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September 2010 Alpine Rivers Trip

Green and blue were the dominant colours as we drove to Khancoban.   Lush green grass was everywhere and the blue of the water in Hume Weir stretched for miles.   Even the Mitta Mitta arm of the weir was full.   Paul and I gazed in amazement, like children who have never seen the sea before.   Finally as we came over the Towong Gap the last colour, white, came into view.   Snow covered the mountains and augured well for our Alpine Rivers Trip.

We met at Khancoban, our base for the next few days.   Paddlers from far and wide had come for the trip.   Dave and Wayne from Adelaide.   Graham from Canberra and Mark Fowler, Mark Francis (that was confusing), Peter, Emily and Oscar, Paul and me from Victoria.   The first stop was the Khancoban pub for tea.   We managed to order food, although ‘You really should order at the bar’ and then tried for a drink, not so easy.   This we had to do at the bar and the fill in barmaid was doing it hard.   Dave decided that ordering two drinks at a time was the way to go.   The ‘chef’ looked like he was paid in beers, according to Mark Francis, but eventually the food arrived and it wasn’t too bad.


Now for our first paddle, the Swampy Plains River.   Dave decided to rest his bad back and with Emily did the shuttle for us.   The river was on the low side (0.4 at the Waterfall Farm gauge) as we set off from Geehi, Paul, Peter, Mark, Mark, Wayne and me.   The first section is easy grade 1/2, with gravel races and snow capped mountains in the background.   Eventually the gradient increased as we headed into Devil’s Grip Gorge.   The Swampy is an unusual river with crystal clear water flowing through huge granite boulders.

The gorge rapids are great fun but all too soon we were at the portage point for the blockage below.   I’d harboured hopes of being able to paddle a bit closer to the blockage to cut down on the length of the portage.   A close look at the rapid below the portage point revealed multiple pinning points so we decided to portage.   Unfortunately one boat made a bid for freedom and floated down the rapid.   It pinned on one of the ‘multiple pinning points’ on river left, the opposite bank to us.


One group swam across the river to recover the boat while the rest of us portaged the boats.   It wasn’t an easy job as the blackberries were as thick as vines.   Finally we got around the blockage.   Paul kindly helped us all get back into our boats while balanced on a rock.   Unfortunately there was no one to help Paul.   He slipped off the rock into the water and swam, his boat floating on with out him!   It never pays to be the last paddler.

After a quick stop for lunch we paddled the final section to Waterfall Farm.  

Check out our paddle on the Swampy Plains River -

Back to Khancoban and Geoff had arrived from Melbourne.   Paul, unfortunately was heading in the opposite direction, back to Melbourne, after only one day of paddling.   That’s being keen!  

After setting up the car shuttle for the Indi tomorrow, Geoff, Wayne, Dave and I decided to give the Khancoban pub another chance.   The food had been o.k. even if they were a bit slow.   This was a mistake.   There was another different ‘temporary’ barmaid.   Only this one incredible slow and wasn’t getting on with the ‘chef’.   It was one of the slowest meals I’ve ever experienced.   Wayne just about had his head on the table snoring when the food finally arrived.


The next day and the Indi River.   Darren had arrived late in the evening to join the trip.   There would be two trips.   Dave and Wayne were doing Tom Groggin to Grassy Flat and the rest of us were doing Grassy Flat to Bunroy Creek (the Murray Gates Crew).

The Murray Gates Crew had two Indi virgins, Mark Francis and Peter.   The level was great at 1.14 (Bigarra gauge).   We cruised down the first few ks to the start of the big rapids, South African Swim.   After a scout, we all enjoyed the ride down the rapid.   Many rapids followed.   Peter, in particular, was practicing his rolls in the stoppers at the bottom on the rapids.   Unfortunately in the stopper at the bottom of Hole in the Head rapid he was sucked back in and swam.   Mark Francis narrowly missed dropping in on his head.   Perhaps that’s why it’s called ‘Hole in the Head’!

Peter made it to a large rock mid stream while Mark Fowler and I tried to control his boat in the eddy behind the rock.   Unfortunately the boat escaped and ran the long Hermit Creek rapid by itself.   Peter and his boat were finally reunited at the bottom of the rapid.

