Rain, even flooding... Maybe, maybe, maybe, is this trip really possible?
I only caught the news of the flood after it had affected some of the towns inland, but I still managed to get 6 days in the water and completed the first navigable leg of the Condamine River from just below the source at the Head down to Warwick. I was in a slow inflatable and there were a million log jams so I slowly fell off the back of the flood water. Three weeks later, and with a lot more planning, I'm ready to start again closer to the flood waters. The upper Condamine will simply have to wait for the next 1 in 8 year flood.
- First Leg: Upper Condamine
- 15 - 19 Feb 2020, the walk down from Mt Superbus to the first crossing is outstanding.
- 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 virus and the borders are reopened.
The Condamine River, part of the Balonne catchment that is part of the northern Murray-Darling Basin. This is the source of the longest continuous river system in Australia.
It was by a camp fire beside the Condamine River back in 2015 where the idea to kayak the Murray-Darling river was first seeded. Just over 4 years later, I put my inflatable kayak into the water to finally initiate the trip.
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. I'm uncertain if there is an official length!
|Condamine River||QLD||657 km|
To the Culgoa River.
|Culgoa River||QLD, NSW||489 km|
|Darling River||NSW||1,472 km|
From the Darling River to the sea.
|NSW / VIC border, SA||828 km|
|Total length||3,855 km|
Spring near the main range.
Intentions are hike the road down to the first crossing where you can put in a boat in high flow. I deferred this short hike to try and maximise the high flows currently in the gorge.
Sometime I'll be back to walk this and maybe hike Mount Superbus (1,375m) that towers over the source. Mount Superbus is South East Queensland's highest peak.
First CrossingGauge: The Head, BoMFlow: recommended: 1.5m to 2.5m
Put in at or just above the first 4wd crossing of the river.
I put in at the start of the forested section about 4.5 km upstream of the first crossing.
Two hours with a river height of 2.23m made for nice journey down the upper gorge. Waking up the next day to a noticeable lower level of 2.08m was still pleasant paddling experience with enough control to stop for barbwire fences that were common in the lower sections!
KillarneyFlood: minor: 3m, moderate: 4m, major: 5m
Flow: no flow: 0.36m, recommended: above 0.5m
From here to Warwick will determine the feasibility of this trip.
Falling river height from 0.98m to 0.64m was pleasant but the decreased flow was definitely slower. It was easy enough to control the kayak around the million log jams from the recent floods.
From what would best be described as a narrow deep drainage ditch below Killarney, the river started to open up around Murrays Bridge (~half way to Warwick).
WarwickFlood: minor: 5m, moderate: 6m, major: 7m
Flow: no flow: 0.69m
River felt like it had dropped to a more "normal" level with a healthy rainfall at 0.91m, as opposed to no rain for years. Crossings and weirs made for mostly flatwater paddling and minimal assistance from the flow.
Leaving Warwick could result in less weirs making the flow more important. Sadly my inflatable kayak had a fatal run in with a sharp log and my initial trip finished slightly prematurely here.
Cecil PlainsFlood: minor: 6m, moderate: 7m, major: 8m
Flow: no flow: 3.66m
Tiny general store in town.
Condamine River (North Branch)
I am assuming that the main river is best. The north branch does not go past Cecil Plains.Flood: minor: 3.5m, moderate: 4m, major: 5m
Flow: no flow: 1.81m
CondamineGauge: Condamine Township, BoMFlood: minor: 5m, moderate: 7m, major: 8m
Maybe a small general store.
Balonne & Culgoa Rivers
Flat dry and hot...
Culgoa River HeadFlood: minor: 3.5m, moderate: 5m, major: 5.8m
Flow: no flow: 1.9m
What way to go????
I had initially thought the Bokhara was the best choice as it has multiple towns that could be used for supplies, but the Culgoa River appears to have the best overall flow when there is water. The Bokhara River appears to be mostly dry outside of flood events.
Culgoa River is 489 km long and rejoins the Barwon River to form the Darling River. It did have a store about half way at Weilmoringle but this is now closed. Even after joining the Darling River you still have 108 km to go to get to Bourke, making close to a 600 km leg from St George.
Gauges at the border, or see the BoM Northwest Rainfall and River Conditions Map.
Flow from the Beadmore Dam peaked slightly overnight and this ensured a great flow down one of the most remote sections of the river.
WeilmoringleFlood: minor: 5.2m, major: 5.8m
Flow: no flow: 1.7m
Tiny indigenous community in the middle of nowhere! The Post Office / general store has been closed from about 2018, so expect up to a 600 km leg without supplies unless you organise a food drop somewhere.
Stopped to ask for water from one of the locals. It was cool hanging for 15 to 30 minutes with Luke who got some additional water for me, the only social interaction I had in nearly 600km!
River height of 5.4 m (moderate flood) with a flow of 83 cumecs (7,200 ML per day).
Onto this Australian iconic river
Bill, et al, done this leg in sea kayaks in 2017. High flows flushed the system, and they paddled the system with 380ML per day to Menindee and 220ML below. A couple snags were mentioned in the lower section. They took 58 days from Brewarrina to Wentworth
NSW Water we had been assured in previous years if there was any flow at all, even a mere trickle of 10-20ML a day, the river would be navigable its full length because of the weirs.
Darling River Head
Ellerslie / Palinyewah
Ellerslie is a small citrus-growing community. Likely no shops etc.