Sunrise at Balonne River

Darling River System

15 Feb 2020 till ?

Map

The Darling River is perhaps the outback's most famous waterway. It was once vital for travel and commerce on top of a long Aboriginal history that stretches for tens of thousands of years. This history can still be seen today, from the fish traps on the Barwon River that could be the world's oldest standing man-made structure, to the historic Tilpa Hotel and the heritage paddle-boats that still operate at Wentworth. The waters of the Darling River eventually join up with the Murray River before flowing out into the Southern Ocean near Adelaide.

The Darling is part of the longest continuous river system in Australia. Looking upstream, the Condamine River is the most remote source, near Warwick in Queensland. This flows across the Darling Downs and joins with Dogwood Creek to become the Balonne River. Below St George the river disperses out over the Culgoa floodplains, where the Culgoa River is the major distributary. Eventually most of these branches rejoin up with the Barwon River where the waters form the Darling River.

Key sections of my own trip down the Darling.

First Leg: Upper Condamine

15 - 19 Feb 2020
Inflatable kayak from the first crossing in Cambanoora Gorge.
3 - 4 Jun 2020
Walking from the summit of Mt Superbus down to the first crossing.

Second Leg: Lower Condamine to Surat
After the next rain maybe? Fences will be fixed and a lot of portages likely needed along this 800 km section...
Third Leg: Balonne & Culgoa Rivers
11 - 22 March 2020, started from Surat
Fourth Leg: Darling River
After the next rains (assuming the borders are open).
RiversStatesLength
Condamine RiverQLD657 km
Balonne River
To the Culgoa River.
QLD409 km
Culgoa RiverQLD, NSW489 km
Darling RiverNSW1,545 km
Murray River
From the Darling River to the sea.
NSW / VIC border, SA828 km
Total length3,855 km

GeoScience gave a length of 1,195 km for the Condamine/Balonne/Culgoa Rivers and 3,672 km combined from using 250K maps, well short of individual river lengths from Wikipedia that in turn was significantly shorter than actual measurements off the satellite images.

The most common starting points for people paddling just the Darling River is at Brewarrina on the Barwon River. Brewarrina is ~122 km upstream from the Culgoa River confluence that marks the official start of the Darling River. It is a 205 km leg between Brewarrina and Bourke.

Guides, Resources and References

This trip is a difficult and potentially dangerous expedition with very remote sections below St George, especially the Culgoa River.

While I am posting this information to assist fellow explorers, you should not rely on anything stated in this guide without first confirming it independently from more reliable sources. This guide is not a substitute for proper training from an accredited training provider.

Stores, distances & coordinates found in the site are only approximations made from using various mapping tools, but these will be accurate enough for the trip.

General Overview and Location Guides

Gear

Refer to the Murray River Gear Section for a discussion about kayaking and camping gear.

I would look at a creek boat (high flow) or packraft for the upper gorge. The section from Killarney to Warwick was choked with log jams, so you will be entering and exiting your boat on a regular basis (take a repair kit). Smaller boat is recommended. It appears to open up below Warwick, and I'm considering taking a 5.2 m sea kayak. That was what I used for the Balonne and Culgoa sections. The Darling is best done in a sea kayak, a glass boat on high flows should be ok.

Planning

Information to ensure an enjoyable and successful trip.

Additional Information

My Personal Journey

My rambling blog and trip table for the trip.

Two guys

Blog


Daily ramblings from on the trip down the Darling River.