There was lots of evidence of the recent flood with debris high up in the trees.   At one spot a battered tinny sat perched on top of a rock two metres above the river level.

Finally we reached Bunroy creek and the cars.   It had been a great paddle and is certainly one of my favourite of all time rivers.

Meanwhile on the Tom Groggin section, Dave and Wayne had been enjoying themselves.   With only a low bridge and one rapid requiring portaging they had had a pleasant, relaxing paddle.

Check out the trips on the Indi –

That night Geoff, Graham and I decided to give the ‘food’ establishments in Khancoban a miss and headed to Corryong for tea.   Even though we hadn’t time it for a ‘nite’ (Parma nite, fish nite, roast nite) the food and the service were fine.

Having ‘done’ the rivers around Khancoban it was time to move on.   We headed to Tumut and the Goobarrgandra, known locally as the ‘Goob’.

After settling in at the Tumut caravan park we headed up to Mac’s Crossing on the Goob.   The plan was to paddle the short grade 3/4 section to Rock Flat Reserve and then Wayne and Dave would join us for the grade 2/3 section to the Trout Farm Rapid.

Where there’s a bridge there’s a seal launch.   We launched off the Mac’s Crossing Bridge, upstream so we had enough water to land in.   This section is only 2.5 ks and the guide book said it could take 1 – 4 hours depending on problems encountered.   It was a fun section with 3 or 4 long technical rapids.   It only took us 20 minutes to get to the pretty Rock Flat Reserve picnic area.

Dave and Wayne hadn’t expected us to be so quick and weren’t ready.   Eventually they were set to go and we headed off down the next section.   There was evidence of flooding on this river too with a calf hanging from a tree two metres above the water.

There were some easy rapids until the Chute rapid was encountered.   Mark Francis suggested to Wayne and Dave that they watch his line and then proceeded to dodgem car and hit everything he could.   Dave and Wayne had no problems with the rapid.   There were also a couple of bridges.   One a suspension bridge leading from the start of the Hume and Hovell walk.   The other a very low bridge with little room between water and bridge.   The final rapid was another good rapid and then it was time to pull out at a reserve below the Trout Farm.   The Goob was certainly a good fun river with rapids for everyone.

The next day and two paddling groups.   Dave and Wayne were heading to the picturesque Yarrangobilly River and the rest of us were planning to do an upper section of the Goob, Emu Flat to Mac’s Crossing.

Once more we were at Mac’s Crossing but this time it was to be out get out point.   The road to Emu Flat was described as 4 wheel drive so we’d taken the three 4wheel drives with us.   We headed up the track stopping for the various gates.   After a k or so (O.K. really 3 ks) I realized that we were on the wrong road.   We turned around and headed back towards Mac’s Crossing.  

As we approached Mac’s Crossing Darren could see that we could drive off track down a spur to join up with the road, which is what we did.   We joined the road and headed upstream.   More gates, poddy calves and even some Highland cows.   Only about 3 ks up the road we came to another gate.   Only this one had a big lock and a sign about unauthorised vehicles and surveillance cameras.   We were stuffed!

We managed to find a spot to access to the river and decided to paddle what we could.   There were a couple of challenges.   A large log across the river and a ‘cataract’ type of rapid.   The rapid was made up of an expanse of rock.   The main channel was down the right, over a 1.5 m drop and then down a narrow chute to a tight left hand turn.   Unfortunately there were two logs in the bottom of the rapid, making the right chute too dangerous.   There was a chicken chute line down the left, starting with a drop into a pool and then a bush bash to rejoin the main channel.

Darren showed us how to paddle the top section of the rapid, breaking out before the dangerous chute.   Mark Francis decided to be ‘Joe Cool’ and took it too easy.   He was pushed right and went over the drop too far right.   There was a chorus of ‘Paddle!’ as he attempted to avoid the chute of death.   Even Geoff stopped filming in case he needed to grab Mark’s boat.   To the relief of all of us, and particularly Mark, he made it into the eddy.

We continued down to Mac’s Crossing and then decided to do the extra 2.5 ks to Rock Flat.   Then Mark Fowler ran (O.K. walked) back to Mac’s Crossing to get his car.   Mark, Mark and Darren then set off to pick up the cars from the start.

