Sunset across the flooded Culgoa River floodplains

Great Darling Anabranch

Note, there have been no known trips. Everything is based on water gauge flows and topo maps only.

If you have any additional information, let me know!

The Great Darling Anabranch is an alternative route water can take from the Menindee Lakes albeit due to water controls and low rainfalls, the river rarely flows. These are some quick notes thrown together before I head south to tackle the Lachlan River. If successful and the Anabranch is still flowing, I may attempt paddling it.

There are two primary sources for the Great Darling Anabranch. The true source is the Darling River 120 km below Menindee, but the anabranch is also feed from waters that are let out of Lake Cawndilla. The entire length of the anabranch itself is 448 km.

Both trips are about 550 km.

Key Waypoints

  • -120 km

    Menindee

    Distance between locations 318 km Elevation 58 m
    Coordinates 32° 23' 52.0" S, 142° 24' 48.0" E
    Population 551 General Store Climate
    Gauge: Menindee Town, BoM; WaterNSW
    Gauge: Menindee U/S Weir 32, BoM; WaterNSW
    Catchment: 569,600 sq km
    Flood: minor: 8.5 m, moderate: 9.1 m, major: 9.7 m
    Flow: no flow: 2.18 m
    Maps and aerial images

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

  • 0 km

    Great Darling Anabranch

    Channel high on bank
    Distance between locations 120 km Slope 0.03‰
    Coordinates 32° 52' 59.2" S, 142° 21' 23.4" E
    Gauge: Darling River, WaterNSW
    Gauge: Anabranch Offtake, WaterNSW

    Keep track of where you are to avoid paddling past it. At 1.3 m (460 ML/day) in the Darling, there was no flow into the Anabranch as seen in the photo. The river needs to pass the 6 m mark before the anabranch receives any water. This has only happened twice in recent history, in 2011 and 2021.

  • 30 km

    Redbank Creek

    Distance between locations 30 km
    Coordinates 32° 54' 15.8" S, 142° 8' 51.0" E
    Gauge: Packers Crossing, WaterNSW
    Gauge: Wycot, WaterNSW

    The flow will increase at Redbank Creek if there is water being released from the dams.

    The gauge at Packers Crossing is 55 km upstream on Redbank Creek, and the guage at Wycot is 20 km downstream of the confluence.

  • 263 km

    Bunnerungee Bridge

    Looking north from Bunnerungee Bridge
    Distance between locations 233 km
    Coordinates 33° 34' 49.8" S, 141° 45' 2.2" E
    Gauge: Dam 183 Downstream, WaterNSW
    Gauge: Bulpunga, WaterNSW

    Bunnerungee Bridge is where the Silver City Hwy crosses the Anabranch.

    The gauge at Dam 183 is 32 km upstream and the guage at Bulpunga is 55 km downstream.

  • 448 km

    Murray River

    Large slow moving river
    Distance between locations 185 km
    Coordinates 34° 5' 48.5" S, 141° 45' 24.1" E

    Joining the Murray, turn left to go to Wentworth upstream, right to go with the flow to SA.

  • 472 km

    Wentworth

    Two large slow moving rivers joining together
    Distance between locations 24 km Elevation 34 m
    Coordinates 34° 6' 38.4" S, 141° 54' 12.8" E
    Population 1,250 Supermarket(s) Climate
    Gauge: Murray River at Lock 10, BoM; WaterNSW
    Catchment: 906,000 sq km
    Flood: minor: 32.08 m, moderate: 32.68 m, major: 33.88 m
    Flow: no flow: 22.97 m

Distance Table

The following distances are based on starting from the boat ramp at Menindee and paddling down the Darling to the start of the Great Darling Anabranch and then paddling up the Murray River to Wentworth. An alternative route is via the lakes and those distances can be found here.

Distances (KM)
Menindee
Great Darling Anabranch
Redbank Creek
Murray River
Wentworth
Distances (KM)
Menindee 0 120 150 568 592 Menindee
Great Darling Anabranch 120 0 30 448 472 Great Darling Anabranch
Redbank Creek 150 30 0 418 442 Redbank Creek
Murray River 568 448 418 0 24 Murray River
Wentworth 592 472 442 24 0 Wentworth
Distances (KM)
Menindee
Great Darling Anabranch
Redbank Creek
Murray River
Wentworth
Distances (KM)

The distances were calculated by manually digitizing the river path from Bing aerial images in QGIS (WGS 84 / UTM Zone 55S).

