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

Murrumbidgee River

Winter 2020?

What to do while waiting for a vaccine or rain? With VIC reentering a lockdown and a dry winter up north, maybe the Murrumbidgee River could be a viable alternative. With a length of 1,615.8 km, it is the second longest river in Australia.

The Murrumbidgee River is usually considered to be the third longest river in Australia, GeoAustralia giving the length of 1,485 km calculated from the 1:250,000 National Topographic Database, or 1,482.3 km to be precise from BoM GeoFabric. However, manually tracing the distance from satellite images in QGIS, I calculated that the Murrumbidgee River at 1,615.8 km and the Darling River at 1,546.9 km, which was close to the GeoAustralia approximation of 1,545 km.

Note, while distances should be fairly accurate, but other information was scraped from various online sources and I can't confirm the accuracy of this yet. If you see an error, let me know!

Upper Sections

A mix of remote class 2 - 4 rapids and flat water sections would make for an exciting journey down to Jugiong.

Source down to Tantangara Reservoir
Short off-trail trek to the source, then high country streams down to the reservoir. ~65 km
Tantangara Reservoir down to Binjura near Cooma
Grade 2 - 3 rapids and at least one portage. ~115 km
Binjura down to Cotter Dam, Canberra
The river has mixed personalities along this stretch, from flat water sections to hard rapids with portages. ~130 km
Cotter Dam down to Jugiong
Another section with a long section of class 3 to 4 rapids. ~165 km

Lower Sections

The main section of the river that is a tad over 1,000 km.

Jugiong down to Wagga Wagga
Fast running flat water, especially after the Tumut River just before Gundagai, slowing as you hit the Riverina proper. ~190 km.
Wagga Wagga down to Narrandera
~200 km
Narrandera down to Darlington Point
~100 km
Darlington Point down to Hay
~145 km
Hay down to Balranald
~300 km. The small town of Maude is about half way down this leg.
Balranald to the Murray River
~105 km to the confluence. Continue down to Boundary Bend, Robinvale or even the ocean.

Once you have made it to the Murray River, it is another 117.0 km to Robinvale (VIC) / Euston (NSW), or you could organise a ride from Boundary Bend that is only 14.6 km downstream from the confluence. The rest area on Murray Valley Highway, VIC (B400) near Boundary Bend is only 9.2 km if you are struggling with tired arms!

Upper Sections

As of today, July 2020, Long Plain Rd is currently closed due to either fire damage or winter according to Parks NSW and Waterways Guide state that Burrinjuck Dam access is currently restricted without detailing the reason.

The section almost makes up for a third of the total length of the river (435.3 km) and has rapids up to grade 4 with a couple of compulsory portages.

Key Waypoints

  • 0 km

    Source

    Distance between locations 0 m Elevation 1,568 m
    Coordinates 35° 35' 13.7" S, 148° 34' 36.9" E

    Easy trek on Peppercorn Fire Trail with a short 750 m off trail section to find the source.

  • 64.7 km

    Tantangara Reservoir (254GL)

    Distance between locations 64.7 km Elevation 1,205 m
    Coordinates 35° 47' 43.6" S, 148° 39' 47.6" E
    Dam wall (45m)
    Gauge: Yaouk No2 (D/S Yaouk Ck), WaterNSW
    Flow: no flow: 0.41 m, recommended: above 0.75 m

    Tantangara is a reservoir for Lake Eucumbene that is part of the Snowy Mountains Scheme network of dams. Water from Lake Eucumbene either makes its way naturally down to the south east coast via the Snowy River, or it is fed back into the Tumut and Murray hydro-electric power stations.

    The remote gorge of this section passes through steep countryside that will be very dependent on the water levels. There are many small tributaries, two of the bigger ones are:

    Yaouk Creek
    Distance note 25.8 km from Tantangara Dam Elevation 1,062 m
    Coordinates 35° 49' 58.2" S, 148° 48' 17.3" E
    Alum Creek
    Distance note 63.2 km from Tantangara Dam Elevation 905 m
    Coordinates 36° 0' 34.8" S, 148° 56' 32.3" E

    The gorge has consistent grade 2 to 3 sections with some approaching grade 4 with at least one compulsory portage. See Waterways Guide for details.

