford to Angusvale and again from Angusvale to Glenaldale making for nearly a fortnight of delightful white water paddling in all on this marvelous river! It is just hard to believe there is almost never anyone else paddling on it.

We have never managed to do this before but despite having made a list of ‘essentials’ we managed to leave without the paddles. Returning for them lengthened the trip by over two hours so that it was nearing sunset before we launched on the river, eager to camp away from the crowds. We had only to paddle a few minutes to clear them and find ourselves alone and set up camp on a pleasant grassy bank under the black wattles in the westering sun.

Della had for once managed to bring her camera (phone) so for once there is an odd photo of me enjoying myself.

Our camp (along the river generally) was alive with Monarch butterflies.

Morning and off we go!

Mostly this section is pebble races but there are a few trickier Grade 2 rapids. This one had a nasty sharp left turn with a log stuck in it which might have had us out. When you are 70+ you become more careful about such things and choose a portage if in doubt. No point in spoiling a trip with unnecessary injuries or stress anyway:

Della’s view of the trip must be much like this. She always lets me go ahead to see whether I survive before she decides whether she will bail out! Nothing very frightening here though.

Just a few ducks.

She is a mistress of the pebble race. 

Here she captured me sculling along most professionally:

Often we just drift -the current will take us to our destination at about 4 km an hour. There is no sense hurrying to the grave anyway.

An interesting lift of mist from the river – unusual on a hot day.

Lots of beautiful sights.

Some magnificent river gums.

And more masterful canoeing.

There are many Angus cattle on farms along the river. They are all pretty much fenced off from the river nowadays though they would probably enjoy a swim on a hot day as much as e did.  All these farmers used once to be able to supplement their income with mountain cattle grazing as well as better care for the High County than the disastrous environmentally destructive National Parks now do.

Lunch and a swim. That is a Tesalate towel which I have been  asked to review for them. They are very light and compact and dry one well – and very colourful. They are also very quick drying. There is a size very suited to the ultralight hiker who likes to take a Bath on the Trail from time to time. More about them later.

The dogs enjoyed their lunch on a log too.

There are unfortunately many huge old gums falling into the river now. The river is also becoming shallower and wider. Though there was over 100mm more water on the gauge than last time we canoed the river we had to get out and walk at pebble races many more times. This is because the river is being silted up because of the willow removal and disastrous (poor land management by DOC) wildfires. We used to canoe the Macalister all the time until the same thing happened there . It has now become uncanoeable all summer even though it was canoeable every day of the year for a hundred years before the ‘conservationists’ took over the management of the river. There is a lesson there.

Just past Neates Track where we intended to camp but here was someone there.

So we drifted about a kilometre down the river and camped on a sandy patch just metres from the water on the next big bend. Curiously this is a spot which has always had a good track into it but surprisingly no-one was there.

It was a very hot afternoon so we spent quite a lot of time soaking ourselves in the pristine refreshing water. It was here we welcomed in the New Year of 2022 our 50th New Year together. They just get better and better. Della enjoyed a couple of icy cold 250 ml cans of champagne before bed but I confess we were asleep long before the old year slipped away.

Next morning we are off again for the last section. Last trip two deer stampeded across the river in front of us just here. They were there again today (I could smell them) but we did not spook them. Too hit for running perhaps?

There are still some beautiful poplars and a few elms in this section. These glorious European trees (as well as many orchards of walnuts and chestnuts etc) but alas no longer including the now removed willows add so much beauty to the river.

They also help(ed) to retain the banks and reduce evaporation. In the future there will have to be massive replanting efforts of just such trees to rescue the river from demise. Curiously they also protect the beautiful river gums from being undercut and falling into the r river and choking its flow.

Coming up to the Crooked River confluence.

And here it is.

A very interesting rapid just below it which Della handles magnificently.

Then a beautiful long still pool.

Where we had some (early) lunch on a splendid private beach with this view upstream.


And off we go again. Only a few minutes now to the bridge.

Just one last rapid

And a swimming copperhead to finish the trip and we are at Kingwill Bridge.

Another lovely trip. Happy New Year.

Here are the Wonnangatta links again in order:

River Heights


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