This time there was no overland route to the river road so they realized that the road where we’d left the cars wasn’t a public road at all but a private road and trespassers would be prosecuted!   They attempted to contact the owners by phone to do the right thing but ended up going to the owner’s house to seek permission.   After apologizing for our earlier indiscretion, they got permission to get the cars and an invitation to be taken up to see the access to the Peak River.

Back together next to the Goob there was discussion on what to do for the afternoon.   The Marks decided to see what was below the Trout Farm Rapid and the rest of us decided to take up the Peak offer.

We drove back to Mac’s Crossing and found that our guide, Ian, wasn’t home yet.   Shirley and four of their five kids, together with the Dalmatian Misty, kept us entertained.   They had owned the property for five years but had only lived there since Christmas.   They had a range of stock, chooks, poddy calves, horses and twenty highland cows.   Power was provided by a hydro system which fascinated Darren.   Ian duly arrived home and took us up to the Peak River.   Access wasn’t easy and the river didn’t look much  but the photos of the waterfalls on Adventure Pro are certainly impressive.   Shirley, Ian and their family were wonderful people and it was great to meet them.

Meanwhile Mark and Mark were having their own adventure.   From the reserve below Trout Farm rapid they had had a look at the river and decided it was O.K.   However then a farmer warned them about the rapids below.   Just in case they went for a walk along the river.   They saw a rapid and through that was the danger the farmed had warned about.   It wasn’t much so they decided to just paddle it!   Not far around the corner was a long nasty, grade 4 rapid, which they portaged!

Check out a compilation of our trips on the Goob –

Meanwhile on the Yarrangabilly River, Dave and Wayne were having their own adventure.     

The Yarrangabilly River certainly lived up to its reputation as one of the prettiest rivers in NSW. Geoff kindly lent us his Subaru for the shuttle which was much appreciated. The enthusiastic ranger at the information centre was interested in the prospect of us paddling the river indicating that it is rarely paddled and pointing out the landmarks to be encountered on the journey. We set off in high spirits (even though the air temperature indicated by the thermometer in Geoff’s car was 3 degrees) from the Yarrangabilly campsite in very shallow water. Thank God for sunshine although it didn’t seem to be warming the river and both of us commented that we couldn’t feel our hands for the first hour. The river in the first section involves negotiating through very sharp rocks and as indicated in the guide book, quite a bit of bouncing off rocks. It was a lot of fun and very scenic but it is understandable that the river is rarely paddled. We were generally able to find a route through what turned out to be almost continuous grade 2 rapids although on a few occasions we got stuck and had to abandon paddles to push ourselves off the rocks with our hands. We had lunch at Yans crossing which is an alternative put in point with the disadvantage of a long walk in. After lunch we entered the gorge lined by magnificent round boulders and inhabited by numerous water monitors. The scenery for the second half of the trip was magnificent as we paddled along in deeper water anticipating the arrival of the reputably unpaddleable cave.

Even though we were expecting it anytime, it appeared quickly after a sweeping bend and Dave wisely sought a friendly eddy when he saw Wayne furiously back paddling. We debated whether to try and paddle the cave as it looked benign particularly as it was lit by a skylight several metres in. Common sense prevailed. We portaged around the left in the channel formed when the river is high. Quite a simple portage except for the blackberries!  On reaching the other side and paddling into the cave from downstream we were confronted by a cave clogged up with a network of logs forming a web across the whole exit.  What seemed benign from upstream turned out to be a death trap!

We continued on downstream, congratulating ourselves for taking the sensible approach and enjoying the scenery as the valley opened out. We chatted to trout fisherman who had used the walking tracks to access this part of the river. We were wondering whether we would recognise the pull out point but the fisherman assured us we were on the right track.

The pull out point was obvious and so we didn’t need to worry as there was a 4 wheel drive track virtually to the water’s edge. We had a quick dip in the hot springs and then started the steep trek back to the car park. The track was steep and had caved in due to the recent rains so the rangers can only access the amenities using a quad bike rather than a 4 wheel drive. Almost at the top we bumped into the ranger who before knocking off for the day had come to check if we had arrived safely. After an hour we arrived at the car after the most strenuous part of the day’s activity.

