Current Musing: Murray and Darling River Systems (On hold - COVID-19)
Sunrise at Balonne River

Planning

Stores, distances & coordinates below are only approximations from using various maps and online tools, but should be accurate enough for the trip.

Coordinates will generally be at a takeout point or bridge for most locations. Various reports suggest views of the small towns could be obscured by the river banks, so some care needs to be taken while navigating down the river.

Water

Topography map

There are three major storage systems on the river. Wyangala Dam is the most important dam with 1,220 GL storage. The two smaller Lake Cargelligo (36 GL) and Carcoar Dam (36 GL) also play a role in irrigation. Environmental flows will be released in Spring if there is water available, but this may not be enough to make the lower river paddable.

Flow

Flow is one of the most important considerations for any trip.

Aiming for a higher flow at Cowra would be preferred as these decrease as you pass Forbes. Flows are rarely above 2,500 ML/day below Willandra Weir and 500 ML/day downstream of Booligal and towards the Great Cumbung Swamp.

MDBA listed four potential constraints to flow along the system that would affect delivering water to the Great Cumbung Swamp. Flows above these will likely cause some level of flooding:

6,600 ML/day
Wyangala Dam
2,600 ML/day
between Jemalong and Willandra Weirs
2,400 ML/day
between Willandra Weir and Merrowie Creek
310 ML/day
downstream of Booligal

Only high floods are likely to reach the Murrumbidgee River. Logistics of bridging this gap are a bit of an unknown at the time of writing this. Planned extensions to the Wyangala Dam will likely moderate future flows down the Lachlan River after 2024 and flood events that could reach the Murrumbidgee River will become very rare.

The following box and whisker charts show the lowest value observed using the bottom whisker; the box is constructed with the 25%, 50% and 75% quartiles; and the top whisker marks the 90% percentile. The top 10% of records (floods) are excluded as these stretch the chart and make it unreadable.

Blue-orange box plot represents observations between Jan 1 1980 and Dec 31 1999, while the brown-yellow box-plots represent observations between Jan 1 2000 and Dec 31 2019.

Cowra First town downstream of the Wyangala Dam.

Whisky plot of river heights
Whisky plot of river flow

Forbes has a slightly larger population than Cowra. Heading downstream from Jemalong Weir to Willandra Weir (just above Hillston), flow will likely be slowed along this stretch.

Whisky plot of river heights
Whisky plot of river flow

Condobolin ...

Whisky plot of river heights
Whisky plot of river flow

Lake Cargelligo ...

Whisky plot of river heights
Whisky plot of river flow

Hillston ...

Whisky plot of river heights
Whisky plot of river flow

Booligal ...

Whisky plot of river heights
Whisky plot of river flow

Corrong ...

Whisky plot of river heights
Whisky plot of river flow
Chart of the river flow at various locations

It is difficult to suggest average times that the water takes to flow downstream due to the large number of weirs and agricultural diversions in place. A recent flow event took 30 days from Cowra to Corrang, (1,150 km), representing a flow rate of around 38 km per day. It would be difficult to say if this was purely the natural flow. The steepest section is the leg from Cowra to Gooloogong, and even this only drops 35cm per km (0.35‰) or about 1 in 3,000 gradient.

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Temperature

Water temperature is the secondary consideration. This can be near freezing in the tablelands and frozen near the source in winter. Even on the lower section, it is unlikely to be much above 10°C in winter. In summer, temperatures can climb close to 30°C in places, warm enough to no longer be refreshing.

The following charts show the temperature at three stations along the river.

Chart of water temperatures
Chart of water temperatures
Chart of water temperatures

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Weather

The Bureau of Meteorology provide a number of various tools to look at forecast rainfall including:

Rainfall Observation
Map of daily, weekly and monthly rainfall observations can show potential inflows.
Rainfall Forecast
Raw data from their computer models to estimate 5 day rainfall amounts. Useful to use in combination with local area forecasts.
Rainfall Outlook
A longer term outlook looking ahead up to 3 months.
ENSO Outlook
La Niña, a negative IOD and a positive SAM all point to a wetter forecast for the eastern coast.
Landscape Water Balance
This can provide an insight to what runoffs can be expected with rain. If there is a water deficit, much of any rainfall will be sucked up by the dry soil, before feeding the creeks and streams.

Recent Climate Observations / Trends

Where possible, weather statistics are based on the 30 years between 1990 and 2020. Canberra observations started in 2008. Deciles are 1 to 9, meaning these figures exclude the lowest and highest 10% of observations. i.e. they are normalised to exclude the extreme values.

Temperature

The higher altitudes are 4° to 6°C cooler than the lower sections. Snow is possible in the Tablelands in winter.

