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As Lake Eildon dropped to a phenomenal 5% certain thoughts arose: ‘What were the rivers like underneath the lake? What was left from the settlements that were flooded by the current dam?’
I floated the idea of paddling one of the rivers into Eildon. Others showed interest and that angel, Bronwyn, volunteered to do the car shuffle.
The Big River looked the most promising with the greatest gradient and consequently river flow for the greatest distance. Timing was critical - we needed water in the river to paddle but we wanted the lake at the lowest possible level.
June and Lake Eildon was already starting to rise: it was now 8% - time to paddle! Our shuttle angel, Bronwyn, met us at the Jerusalem Creek boat ramp. The fog was so thick we couldn’t see the water and the temperature was freezing. Perhaps this wasn’t such a great idea!
We loaded the boats on to the trailer and headed up to Dudley’s Flat on the Big River. The fog lifted and a beautiful day emerged. We’d got out many a time at Dudley’s Flat but it was strange to be getting in there. We had five paddlers and an array of boats. The trip was at least 20 Km and it was likely that at least half of it would be flat water so I’d recommended the longest boat people could find. I opted for my old downriver racer. Brett had also gone for a long boat, a sea kayak. Adrian had dusted off his old Alpha - an oldie but a goodie. That just left Miriam and Paul in shortish boats, RPMs.
It had been two years since I’d paddled the downriver racer. As I put on the deck one of the seams gave way - not a good start! We headed off, unsure where the river would meet the lake but knew that we would have a reasonable amount of flat water to cover. Also, there was no easy access to the river until we reached Jerusalem Creek, so we were committed.
The rapids were all straightforward. Well straightforward in a RPM. The DR makes the rapids interesting, as does the odd badly placed fallen tree. I’m starting to get envious of Paul and Miriam in the RPMs. Dead trees and sediment line the banks and a brazen fox feeds on a dead wombat on the riverbank.
We stopped for lunch. The valley had started to widen and was covered with dead trees. The banks were littered with old cans and bottles. It didn’t take Paul long to get together a reasonable selection of specimens from decades ago. We were now about half way along our the trip and the river was still flowing but only just. However, the sun was shining so we were happy.
Shortly after lunch the river slowed - we’d reached the lake! The downriver racer suddenly looked decidedly preferable to an RPM. High on the bank there were the remains of Mudford Hut. Not that much to look at but still interesting.
Not far from the hut we came across the old Big River Bridge, which towered above us. The bridge crossed the river near a wide flat were the settlement of Big River was located. Nothing left of the settlement but the bridge and the access roads were still very much in place. We paddled under the ghost bridge.
The flat water spread out and was looking very much like a lake. It was just head down and paddle. The downriver racer roared along, definitely worth the challenge of the rapids. Paul and Miriam weren’t looking quite so happy in the RPMs but slogged it out. Finally the house boats at Jerusalem Creek came into view and then the boat ramp. We’d made it to the end!
This was definitely an interesting trip and well worth the experience. Bad weather would certainly make the lake section of the paddle unpleasant and hard work. Thanks again to Bronwyn for sacrificing her morning to do our car shuffle.