According to the guide if you can paddle the first rapid at the put in point then the river is navigateable. This turned out to be the case and we would recommend this river based on the scenery as worthwhile grade 2 day paddle.

To view photos from the trip –

Eventually we all met back at the caravan park with tales to tell.   It was then off to the pub for our last meal with Dave and Wayne, as they were heading back to Adelaide the next day.

It was now time to move on from Tumut and to head to the alpine rivers.   The first river was definitely alpine and decidedly cold.   On the alpine meadows near Kiandra with a wind blowing straight off the snow we got onto the Eucumbene River.   The gauge at the bridge showed 0.54, which according to the guide book was a medium level.

The first half of the trip is an easy paddle through the alpine meadow, very picturesque.   The only real rapid in this section is a grade 3 cataract which comes out of nowhere.   The rapid is a long twisty chute which ends in a drop.   I was enjoying the ride until I dropped into the bottom stopper.   Instead of washing out of the stopper it sucked me it.   Despite my best efforts I couldn’t budge.   Finally by holding on to the nose of Darren’s boat and Darren holding on to a rope from Mark Fowler I managed to get out.

Eventually we reached the gorge and the rapids.   In a 3 kilometre section of the gorge the river drops 100 metres, that’s a fair bit of gradient.   The first few rapids were long and very rocky.   We had to do some portaging but generally made it down, working our way over numerous drops.

The rapids reduced in size but continued for several ks until we came out of the gorge and into the lake bed.   The lake itself was some 25 ks away so we paddled along the river in the lake bed to the get out point.   The problem was that we weren’t sure where the get out point was.   We headed to where we thought the cars would be.   We found the picnic ground but no cars.   Fortunately a local camped at the picnic ground, waiting for the trout season to start the next day, was able to assist with directions to where the cars were!

Check out the trip on the Eucumbene River –

From the Eucumbene we drove to Jindabyne, our base for the last part of the trip.   At Jindabyne we met up again with Emily, Peter and Oscar.   Also Brendan had come down from Sydney with his mate Michael, from Queensland, to join us for the last couple of days of paddling.

Brendan had scoffed at staying in cabins and said that they would camp.   However they hadn’t anticipated how cold it would be and asked to share our cabins.   How could we refuse?

Peter updated us on the river levels and the road closures.   The Thredbo River was low, only 0.6 at the Trout Hatchery gauge and the road to Charlotte’s Pass was closed at Spencer’s Creek.   We had intended to paddle the Thredbo River between the Ski Tube and the Trout Hatchery the next day.   I’d paddled it once before and it had been a bit of an epic.   I was keen to see it again.   But the level was too low so we decided to paddle the upper sections instead.

The next day and we headed up to Thredbo village for our first section, Thredbo to Ngario.   This section was about 8 ks long and was steep and narrow.   We decided to split into two groups to make it more manageable.   Peter was back with us so the first group was Peter, Brendan, Michael, Geoff and me.   The second group was Darren, Mark, Mark and Graham.

The start of the section is at the sewage pondage.   You then paddle through the culverts under the bridge.  The guide book says that if there is enough water to paddle through the culverts then there is enough water to paddle the river.

Quickly the river dropped and the rapids began.   The rapids were long, rocky and narrow.   There were lots of fun drops and a few scrapes over rocks.   Peter quickly decided that it wasn’t for him and made the decision to walk out.   The road wasn’t far away horizontally but unfortunately it was about the same distance vertically.

We continued on working our way down the rapids only having to scout one or two.   In the middle of one long rapid Geoff went upside down and seemed to be in some difficulty.   I managed to get my nose to him and he got up holding half of his paddle.   The paddle shaft had snapped and one half was gone.   There was another drop immediately below so Brendan threw Geoff his paddle and paddled the drop with his hands.   Below the rapid we regrouped and assessed the situation.

Geoff’s paddle was now completely gone.   He’d let go of the half he had when Brendan threw him the paddle.   Also he’d cut his hand on the broken paddle shaft.   The road wasn’t far away but was about 100 metres vertically.   We decided to wait for the other group who had the split paddle.   Hopefully Geoff would be able to paddle with his injured hand.

