Current Musing: Murray and Darling River Systems (On hold - COVID-19)
Cairn at top of mt kosciuszko

Darling River

ETA Unknown

Map with 100 hazard and warning icons all over it

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.

Condamine River

Even in flooding, the upper 10 km is not traversable via any form of watercraft and runs through private farmland. Please respect the farmer and the farms biosecurity and do not walk across their land.

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!

RiversStatesLength
Condamine RiverQLD657 km
Balonne River
To the Culgoa River.
QLD409 km
Culgoa RiverQLD, NSW489 km
Darling RiverNSW1,472 km
Murray River
From the Darling River to the sea.
NSW / VIC border, SA828 km
Total length3,855 km

Key Waypoints

  • 0 km

    Source

    Date eta unknown    Elevation 781m
    Coordinates 28° 13' 53.0" S, 152° 28' 56.3" E

    green paddocks with gully Clifts sticking out of the forest

    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.

  • 12.8 km

    First Crossing

    Date 15 Feb 2020    Distance between locations 13 km    Elevation 650m
    Coordinates 28° 13' 53.0" S, 152° 28' 56.3" E

    Gauge: The Head, BoM
    Flow: recommended: 1.5m to 2.5m
    River rapids

    Put in at or just above the first 4wd crossing of the river.

    Kayak with heavy load

    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!

  • 33.8 km

    Killarney

    Date 16 Feb 2020    Distance between locations 21 km    Elevation 508m
    Coordinates 28° 20' 17.2" S, 152° 17' 43.1" E
    Population 954    General Store

    Gauge: Brosnans Barn, BoM; QLD WMIP
    Flood: minor: 3m, moderate: 4m, major: 5m
    Flow: no flow: 0.36m, recommended: above 0.5m
    Logs blocking river

    From here to Warwick will determine the feasibility of this trip.

    Kayak with rips to canvas

    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).

  • 104 km

    Warwick

    Date 19 Feb 2020    Distance between locations 70 km    Elevation 447m
    Coordinates 28° 12' 32.0" S, 152° 2' 16.4" E    Climate
    Population 15,380    Supermarket(s)

    Gauge: Warwick, BoM; QLD WMIP
    Flood: minor: 5m, moderate: 6m, major: 7m
    Flow: no flow: 0.69m
    Bridge Brown snake hidden in the vegetation

    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.

  • 326 km

    Cecil Plains

    Date eta unknown    Distance between locations 222 km    Elevation 355m
    Coordinates 27° 32' 1.3" S, 151° 12' 14.8" E
    Population 429    General Store

    Gauge: Cecil Plains Weir, BoM; QLD WMIP
    Flood: 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.

    Gauge: Lone Pine, Nth Condamine Branch, BoM; QLD WMIP
    Flood: minor: 3.5m, moderate: 4m, major: 5m
    Flow: no flow: 1.81m
  • 387 km

    Loudoun Weir, Dalby

    Date eta unknown    Distance between locations 62 km    Elevation 328m
    Coordinates 27° 13' 26.4" S, 151° 11' 3.5" E    Climate
    Population 12,719    Supermarket(s)

    Gauge: Loudoun Br, BoM; QLD WMIP
    Flood: minor: 2.5m, moderate: 3.5m, major: 5.5m
    Flow: no flow: 1.78m

    10 km from Dalby.

  • 530 km

    Chinchilla Weir

    Date eta unknown    Distance between locations 143 km    Elevation 298m
    Coordinates 26° 48' 2.9" S, 150° 34' 39.0" E
    Population 6,612    Supermarket(s)

    Gauge: Chinchilla Weir, BoM; QLD WMIP
    Flood: minor: 6m, moderate: 8m, major: 1m
    Flow: no flow: 0.74m

    7 km from town.

  • 615 km

    Condamine

    Date eta unknown    Distance between locations 86 km    Elevation 274m
    Coordinates 26° 55' 33.6" S, 150° 7' 50.5" E
    Population 384    General Store

    Gauge: Condamine Township, BoM
    Flood: minor: 5m, moderate: 7m, major: 8m

    Maybe a small general store.

