Sunset near Warwick

Condamine River

15 Feb 2020 till ?

The Condamine River is the most diverse section of the entire waterway. From a gentle stream in highland farmland surrounded by rainforests, it is channeled into a forested gorge before entering the wide farming plains of the Darling Downs.

Map with 100 hazard and warning icons all over it

It was by a campfire beside the Condamine River back in Christmas, 2015 where the idea to kayak the Murray-Darling river was first seeded. However, this also marked the beginning of a severe dry spell that plunged the eastern states of Australia into a prolonged drought. There was no flow in the system at all.

Four years later, I was able to put my inflatable kayak into the headwaters to finally begin the trip as the rivers of the Darling Downs had their first significant rains in over five years.

Key Waypoints

  • -5 km

    Mount Superbus

    Looking over farmland with a stream towards a large rounded and forested mountain
    Date 3 Jun 2020
    Elevation 1,375 m
    Coordinates 28° 13' 18.1" S, 152° 27' 22.3" E

    Detour up SEQ highest peak that shadows the source.

    A steep and hard Grade 4 walk up the ridgeline to the viewless summit that would get very slippy if wet. Some navigation required, especially if you head to the second cairn. Interesting detour to the Lincoln Wreckage or the lookout at Lizard Point and The Steamers.

    It was nearly 4 months after I had first started the trip in February that the COVID-19 restrictions eased. This relaxation allowed me to head out and tick off the return hike along the road to the source (22 km) and at the same time I also ticked off South East Queensland's highest peak Mount Superbus (1,375 m) that towers over the upper Condamine River.

  • 0 km

    Source

    green paddocks with gully
    Date 3 Jun 2020
    Elevation 781 m
    Coordinates 28° 13' 53.0" S, 152° 28' 56.3" E

    Even in flooding, the upper 15 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.

    Spring near the main range.

    Intentions are to 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 Cambanoora Gorge.

    Looking across paddocks to the gorge lined with cliffs and forested sections
  • 12.8 km

    First Crossing

    River rapids
    Date 15 Feb 2020
    Distance between locations 12.8 km Elevation 650 m Slope 10.23‰
    Coordinates 28° 13' 53.0" S, 152° 28' 56.3" E
    Gauge: The Head, BoM
    Flow: recommended: 2.2 m to 2.5 m

    Cambanoora Gorge runs between the source of the Condamine River and Killarney, QLD. It is also known as the Condamine Gorge. Put in at or just above the first 4wd crossing of the river. I started near the gate as you leave the farmland for forest about 4.5 km upstream of the first crossing.

    Clifts sticking out of the forest

    Levels under 2.1 m are likely to become difficult to paddle the bouldery sections of the gorge. You should expect about a dozen or more fences across the creek. Most farmers used barbed wire so be careful!

    1.9 m at the Head represents almost zero flow and levels drop quickly after heavy rain. On an average year, there are 55 days at or above the recommended flow at Killarney (Brosnans Barn), but only 4.5 days at or above 1 Cumecs at the Head.

    Creek with hardly no flow

    Normal flow, gauge height 1.9 m

    Rapids in a creek

    High flow with heavy rain, gauge height 2.2 m

    Kayak with heavy load

    Two hours with a river height of 2.23 m made for a nice journey down the upper gorge. Waking up the next day to a noticeable lower level of 2.08 m was still a pleasant paddling experience with enough control to stop for barbed wire fences that were common in the lower sections!

  • 33.8 km

    Killarney

    Logs blocking the river
    Date 16 Feb 2020
    Distance between locations 21 km Elevation 508 m Slope 6.76‰
    Coordinates 28° 20' 17.2" S, 152° 17' 43.1" E
    Population 954 General Store
    Gauge: Brosnans Barn, BoM; QLD WMIP
    Catchment: 92 sq km
    Flood: minor: 3 m, moderate: 4 m, major: 5 m
    Flow: no flow: 0.36 m, recommended: above 0.55 m
    Kayak with rips to canvas

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

    Falling river height from 0.98 m to 0.64 m was still enjoyable 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 (~halfway to Warwick).