Flow

There is an uncontrolled flow from a high flow on the Darling River and a controlled flow from Lake Cawndilla that feeds into the Anabranch at Redbank Creek. The Anabranch has only flown three times in the last decade, in 2011, 2017 and 2021. The 2017 flow event was driven entirely from a release from Lake Cawndilla.

Some key observations are noted below:

Great Darling Anabranch Offtake rarely flows. The Darling needs to be above the 6 m mark before water naturally splits over the banks.

The following two images show a rising Darling river and the start of the flow into the Anabranch at around the 6 m mark.

graphs
graphs

2011 saw a high flow from both the Lakes and the Darling. The resulting flow pattern was irregular until the high flows were seen a number of months after the water release started.

2017 saw a controlled release from Lake Cawndilla, no flow from the Darling River.

2021 saw a small controlled release from the lakes, followed by a high flow from the Darling.

Gauge Distances

0 km Lake Cawndilla
42 km Redbank Ck (+42 km)
66 km Offtake (+24 km)
116 km Wycot (+50 km)
298 km Dam 183 Downstream (+182 km)
385 km Bulpunga (+87 km)
440 km Tara Down (+55 km)
516 km Murray River (+76 km)
graphs
graphs
graphs

While smaller than the other flows, the 2017 event seems to be the best indicator of the time it takes for water to flow through the system. It appears to be rather slow at around 8 km per day so don't expect much paddling assistance and nearly two months if you are following a flow peak. With that in mind, you will likely want to see a good flood event to push water down the system for a number of weeks before starting out.

Location Date Flow KM per day
Lake Cawndilla 01 Mar 1,500 ML/day
Packers Crossing, Redbank Ck 03 Mar 1,150 ML/day 15
Wycot 14 Mar 1,100 ML/day 7
Dam 183 Downstream 09 Apr 850 ML/day 8
Bulpunga 18 Apr 850 ML/day 5
Tara Downs 26 Apr 850 ML/day 9

This was not backed up with rainfall or local observations that could change how fast the water flows through the system and how much is lost filling lakes along the way!

Transport

There are no known direct public transport options between Menindee and Wentworth (240 km).

Bus between Broken Hill and Wentworth appears to run only on Wednesdays and Fridays with Broken Hill to Wentworth in the morning (5:15am) and this returns in the afternoon (4:15pm).

From Broken Hill, the train departs early Tuesday and stops in Menindee. The reverse trip on Monday.

Homesteads

Some of the stations and homesteads that can be found along the river are listed below. These are private farms, but could potentially assist in case of an emergency.

I only located one homestead on the lake route via Lake Cawndilla. This was Tandou Homestead that was 84.6 km from Menindee and 75.2 km from the next homestead on the Darling Anabranch of Tor Downs.

For all other homesteads, the distances are measured from Menindee, paddling down to the start of the Anabranch. Homesteads along this section of the Darling River are not included.

167.5 km Tor Downs
170.8 km Wycot (+3.3 km)
194.4 km Cuthero (+23.7 km)
235.3 km Building (+40.8 km)
279.6 km Popiltah (+44.4 km)
Popiltah is about 1.5 km west up Popiltah Creek.
290.7 km Woodlands (+11.1 km)
311.6 km Willow Point (+20.9 km)
326.1 km Windamingle (+14.6 km)
346.0 km Wyndham (+19.9 km)
373.8 km Nindethana (+27.8 km)
384.5 km Bunnerungee (+10.7 km)
410.2 km Coleraine (+25.7 km)
414.5 km Toora (+4.3 km)
422.4 km Quambi (+7.9 km)
434.2 km Watara (+11.8 km)
437.8 km Bulpunga (+3.6 km)
452.7 km Lamplough (+14.9 km)
Lamplough is about 2 km west from the river.
459.2 km Anabranch Hall (+6.5 km)
463.6 km Wilton (+4.5 km)
471.2 km Glen Park (+7.6 km)
476.6 km Allanvale (+5.3 km)
492.7 km Tara Downs (+16.2 km)
494.8 km Milpara (+2.1 km)
544.1 km Tona (+49.3 km)
553.5 km Oakbank (+9.3 km)
591.9 km Wentworth (+38.4 km)
  • Tandou
  • Tor Downs
  • Wycot
  • Cuthero
  • Building
  • Popiltah
  • Woodlands
  • Willow Point
  • Windamingle
  • Wyndham
  • Nindethana
  • Bunnerungee
  • Coleraine
  • Toora
  • Quambi
  • Watara
  • Bulpunga
  • Lamplough
  • Anabranch Hall
  • Wilton
  • Glen-Esk
  • Allanvale
  • Tara Downs
  • Milpara
  • Tona
  • Oakbank