Temperature (°C) TablelandsRiverina
SummerAutumnWinterSpring SummerAutumnWinterSpring
Min Mean 10.8 2.5 0.3 3.0 16.6 6.8 3.6 6.9
Deciles 5.117.1 -3.314.9 -5.46.9 -2.113.8 11.024.2 2.020.4 -1.010.0 2.020.0
Extremes -1.225.2 -8.118.3 -10.911.6 -7.420.4 7.232.5 -43.226.9 -4.615.5 -1.830.0
Max Mean 26.115.9 11.816.6 31.719.3 1520.9
Deciles 19.235.3 12.229.6 8.817.8 12.130.2 25.040.0 15.035.2 12.022.0 15.736.0
Extremes 11.542.8 5.135.9 4.224.1 8.039.9 16.047.2 10.042.0 7.030.7 8.943.5

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Graph of temperatures
Graph of temperatures
Graph of temperatures
Median rainfalls

Rainfall

In the Tablelands, rainfall is more common in late spring / early summer months. The rainfall is more sporadic on the Riverina.

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Maps

The full sized quality images (A4 300 dpi or A3 150 dpi) can be downloaded here.

The maps were created by manually stitching together the NSW Topo Maps map tiles. The distances were generated by manually digitizing the river path from Bing aerial images in QGIS, then using the QChainage plugin to create points at 1 km spans along the line. These were overlaid manually onto the maps.