  • 177.8 km

    Binjura (Cooma)

    Distance between locations 113.1 km Elevation 735 m
    Coordinates 36° 10' 13.3" S, 149° 5' 28.2" E Date Mittagang Rd Bridge
    Population 6,742 Supermarket(s) Climate
    Gauge: Mittagang Cross, BOM; WaterNSW
    Flow: no flow: 0.10 m, recommended: above 0.47 m

    Cooma is 5.2 km SES along Mittagang Rd.

    Mixed farmland and gorges lead you down to the capital. The gorge has some class 2 to 4 sections and portages are likely.

    See Waterways Guide for details, noting the guide for this section of the river is broken up into multiple legs.

    Numeralla River
    Distance note 17.4 km from Binjura Elevation 705 m
    Coordinates 36° 4' 3.0" S, 149° 9' 7.9" E
    Bredbo River
    Distance note 31.2 km from Binjura Elevation 696 m
    Coordinates 35° 57' 36.8" S, 149° 7' 55.3" E

    The small town of Bredbo (pop. 350) is ~1.5 km away.

    Gudgenby River
    Distance note 90.8 km from Binjura Elevation 570 m
    Coordinates 35° 31' 14.6" S, 149° 4' 34.8" E
  • 307 km

    Canberra (Cotter Dam)

    Distance between locations 129.2 km Elevation 460 m
    Coordinates 35° 19' 26.7" S, 148° 57' 1.1" E
    Population 395,000 Climate
    Measured at Cotter Ck confluence that is just before the bridge
    Gauge: Halls, WaterNSW
    Flow: no flow: -0.06 m, recommended: above 1.15 m

    Cotter Dam is about due west of the city centre but the early Point Hut Crossing is likely the closest that you will get to shops as you paddle by.

    The satellite images suggest this next leg will be the most technical of the upper sections with a possible difficult portage around Burrinjuck Dam. Doing some research online using the Waterways Guide confirmed this.

    Below Burrinjuck Dam is a 7 km section of class 3 to 4 rapids that ease as the river flattens out as you head towards Jugiong. It is best to do this section with a river height of 1.3-1.7 m.

    Please refer to the Waterways Guide site for details about these sections.

    Point Hut Crossing
    Elevation 555 m
    Coordinates 35° 27' 7.6" S, 149° 4' 26.0" E
    Supermarket(s)

    There is a large shopping centre 2.3 km walk from the bridge.

    Point Hut Crossing is 22.7 km upstream from Cotter Road Bridge and ~100 km downstream from Binjura.

    Molonglo River
    Distance note 13.1 km from Cotter Ck Elevation 435 m
    Coordinates 35° 14' 30.2" S, 148° 58' 4.9" E
    Yass & Goodradigbee Rivers
    Distance note 86.8 km from Cotter Ck Elevation 345 m
    Coordinates 34° 55' 23.4" S, 148° 43' 56.6" E

    Both rivers flow directly into Lake Burrinjuck.

    Burrinjuck Dam (1,028 GL)
    Distance note 107.1 km from Cotter Ck Elevation 365 m
    Coordinates 35° 0' 10.3" S, 148° 35' 1.5" E

    This is a heritage-listed major gated concrete-walled gravity hydro-electric dam that is 93 m high.

  • 472.7 km

    Jugiong

    Distance between locations 165.7 km Elevation 239 m
    Coordinates 34° 49' 30.2" S, 148° 19' 55.6" E Date Bundarbo Rd Bridge
    Population 220

    Jugiong is a very small country town with a hotel and petrol station.

Lower Sections

The main section of the river. This starts off in the lower inland slopes of the Great Dividing Range but is mostly on the flat expansive alluvial plains of the Riverina that provides fertile agricultural land for many farms. As the river meets the Murray, you are at the boundary of the Riverina and the arid far western areas of NSW.