  • 723 km

    Dogwood Creek

    Date eta unknown    Distance between locations 107 km    Elevation 261m
    Coordinates 27° 3' 21.6" S, 149° 37' 32.9" E

    Gauge: Cotswold, BoM; QLD WMIP
    Flood: minor: 7m, moderate: 1m, major: 11m
    Flow: no flow: 4.3m

    Balonne River starts where the Condamine and Dogwood rivers join.

Balonne & Culgoa Rivers

11 to 22 March 2020

Flat dry and hot...

Key Waypoints

  • 723 km

    Dogwood Creek

  • 826 km

    Surat

    Wide slow flowing river lined by gum trees kayaker on the river

    Date 11 March 2020    Distance between locations 103 km    Elevation 241m
    Coordinates 27° 8' 60.0" S, 149° 4' 23.5" E
    Population 407    General Store

    Gauge: Surat, BoM; QLD WMIP
    Flood: minor: 4.8m, moderate: 6.8m, major: 8.8m
    Flow: no flow: 2.88m

    Small general store

    Arrived late and bivyed by the river before leaving early in the morning. River height of 3.7m with a flow of 34 cumecs (3000 ML per day).

  • 1,005 km

    St George

    Weir and bridge on river Bird on a nest in a lake

    Date 14 March 2020    Distance between locations 180 km    Elevation 196m
    Coordinates 28° 2' 37.7" S, 148° 34' 0.8" E    Climate
    Population 2,395    Supermarket(s)

    Gauge: St George, BoM; QLD WMIP
    Flood: minor: 6m, moderate: 8m, major: 1m
    Flow: no flow: 1m

    Foodworks and IGA in town

    Just a quick stop for supplies. Just a couple days food but 35 L water for the next leg. River height of 3.4 m with a flow of 133 cumecs (11,500 ML per day).

  • 1,079 km

    Culgoa River Head

    Flooded river with trees

    Date 14 March 2020    Distance between locations 74 km    Elevation 177m
    Coordinates 28° 25' 44.0" S, 148° 16' 15.6" E

    Gauge: Whyenbah, BoM; QLD WMIP
    Flood: minor: 3.5m, moderate: 5m, major: 5.8m
    Flow: no flow: 1.9m
    Camping by river with tent, kayak, gear and water purification setup

    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.

    Gauge: Culgoa River at Brenda, BoM; WaterNSW
    Gauge: Bokhara River at Goodooga (U/S Weir), BoM; WaterNSW
    Gauge: Birrie River near Goodooga, BoM; WaterNSW

    Flow from the Beadmore Dam peaked slightly overnight and this ensured a great flow down one of the most remote sections of the river.

  • 1,350 km

    Weilmoringle

    River in flood, banks overflown with no clear way on what way to go Old rusty farm machine

    Date 19 March 2020    Distance between locations 280 km    Elevation 125m
    Coordinates 29° 14' 55.7" S, 146° 55' 30.4" E
    Population 80

    Gauge: Weilmoringle, BoM; WaterNSW
    Flood: 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.

    Selfie photo of two guys with beards

    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).

  • 1,515 km

    Darling River Head

    Date 21 March 2020    Distance between locations 165 km    Elevation 114m
    Coordinates 29° 57' 29.5" S, 146° 18' 28.4" E

    Mob of 6 emus

    The Barwon and Culgoa Rivers merge to form the Darling River.

    Almost all of the flow was being generated from the flow out of the Culgoa floodplains. River height of 5.2 m with a flow of 108 cumecs (9,350 ML per day) at Bourke.

Darling River

Wallaby sitting beside a river

ETA Unknown

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.

Key Waypoints

  • 1,515 km

    Darling River Head

  • 1,597 km
    Wide slow flowing river lined by gum trees kayak packed on road ready for transport

    Bourke

    Date 22 March 2020    Distance between locations 83 km    Elevation 108m
    Coordinates 29° 55' 31.8" S, 146° 41' 60.0" E    Climate
    Population 1,824    Supermarket(s)

    Gauge: Bourke, BoM; WaterNSW
    Flood: minor: 9.5m, moderate: 11.4m, major: 12.7m
    Flow: no flow: 3.92m

    IGA in town

    Avoid leaving your gear unattended here (RK).

