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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.
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.
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 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2kNZM3sVMg
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
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
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’!
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
Finally we reached Bunroy creek and the cars.
It had been a great paddle and is certainly one of my favourite of all
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
Check out the trips on the Indi –
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’.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 –
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
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.
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 –
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
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
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.
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 –
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
To see it for yourself –
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
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
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.
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.
When I asked Brendan about eating some food he replied, “We’re wearing shorts, do you think we thought about food!”
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
For footage of the paddle –
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.