Darling River System
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
- 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).
|Condamine River||QLD||657 km|
To the Culgoa River.
|Culgoa River||QLD, NSW||489 km|
|Darling River||NSW||1,545 km|
From the Darling River to the sea.
|NSW / VIC border, SA||828 km|
|Total length||3,855 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
General Overview and Location Guides
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.
Information to ensure an enjoyable and successful trip.
My Personal Journey
My rambling blog and trip table for the trip.