  • 1,802 km

    Louth

    Date eta unknown    Distance between locations 205 km    Elevation 91m
    Coordinates 30° 32' 5.7" S, 145° 6' 50.8" E
    Population 43

    Gauge: Louth, BoM; WaterNSW
    Flood: minor: 8.6m, moderate: 1m, major: 12m
    Flow: no flow: 1.21m

    Shindy's Inn (02 6874 7422) is a pub that serves as a cafe and store. They stock basic supplies and you could possibly be able to organise a food run beforehand.

  • 1,970 km

    Tilpa

    Date eta unknown    Distance between locations 168 km    Elevation 80m
    Coordinates 30° 56' 13.7" S, 144° 25' 3.2" E
    Population 44    General Store

    Gauge: Tilpa, BoM; WaterNSW
    Flood: minor: 9m, moderate: 10.5m, major: 11.5m
    Flow: no flow: 0.18m

    Tiny town with pub and petrol station, no supplies unless organised beforehand with the owners of the Tilpa Hotel (02 6837 3928). They do a food run about once per week.

  • 2,241 km

    Wilcannia

    Date eta unknown    Distance between locations 271 km    Elevation 66m
    Coordinates 31° 33' 35.6" S, 143° 22' 46.3" E    Climate
    Population 549    General Store

    Gauge: Wilcannia Main Channel, BoM; WaterNSW
    Flood: minor: 9m, moderate: 9.7m, major: 10.4m
    Flow: no flow: -0.19m

    An IGA in town (the Friendly Grocer 08 8091 5989). There is apparently petty crime issues so keep a watch on your gear. (RK).

  • 2,559 km

    Menindee

    Date eta unknown    Distance between locations 318 km    Elevation 62m
    Coordinates 32° 23' 52.0" S, 142° 24' 48.0" E    Climate
    Population 551    General Store

    Gauge: Menindee Town, BoM; WaterNSW
    Gauge: Menindee U/S Weir 32, BoM; WaterNSW
    Flood: minor: 8.5m, moderate: 9.1m, major: 9.7m
    Flow: no flow: 2.18m

    Darling River Friendly Grocer (08 8091 4288) in town for supplies.

  • 2,854 km

    Pooncarie

    Date eta unknown    Distance between locations 295 km    Elevation 48m
    Coordinates 33° 23' 7.9" S, 142° 34' 1.8" E    Climate
    Population 166    General Store

    Gauge: Pooncarie, BoM; WaterNSW
    Flood: minor: 6.8m, moderate: 7.6m, major: 8.7m
    Flow: no flow: 0.63m

    Port Pitstop Pooncarie Fuel Stop (03 5029 5267) is the only general store and fuel.

  • 3,012 km

    Ellerslie / Palinyewah

    Date eta unknown    Distance between locations 158 km    Elevation 40m
    Coordinates 33° 50' 36.5" S, 142° 0' 45.7" E

    Ellerslie is a small citrus-growing community. Likely no shops etc.

  • 3,092 km

    Wentworth

    Date eta unknown    Distance between locations 80 km    Elevation 34m
    Coordinates 34° 6' 38.4" S, 141° 54' 12.8" E    Climate
    Population 1,248    Supermarket(s)

    Gauge: Murray River at Lock 10, BoM; WaterNSW
    Flood: minor: 32.08m, moderate: 32.68m, major: 33.88m
    Flow: no flow: 22.97m
    Two large slow moving rivers joining together
author on remote wooded trail.

Blog


Daily ramblings from on the trip.

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Single tree in alpine field

Planning


Some additional info for anybody considering this trip.

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Spreadsheet

Trip Table


This will be a record of key milestones each day for tracking.

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Past Darling River Expeditions


Other notable Darling River expeditions.

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