The average time it takes for water to flow down the Murrumbidgee from Jugiong to the River Murray confluence is approximately 25 days, or 45 km per day.

Key Waypoints

  • 0 km(472.7 km)

    Jugiong

    Elevation 239 m
    Coordinates 34° 49' 30.2" S, 148° 19' 55.6" E

    There is a singular grade 1/2 rapid otherwise this section should be fast flowing flat water where the main concern is tree strainers on the outside banks, although a strong swirl in the outside of the right bend 2km from Gundagai was noted on Waterways Guide.

    Jugiong Creek
    Distance note 3.9 km upstream from Jugiong Elevation 242 m
    Coordinates 34° 49' 41.0" S, 148° 22' 14.6" E
    Tumat River
    Distance note 46.2 km from Jugiong Elevation 217 m
    Coordinates 35° 1' 17.0" S, 148° 10' 51.7" E

    This will likely significantly increase the flow of the river from here.

  • 67.3 km(540 km)

    Gundagai

    Distance between locations 67.3 km Elevation 209 m
    Coordinates 35° 4' 6.2" S, 148° 5' 42.5" E Date Hume Hwy Bridge
    Population 1,900 Supermarket(s) Climate
    Gauge: Gundagai, BOM; WaterNSW
    Flood: minor: 6.1 m, moderate: 7.6 m, major: 8.5 m
    Flow: no flow: 0 m, recommended: above 0.5 m

    According to the SMH, Gundagai is the iconic Australian country town.

    The river flattens out now and the main concerns are snags in low flows or strainers when the river is in flood.

    Adelong Creek
    Distance note 7.1 km from Gundagai Elevation 206 m
    Coordinates 35° 6' 13.3" S, 148° 2' 9.9" E
    Billabong Creek
    Distance note 35.8 km from Gundagai Elevation 195 m
    Coordinates 35° 3' 48.1" S, 147° 50' 12.4" E
    Hillas Creek
    Distance note 45.3 km from Gundagai Elevation 193 m
    Coordinates 35° 5' 33.5" S, 147° 46' 42.4" E
    Tarcutta Creek
    Distance note 82.7 km from Gundagai Elevation 181 m
    Coordinates 35° 8' 25.0" S, 147° 35' 57.6" E
    Kyeamba Creek
    Distance note 98.9 km from Gundagai Elevation 175 m
    Coordinates 35° 6' 47.8" S, 147° 28' 51.1" E
  • 189.6 km(662 km)

    Wagga Wagga

    Distance between locations 122.3 km Elevation 171 m
    Coordinates 35° 5' 59.0" S, 147° 22' 4.4" E Date Hampden Ave Bridge
    Population 56,000 Supermarket(s) Climate
    Gauge: Wagga Wagga, BOM; WaterNSW
    Flood: minor: 7.3 m, moderate: 9 m, major: 9.6 m
    Flow: no flow: 0 m, recommended: above 0.3 m

    Wagga Wagga is one of NSW largest inland cities.

    Houlaghans Creek
    Distance note 19.6 km from Wagga Wagga Elevation 168 m
    Coordinates 35° 4' 46.4" S, 147° 17' 45.8" E

    This creek appears to be usually dry from aerial photographs seen.

    Beavers Creek outflow
    Distance note 47.2 km from Wagga Wagga Elevation 164 m
    Coordinates 35° 3' 47.3" S, 147° 8' 7.0" E
    Berembed Weir (3 GL) outflow
    Distance note 145.4 km from Wagga Wagga Elevation 151 m
    Coordinates 34° 52' 45.8" S, 146° 50' 12.1" E
    Old Man Creek outflow
    Distance note 167 km from Wagga Wagga Elevation 145 m
    Coordinates 34° 48' 57.9" S, 146° 43' 47.9" E
  • 388.3 km(861 km)

    Narrandera

    Distance between locations 198.7 km Elevation 139 m
    Coordinates 34° 45' 20.8" S, 146° 32' 53.7" E Date Newell Hwy Bridge
    Population 3,750 Climate
    Gauge: Narrandera, BOM; WaterNSW
    Flood: minor: 6.7 m, moderate: 7.3 m, major: 8.2 m
    Flow: no flow: 0.65 m, recommended: above 1.0 m

    Narrandera is a river town with a rich heritage. It stands on the land of the Wiradjuri nation and was once home to the Nharrangura Clan. There is a Coles and Mitre 10 in town.

