Looking down on long lagoon on a sunny day

The Great Anabranch of the Darling River

26 February to 13 March 2022

The trip is through private farmlands, so be extremely respectful to the landowners and follow the Leave No Trace principles. Hunting without permission or taking dogs would be the two worst cardinal sins, but also ensure that all gear is properly cleaned before entering the Darling Anabranch, something you should be always doing when paddling new areas.

The information presented here is based on my own personal trip of the waterway, along with various other sources such as water gauge flows and topo maps.

If you have any additional information, let me know!

The Great Anabranch of the Darling River is the ancient bed of the Darling River until it changed its course around 11,000 years ago. It is commonly referred to as the Great Darling Anabranch or simply the Darling Anabranch.

Darling Anabranch is an ephemeral system and is usually dry. As such, you simply can not turn up and expect to be able to paddle the system. Water still naturally flows into the anabranch when the Darling River is high (at 6 m / 10,000 ML/day) or in minor floods (20,000 ML/day plus) via Tandou Creek, however regulated flows now account for the main source of water in the anabranch that come from the Menindee Lakes via the channel at Lake Cawndilla.

History

The river can sometimes have a confused nature and knowing the history helps to explain why.

The Darling Anabranch was originally an ephemeral system, although many of the larger pools were semi-permanent. With the completion of the Menindee Lakes in the 1960s, an annual stock and domestic allocation of water was sent down the system from Lake Cawndilla (50,000 ML). Seventeen weir pools, 17 bywashes and 10 block banks, most with regulators on the inlets to lakes, fragmented the Darling Anabranch channel.

In 2007, a water pipeline was constructed for landowners and many of the weirs, block banks and other structures were removed to try and return the system to a more "natural state". As of 2022, some structures flagged for removal in 2008 still seemed to be present albeit all dams appeared to be either removed or had their control gates fully open.

Guides, Resources and References

This trip is a difficult and potentially dangerous expedition with very remote sections along the entire waterway. Access is often limited via dry weather roads that can be closed for days to weeks after heavy rains.

While I am posting this information to assist fellow explorers, you should not rely on anything stated in this guide without first confirming it independently from more reliable sources. This guide is not a substitute for proper training from an accredited training provider.

Stores, distances & coordinates found in the site are only approximations made from using various mapping tools, but these will be accurate enough for the trip.

General Overview and Location Guide

The Darling Anabranch can be paddled using two main routes. The first is to enter the anabranch directly from the Darling River. The second is a more intrepid journey through the Menindee Lakes, down the Cawndilla Channel before paddling Tandou and Redbank creeks joining the anabranch 30 km from the offtake on the Darling River.

The entire length of the Darling Anabranch is 444 km and trips started from Menindee via the Cawndilla Channel or Darling River are both about 565 km, both traversing the lower 413 km of the Darling Anabranch. Paddling up to Wentworth adds another 24 km or down to Camp Courage 3.1 km.

Gear

Refer to the Murray River Gear Section for a discussion about kayaking and camping gear.

If you are not supported, you will need to take provisions for long distances where there are no supply points. As such I would look at a narrow canoe or sea kayak. It is generally hazard-free flat water paddling but there are snaggy sections along with some thick thickets of gum saplings in the main watercourse. It is inevitable that you will run into some snags and fences along the way, so I wouldn't trust using an inflatable.

Planning

Information to ensure an enjoyable and successful trip.

dry riverbed

Flow


A look at the flow and management at key locations

Maps and aerial photographs

Maps


Custom and online maps of key locations along the system

My Personal Journey

Short blog and trip table from my 2022 Darling Double trip where I paddled down the Darling River before heading straight onto the Great Darling Anabranch that was flowing for the first time in nearly a decade.

Car parked beside creek

Blog


Daily ramblings from the Great Darling Anabranch section of my 2022 Darling Double adventure.