  • 104 km

    Warwick

    Bridge
    Date 19 Feb 2020
    Distance between locations 70 km Elevation 447 m Slope 0.87‰
    Coordinates 28° 12' 32.0" S, 152° 2' 16.4" E
    Population 15,380 Supermarket(s) Climate
    Gauge: Warwick, BoM; QLD WMIP
    Catchment: 1,360 sq km
    Flood: minor: 5 m, moderate: 6 m, major: 7 m
    Flow: no flow: 0.69 m
    Brown snake hidden in the vegetation

    River felt like it had dropped to a more "normal" level with a healthy rainfall at 0.91 m, as opposed to no rain for years. Crossings and weirs made for mostly flatwater paddling and minimal assistance from the flow around Warwick.

    You really need to be ready to go quickly after heavy rains to use the current. A flow higher than 1.5 m above normal should allow you to paddle over many of the fences across the river.

    Last major supply pickup before Chinchilla, which is 426 km downstream. I am expecting some supplies at Cecil Plains with maybe a side trip to Dalby if required.

    Benz Auto Dismantlers in Warwick may be able to offer long term car storage.

    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

    Country town with deserted streets
    Date eta unknown
    Distance between locations 222 km Elevation 355 m Slope 0.41‰
    Coordinates 27° 32' 1.3" S, 151° 12' 14.8" E
    Population 429 General Store
    Gauge: Cecil Plains Weir, BoM; QLD WMIP
    Catchment: 7,795 sq km
    Flood: minor: 6 m, moderate: 7 m, major: 8 m
    Flow: no flow: 3.66 m

    Tiny general store and a pub in the town.

    Other possible towns on the way to Cecil Plains seem very limited and off the track:

    Clifton
    Coordinates 27° 55' 45.1" S, 151° 54' 22.0" E
    Population 1,456 Supermarket(s)

    19 km E along Clifton Leyburn Rd

    Millmerran
    Coordinates 27° 52' 44.0" S, 151° 16' 9.5" E
    Population 1,563 Supermarket(s)

    13.2 km SW along Gore Hwy from the bridge

    Insignificant creek inlet

    Condamine River (North Branch)

    The main river is best with the North Branch rarely running except for flood events. At 86.4 ML/day, the inlet was dry, the confluence near Tipton Weir is shown above,

    The north branch does not go past Cecil Plains.

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

    Loudoun Weir, Dalby

    Weir with water spilling over it
    Date eta unknown
    Distance between locations 61.5 km Elevation 328 m Slope 0.44‰
    Coordinates 27° 13' 26.4" S, 151° 11' 3.5" E
    Population 12,719 Supermarket(s) Climate
    Gauge: Loudoun Br, BoM; QLD WMIP
    Catchment: 12,380 sq km
    Flood: minor: 2.5 m, moderate: 3.5 m, major: 5.5 m
    Flow: no flow: 1.78 m

    Dalby is 10 km north east of the bridge.

    Warra
    Coordinates 26° 55' 49.1" S, 150° 55' 13.1" E

    6.5 km north of the bridge along Warra Kogan Rd

    Brigalow
    Coordinates 26° 51' 19.1" S, 150° 45' 37.1" E
    General Store

    3.75 km north of the bridge along Banana Bridge Rd.

  • 530 km

    Chinchilla Weir

    Weir with water spilling over it
    Date eta unknown
    Distance between locations 142.5 km Elevation 298 m Slope 0.21‰
    Coordinates 26° 48' 2.9" S, 150° 34' 39.0" E
    Population 6,612 Supermarket(s)
    Gauge: Chinchilla Weir, BoM; QLD WMIP
    Catchment: 19,190 sq km
    Flood: minor: 6 m, moderate: 8 m, major: 10 m
    Flow: no flow: 0.74 m

    7 km from town.

    I was warned from multiple sources that there were high crime levels in 2020, particularly opportunistic car theft.

  • 615 km

    Condamine

    Weir with water spilling over it
    Date eta unknown
    Distance between locations 85.5 km Elevation 274 m Slope 0.28‰
    Coordinates 26° 55' 33.6" S, 150° 7' 50.5" E
    Population 384 General Store
    Gauge: Condamine Township, BoM
    Flood: minor: 5 m, moderate: 7 m, major: 8 m

    Maybe a small general store.

  • 723 km

    Dogwood Creek

    Mouth of a river with high dirt banks
    Date eta unknown
    Distance between locations 107.3 km Elevation 261 m Slope 0.12‰
    Coordinates 27° 3' 21.6" S, 149° 37' 32.9" E
    Gauge: Cotswold, BoM; QLD WMIP
    Flood: minor: 7 m, moderate: 10 m, major: 11 m
    Flow: no flow: 4.3 m

    Balonne River starts where the Condamine and Dogwood rivers join.