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Distance table

Distance (KM) Source Narrawa Wyangala Dam Boowora R Cowra Belubula R Gooloogong Mandagery Ck Forbes Jemalong Weir Island Ck Bumbuggan Ck Island Ck Condobolin Micabil Weir Kiacatoo Weir Booberoi Weir Euabalong Lake Cargelligo Weir Lake Ck Murrin Bridge Brewster Weir Willandra Weir Gonowlia Weir Hillston Torriganny Weir Booligal Thelangerin Rd Oxley Murrumbidgee Distance (KM)
Source 0 100 206 223 253 307 313 351 416 466 552 561 582 631 667 697 724 763 787 800 810 915 935 998 1,038 1,216 1,240 1,402 1,494 1,547 Source
Narrawa 100 0 106 124 154 207 214 251 316 366 452 461 482 532 568 597 625 663 688 700 710 815 836 899 939 1,117 1,141 1,303 1,394 1,448 Narrawa
Wyangala Dam 206 106 0 18 48 101 108 145 210 260 346 355 376 425 462 491 518 557 582 594 604 709 729 793 833 1,011 1,035 1,197 1,288 1,342 Wyangala Dam
Boowora R 223 124 18 0 30 84 90 128 192 243 328 337 359 408 444 474 501 540 564 577 587 691 712 775 815 993 1,017 1,179 1,271 1,324 Boowora R
Cowra 253 154 48 30 0 53 60 97 162 212 298 307 329 378 414 443 471 509 534 547 557 661 682 745 785 963 987 1,149 1,240 1,294 Cowra
Belubula R 307 207 101 84 53 0 6 44 109 159 245 254 275 324 361 390 417 456 481 493 503 608 628 692 731 910 933 1,096 1,187 1,240 Belubula R
Gooloogong 313 214 108 90 60 6 0 38 103 153 238 247 269 318 354 384 411 450 474 487 497 601 622 685 725 903 927 1,089 1,181 1,234 Gooloogong
Mandagery Ck 351 251 145 128 97 44 38 0 65 115 201 210 231 280 317 346 373 412 437 449 459 564 584 648 688 866 889 1,052 1,143 1,197 Mandagery Ck
Forbes 416 316 210 192 162 109 103 65 0 50 136 145 166 215 252 281 308 347 372 384 394 499 519 583 623 801 825 987 1,078 1,132 Forbes
Jemalong Weir 466 366 260 243 212 159 153 115 50 0 86 95 116 165 202 231 258 297 322 334 344 449 469 533 573 751 774 937 1,028 1,082 Jemalong Weir
Island Ck 552 452 346 328 298 245 238 201 136 86 0 9 30 80 116 145 173 211 236 248 258 363 384 447 487 665 689 851 942 996 Island Ck
Bumbuggan Ck 561 461 355 337 307 254 247 210 145 95 9 0 21 71 107 136 164 202 227 239 249 354 375 438 478 656 680 842 933 987 Bumbuggan Ck
Island Ck 582 482 376 359 329 275 269 231 166 116 30 21 0 49 86 115 142 181 205 218 228 333 353 417 456 634 658 820 912 965 Island Ck
Condobolin 631 532 425 408 378 324 318 280 215 165 80 71 49 0 36 66 93 132 156 169 179 284 304 367 407 585 609 771 863 916 Condobolin
Micabil Weir 667 568 462 444 414 361 354 317 252 202 116 107 86 36 0 29 57 95 120 133 143 247 268 331 371 549 573 735 826 880 Micabil Weir
Kiacatoo Weir 697 597 491 474 443 390 384 346 281 231 145 136 115 66 29 0 27 66 91 103 113 218 238 302 342 520 543 706 797 851 Kiacatoo Weir
Booberoi Weir 724 625 518 501 471 417 411 373 308 258 173 164 142 93 57 27 0 39 63 76 86 191 211 274 314 492 516 678 770 823 Booberoi Weir
Euabalong 763 663 557 540 509 456 450 412 347 297 211 202 181 132 95 66 39 0 25 37 47 152 172 236 275 454 477 640 731 784 Euabalong
Lake Cargelligo Weir 787 688 582 564 534 481 474 437 372 322 236 227 205 156 120 91 63 25 0 13 23 127 148 211 251 429 453 615 707 760 Lake Cargelligo Weir
Lake Ck 800 700 594 577 547 493 487 449 384 334 248 239 218 169 133 103 76 37 13 0 10 115 135 199 238 416 440 602 694 747 Lake Ck
Murrin Bridge 810 710 604 587 557 503 497 459 394 344 258 249 228 179 143 113 86 47 23 10 0 105 125 189 228 406 430 592 684 737 Murrin Bridge
Brewster Weir 915 815 709 691 661 608 601 564 499 449 363 354 333 284 247 218 191 152 127 115 105 0 21 84 124 302 326 488 579 633 Brewster Weir
Willandra Weir 935 836 729 712 682 628 622 584 519 469 384 375 353 304 268 238 211 172 148 135 125 21 0 63 103 281 305 467 559 612 Willandra Weir
Gonowlia Weir 998 899 793 775 745 692 685 648 583 533 447 438 417 367 331 302 274 236 211 199 189 84 63 0 40 218 242 404 495 549 Gonowlia Weir
Hillston 1,038 939 833 815 785 731 725 688 623 573 487 478 456 407 371 342 314 275 251 238 228 124 103 40 0 178 202 364 456 509 Hillston
Torriganny Weir 1,216 1,117 1,011 993 963 910 903 866 801 751 665 656 634 585 549 520 492 454 429 416 406 302 281 218 178 0 24 186 278 331 Torriganny Weir
Booligal 1,240 1,141 1,035 1,017 987 933 927 889 825 774 689 680 658 609 573 543 516 477 453 440 430 326 305 242 202 24 0 162 254 307 Booligal
Thelangerin Rd 1,402 1,303 1,197 1,179 1,149 1,096 1,089 1,052 987 937 851 842 820 771 735 706 678 640 615 602 592 488 467 404 364 186 162 0 92 145 Thelangerin Rd
Oxley 1,494 1,394 1,288 1,271 1,240 1,187 1,181 1,143 1,078 1,028 942 933 912 863 826 797 770 731 707 694 684 579 559 495 456 278 254 92 0 53 Oxley
Murrumbidgee 1,547 1,448 1,342 1,324 1,294 1,240 1,234 1,197 1,132 1,082 996 987 965 916 880 851 823 784 760 747 737 633 612 549 509 331 307 145 53 0 Murrumbidgee

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

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Previous trips

Fairly minimal detail about the upper section has been found online other than the whitewater paddling guides at Waterways Guide that has some info on the top section from just above Wyangala Dam down to Condobolin.

  • 2018

    Peter White

    SoT

    He started his journey at Darbys Falls on Saturday June 16. He travelled some 900 km down the Lachlan River to Booligal over 41 days. He reported some tough stretches carrying his gear over snags and dry areas.

    Peter started with a flow of 1,000 ML/day, but within days had a flow under 200 ML/day within days of his departure. It appears he kept up with the tail of the flow to Condobolin, but started facing more difficult times as he kept going. At Booligal, this had dropped to 50 ML/day.

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Wildlife

Some Great Cumbung Swamp bird species of interest include:

  • Australasian bittern (Botaurus poiciloptilus)
  • Blue-billed duck (Oxyura australis)
  • Common greenshank (Tringa nebularia)
  • Eastern great egret (Ardea modesta)
  • Freckled duck (Stictonetta naevosa)
  • Glossy ibis (Plegadis falcinellus)
  • Latham's snipe (Gallinago hardwickii)
  • Sharp-tailed sandpiper (Calidris acuminata)

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Additional Resources

The MDBA Environmental Assessments for the Great Cumbung and Lachlan Swamps provide an excelent overview of the basin.

Personal Blogs / Trip Reports

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