    Yanco Creek outflow
    Distance note 18.8 km from Narrandera Elevation 137 m
    Coordinates 34° 42' 28.2" S, 146° 25' 36.8" E

    Yanco Creek is one of the main distributaries that channels water off to the Murray River, albeit this is now controlled artificially by a system of weirs. The Yanco Weir is another 2.4 km downstream.

    Yanco Weir
    Distance note 21.2 km from Narrandera Elevation 135 m
    Coordinates 34° 42' 12.2" S, 146° 25' 1.2" E
    Gauge: Yanco Weir (Downstream), BOM; WaterNSW

    Note that there is still 12.6 km of river before the Euroly Rd Bridge that leads to Yanco.

  • 425.3 km(898 km)

    Yanco

    Distance between locations 37 km Elevation 132 m
    Coordinates 34° 38' 19.6" S, 146° 22' 25.8" E Date Euroly Rd Bridge
    Population 500 General Store Climate

    Yanco is a small country town with a small general store that is 6.2 km north of the river.

    Coleambally Main Canal outflow
    Distance note 11.3 km from Yanco Elevation 132 m
    Coordinates 34° 37' 44.5" S, 146° 17' 2.3" E
    Sturt Canal outflow
    Distance note 14.9 km from Yanco Elevation 132 m
    Coordinates 34° 37' 1.3" S, 146° 15' 38.0" E

    The canal starts 1.6 km down a side arm of the river that branches off 340 m before the weir.

    Gogeldrie Weir (7 GL)
    Distance note 15.2 km from Yanco Elevation 129 m
    Coordinates 34° 36' 59.5" S, 146° 15' 25.9" E
    Gauge: Gogeldrie Storage, BOM; WaterNSW
  • 491.3 km(964 km)

    Darlington Point

    Distance between locations 66 km Elevation 119 m
    Coordinates 34° 34' 1.2" S, 146° 0' 9.9" E Date Bridge St Bridge
    Population 1,000 General Store
    Gauge: Darlington Point, BOM; WaterNSW
    Flood: minor: 5.5 m, moderate: 7 m, major: 7.3 m
    Flow: no flow: -0.5 m, recommended: above 0.7 m

    Small town with a variety of stores

  • 617.9 km(1,091 km)

    Carrathool

    Distance between locations 126.7 km Elevation 98 m
    Coordinates 34° 26' 57.6" S, 145° 25' 2.4" E Date Carrathool Rd Bridge
    Population 300
    Gauge: Carrathool, WaterNSW
    Flow: no flow: -0.6 m, recommended: above 0.1 m

    Carrathool is a small village 5.2 km north of the bridge along Carrathool Rd and I am uncertain if you can obtain supplies here so you need to be prepared for a 224 km leg between Darlington Point and Hay.

  • 736.4 km(1,209 km)

    Hay

    Distance between locations 118.5 km Elevation 87 m
    Coordinates 34° 30' 58.3" S, 144° 50' 32.4" E Date Cobb Hwy Bridge
    Population 1,900 Supermarket(s) Climate

    Foodworks and IGA in town.

    Hay Weir (13 GL)
    Distance note 23.2 km from Hay Elevation 80 m
    Coordinates 34° 31' 29.1" S, 144° 42' 47.1" E
    Gauge: Hay Weir (Downstream), BOM; WaterNSW
    Flood: minor: 7.7 m, moderate: 8.7 m, major: 9.2 m
    Flow: no flow: 1 m, recommended: above 1.78 m
    Uara Creek outflow
    Distance note 69.1 km from Hay Elevation 73 m
    Coordinates 34° 32' 20.4" S, 144° 25' 37.7" E

    Could this be a possible shortcut if water is very high? There seems to be only a marginal reduction in distance with high snag potential.