About 20 minutes later the others arrived.   They got the split paddle out and put it together.   It was at this point that Michael noticed something on the other side of the river.   He then pulled a Werner paddle out of the bushes!   The split paddle was quickly put away and we headed off once more.

From there the rapids eased and it was an easy paddle to our get out point at Ngario picnic ground.   Waiting at the picnic ground was Peter and Mark Francis.   Mark had left his helmet behind and had had to miss the paddle while he picked it up.

Check out the paddle on this section of the Thredbo River –
The next section, Ngario to Rutledge’s Hut, upstream of the Ski Tube, was fairly short, about 5 ks and was described as grade 3/4, with a couple of portages.   Geoff, Graham, Peter and I decided to give it a miss and headed to the nearby Wild brumby Distillery for schnapps tasting and afternoon tea.

Darren, Mark, Mark, Brendan and Michael headed off down the river.   From their report it sounds like this wasn’t the best section of the river.   A couple of long portages around nasty rapids made it a less enjoyable section.

To see it for yourself –

Back at Jindabyne we all gathered for a bbq at the caravan park on the banks of the lake.   All, except for Mark Fowler, who had headed home.

Saturday and our last day of paddling.   There was lots of discussion on what river to paddle.   Finally the enthusiasm of Brendan to paddle something decent swayed us to go for Spencer’s Creek to the Snowy River.

We were keen to paddle the section of the Snowy from Charlotte’s Pass to Guthega Pondage but unfortunately the road was closed at Spencer’s Creek.   Darren remembered that you could paddle down Spencer’s Creek to join the Snowy and then on to the pondage.   We decided to give it a go.

Geoff was taking his injured hand skiing but the rest of us, Darren, Mark, Graham, Brendan, Michael and me, were up for the challenge.   We drove up the Charlotte’s Pass road to Spencer’s Creek.   There was lots of snow everywhere but it was surprisingly mild.   We walked along the creek for awhile and it looked paddleable so the consensus was to give it a go.   We then prepared for the conditions including the possibility of a walk out in snow, packing shoes in our boats.   We even managed to find a pair for Michael who only had sandals with him.   This wasn’t surprising seeing he was only wearing shorts, as was Brendan.

Eventually we were off.   The first k or so was fairly flat and we paddled with snow high on the banks.   We even had to portage around a snow bridge that had completely blocked the creek.   The scenery was just spectacular.

Soon the gradient increased and finding a path down the rocky rapids became difficult.   The gradient was about 40 metres per kilometer so it was steep.   We scraped, slid and portaged our way down the creek.   Certainly a bit more water would have been appreciated.

It was pretty slow going and the odd pin didn’t help.   Finally at 3 p.m. we arrived at the junction with the Snowy River.   It was time for a quick lunch.

While a few of us prioritized food, Darren, Brendan and Michael dragged their boats up a snow slope and slid down into the water.   Michael went up the highest and consequently flew a fair way before boofing into the water.   Very impressive!

When I asked Brendan about eating some food he replied, “We’re wearing shorts, do you think we thought about food!”

The level of the Snowy was much better than Spencer’s Creek and we really enjoyed the rapids.   They were fairly continuous and were mainly grade 3 with the occasional 4.   At one point Michael got pinned.   The short play boat was stuck vertically, nose up, with Michael’s head just visible.   Apparently he was mainly worried about losing his paddle.   Once Brendan took care of the paddle, he was able to use both hands to leverage himself out of the spot.

All too soon we reached the slack water of Guthega Pondage.   It was then a matter of paddling to the get out point, near the dam wall.   Unfortunately it was then a bit of a hike up to the cars.   Fortunately Geoff had come looking for us, seeing it was getting on for 5 p.m. and was able to help carry boats up the hill.  

This was certainly a great paddle to finish the Alpine Rivers Trip, spectacular scenery and great rapids.   Next time we’ll have to start at Charlotte’s Pass!

For footage of the paddle –

Back to Jindabyne and Darren is off home.   The rest of us cleaned up the left over bbq from the night before.   The next day we would be heading home in different directions.   Thanks to all for a great week of paddling.