Personal Blog and Guide to Kayaking the Murray River
Key Waypoints and Information
Wild rivers are earth's renegades, defying gravity, dancing to their own tunes, resisting the authority of humans, always chipping away, and eventually always winning.
The upper Murray River tackles the walk in and the upper 150 km of the river of which I broke these into four major legs:
On foot from the summit of Mount Kosciuszko down to the source of the Murray River.
Last town on the bus timetables. It is also the last major supply pickup point with a Woollies and market in town.
Official starting point.
To chairlift or not to chairlift? Since I am considering the summit to be the real starting point, this doesn't matter to the overall scheme of things, but it would feel more pure doing the walk up too.
With the car parked at Thredbo, this will be a loop to the summit starting from Thredbo and up to the summit (13 km), before heading down Dead Horse Gap trail (5 km), linking back to the car using the Thredbo River Track (4 km).
Close to the source of the Murray River.
Easy to navigate Fire Trail past Cascade Huts to the Tin Mine huts.
The Cascade Trail ends as it diverges at Tin Mine Huts and the Cowombat Trail that heads south west. This leads directly to Cowombat Flat and from there the source.
Part of the AAWT, these trails are an alternative longer trek that also leads down to Cowombat Flat. I walked the Sun Gums Trail when doing the gear drop to Limestone Ck. Thick steep bush was encountered off trail between the Snow Gums Trail and the Murray River.
The Indi Springs have become the de facto source for the Murray River, namely as it is the closest tributary to Cape Howe. This has a pipe that was placed by the RMIT survey group in 2006 during a survey of the Black-Allan line.
For more detailed info about finding the source can be found here.
Following the upper Murray River down to Tom Groggin is the big unknown in the trip. Potentially impenetrable bush and / or dangerous flood waters or snow could make this an intrepid journey.
Other than having to scramble around two small waterfalls, this involved walking down in the Murray River itself.
A Grade 5 walk that is at the easier end of the scale with a couple of scrambles and a number of deeper pools to navigate (depth 1.3 m plus). I found the pools were best tackled by wading these while holding my pack above my head. This avoided numerous scrambles around the rocky edge.
This is the longest section in the Pilot Wilderness Area, where my plans were to use a packraft to kayak down the Murray River with an optimistic goal of just two days.
With a good flow and whitewater experience, this section would only take one to two days (49 km), and the worst case estimate is as much as seven long days to traverse this 70 km section of the river.
Note that without any floatation device (kayak / raft / lilo), trekking this section is likely difficult in places due to fairly deep pools and steep rocky outcrops.
A water level of at least 0.5m and flow of 500 ML/day is a likely good base level (Biggara gauge). I do not know if higher flood flows would wash out the rapids, but it would be more dangerous with the log jams.
Note, the actual flow at the Poplars would be only about 10 to 20% of the flow seen at Biggara.
Raft or walk?
Grade IV rapids would be a risky trip solo so I was contemplating either a guided raft trip or walking an extra 50 km along Harrington's Track.
A guided tour of the gorge would make the logistics should be fairly easy to finish this leg off. Otherwise, it will be traversing the gorge solo somehow, then hitchhiking the 80 km back to the car or vice versa.
A water level of at least 0.8m for the gorge is recommended for a true whitewater experience, which roughly corresponds to a height of 0.45m at Biggara.
This marks the start of the harder whitewater section of Grade III+ to IV rapids.
Common starting point for those skipping the upper sections.
The additional flow generated from the waters of the Swampy Plains River changes the nature of the trip instantly, from a mountain creek to a true river. There are even reports of people putting in at Swampy Plains River at Khancoban.
Even with the additional water entering the system, the flow was only 560 ML/day when I finished the upper section in 2019.