  • 841.3 km(1,314 km)

    Maude

    Distance between locations 104.9 km Elevation 70 m
    Coordinates 34° 28' 39.8" S, 144° 18' 3.3" E Date Maude Rd Bridge
    Population 160 General Store
    Gauge: Maude Weir (Downstream), BOM; WaterNSW
    Flow: no flow: 0 m, recommended: above 0.5 m
    Maude Weir (5 GL)
    Distance note 350 m upstream of Maude Elevation 72 m
    Coordinates 34° 28' 34.5" S, 144° 18' 15.1" E
    Lachlan River
    Distance note 67.3 km from Maude Elevation 67 m
    Coordinates 34° 21' 17.9" S, 143° 57' 1.9" E

    Rarely flows outside of very high flow periods.

    North Redbank Channel outflow
    Distance note 99.9 km from Maude Elevation 67 m
    Coordinates 34° 22' 32.6" S, 143° 47' 3.0" E

    This irrigation channel feeds the inland lakes of Pitarpunga and Tin Tin just to name two. In high floods, these will spill over and feed water back into the river via the usually dry Waldaira Creek.

    The channel is 450 m above Redbank Weir.

    Redbank Weir (5 GL)
    Distance note 100.3 km from Maude Elevation 66 m
    Coordinates 34° 22' 43.0" S, 143° 46' 59.6" E
    Gauge: Redbank Weir (Downstream), BOM; WaterNSW
    Flow: no flow: -0.48 m, recommended: above 0.1 m
    Uara Creek
    Distance note 166 km from Maude Elevation 58 m
    Coordinates 34° 38' 27.2" S, 143° 36' 51.5" E

    Uara Creek rejoins after separating out 143.4 km upstream.

  • 1,039.3 km(1,512 km)

    Balranald

    Distance between locations 198 km Elevation 58 m
    Coordinates 34° 38' 47.3" S, 143° 33' 56.6" E Date Sturt Hwy Bridge
    Population 1,200 Supermarket(s) Climate

    Sitting on the edge of the Riverina, Balranald is a fairly remote, semi-desert area bordering the arid far west areas of NSW. An IGA in town.

    Balranald Weir
    Distance note 17.1 km from Balranald Elevation 56 m
    Coordinates 34° 39' 54.7" S, 143° 29' 34.5" E
    Population 130
    Gauge: Balranald Weir (Downstream), BOM; WaterNSW
    Flood: minor: 6.7 m, moderate: 6.9 m, major: 7.1 m
    Flow: no flow: 0.03 m, recommended: above 0.43 m
  • 1,143.1 km(1,616 km)

    Murray River

    Distance between locations 103.9 km Elevation 50 m
    Coordinates 34° 43' 43.9" S, 143° 13' 9.0" E

    Refer to the Murray River guide if you intend to keep paddling down towards SA, though the first two towns that you could take out from are noted below.

    Boundary Bend (VIC)
    Distance note 14.6 km from the confluence Elevation 50 m
    Coordinates 34° 42' 52.5" S, 143° 8' 50.8" E
    Population 130 General Store

    You could organise a ride from the town or even maybe the rest area on Murray Valley Highway, VIC (B400) that is only 9.2 km downstream from the confluence if you are struggling with tired arms!

    Robinvale (VIC) / Euston (NSW)
    Distance note 107.6 km from the confluence Elevation 48 m
    Coordinates 34° 43' 3.8" S, 143° 9' 54.1" E
    Population 4,100 Supermarket(s)

    This final section will likely add 2 or 3 days to your trip if you aim for these towns with the faster flowing waters of the Murray River.

    There is an IGA in Robinvale which is the largest of the two towns.