Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Day 19: 812 to 750 km to the sea: Beach Campsite - Lock 9 - Ned'sStation.

Day 19: Thursday 6/12

Beach Campsite - Lock 9 - Ned's Station
River markers: 812 to 750 km from the sea.
Distance travelled today: 62 km. 
Total distance travelled: 962 km

Day 19: Dawn: Camp between Mildura and Ned's Corner.

Day 19: River landscape downstream of Wentworth.

Day 19: Watching sheep.

Day 19: Stately old tree.

In stark contrast to the strong winds of yesterday I had perfect paddling conditions today. The sun shone in a blue sky and there was just the gentlest of breezes, perfect to keep cool. The strong sun would help my solar panel recharge my reserve battery too. They don't like cloud. 

I investigated a cutting in the first five kilometres, but it was blocked by about thirty metres of bank. The time it would take me to drag my heavy boat over was not worth the effort, or risk of injury, so I spun around and retraced my track through the tepid water. I enjoy investigating these little side tracks, even if they are blocked. There is something Amazonian about them. They teem with life. This one was so full of algae that when I paddled through it I left a track of bubbles. In following these on the way out I could be sure that I would not hit any hidden snags. Back in the main stream, I completed the extra four kilometres. One consolation was that I got to see a tributary of the Murray which I otherwise would have missed, called the Ana Branch (literally). The Ana Branch left the Darling 500 kilometres upstream. In times of flood a strong flow would come down these waters, today none was detectable, but its wide river bed commanded respect.

There are more Fisherman's huts on the river than I have seen so far. Some are simple lean-to's that have little more than a roof, four walls and a door, which must be unbelievably hot in summer. Some were communal, more gathering places than huts, with a roof shading collections of tables, a sink which drained onto the soil and simple light systems. Others were real little homes, with wire fenced gardens and water tanks on stands. One had a tin chimney, it reminded me of the huts that mountain cattlemen built in the high country for shelter during mustering times. Some were still in use. A hut set in behind the wreck of the paddle steamer Sapphire had two neatly moored boats. Others seemed abandoned. It was tempting to pull in and investigate.

Day 19: Fisherman's Shack. Communal version.
Day 19: Wreck of the Emerald barge downstream of Wentworth.

There were few of the red cliffs which had been a feature of the past few days, with only the occasional sandhill providing relief from the clay banks. It is about 70 kilometres from Lock 10 in Wentworth to Lock 9. This meant that the river was pooling. The closer you are to the next weir, the higher the water is and the lower the banks. Usually, there would also be no current, but with a good flow coming down the Darling, the current was running at between 1 and 2 km an hour. It may not seem like much, however it means that when I stop paddling instead of sitting still, I continue floating past the bank. It also lifts my speed. Every kilometre faster means an hour less on the water to cover the same distance in a day. Water birds love the high water levels. It floods the old billabongs and gives them safe breeding places. Fish breed amongst the water plants that thrive in the warm shallow waters of the billabongs too - so there is plenty to eat. Black swans and pelicans are my favorite larger water birds and today I did not go wanting. 
Day 19: River landscape downstream of Wentworth.

Day 19: Entrance to Lock 9.

I reached Lock 9 at about 1 pm and was lucky to be let straight through. I was lucky to get through at all, as the gates had been removed as part of a maintenance  program and had only just been put back in. John took me through the paces, chatting all the time, as is the custom. He informed me that the flow was 18,000 mega litres per day. This was 1,000 less than at Wentworth. The missing water would have been sent down Frenchman's Creek which is used to take water to Lake Victoria. Lake Victoria is South Australia's only water reserve on the Murray River. Although it is in New South Wales, there is an agreement between the two states. Just upstream of the weir was a large pumping station which diverts water to Lake Cullulleraine in Victoria for the same reason. It has a working steam engine which runs the original pump on special occasions. 

I rested under some young gum trees on a beach that had been roughened up by cattle. It wasn't very comfortable but it was out of the sun and this is a pull factor when you are out in it all day. I lay down and looked up through the leaves and became aware that they were full of pardalotes. Pardalotes are a tiny bird that usually lives high in the canopy. They are extraordinarily hard to see because they are shaped like leaves, almost have the same colour as gum leaves and fly from one leaf to another as if they were a falling leaf. They flit from leaf to leaf gleaning whatever insects may be there. They are the bird version of the the fish that clean the teeth of sharks on the Great Barrier Reef - the trees must love them. I watched these for some time, before dozing off. Awakening a short while later, I found one in a branch not 50 cm from me. An alarm call summoned most of them to an adjacent group of trees. The ones that stayed were a different species. Both spotted and striated pardalotes were feeding in the same trees in competition with one another. Drifting off again, I opened my eyes to find 5 young emus advancing for a look at me. You could tell they were a bit nervous because they would move their bodies forward and then their heads would follow. They would then strain for a really good look, before venturing even closer.

Day 19: Moorna Station. 48 km downstream of Wentworth.

I was taken by how relaxed the wildlife was, how seemingly unafraid they were of humans. Maureen Wright in her River Charts described the area between lock 9 and 8 as peaceful tranquility. Given that her last chart was drawn in 2001, it has been like this for some time. Reading ahead, I found that I was travelling through land managed by Ned's Corner, a station named after its one time shepherd, who used to gather the sheep in a bend in the river before taking them to market. The river acted as a fence and Ned only had to guard the bottleneck into the promontory. Today Ned's Corner is a Trust for Nature property. It is managed to maintain the diversity of local species by keeping their environment intact. The trust maintains the woodshed, stockyards and station as an example of how things were done in the time that this was a functioning station. Trust for nature employs local people, as well as resident caretakers. As far as I was concerned I had never paddled past such a beautiful and varied natural landscape. I saw many groups of emus, most with chicks and lots of kangaroos. The emus were not in a hurry to get away as they usually are and the kangaroos watched me, their wide ears focused, but were usually too lazy and comfortable to get up.

Whilst i took some time out to rest in the shade - away from the midday sun - a group of young emus decided that it would be time to have a look at me.

Day 19: River landscape near Ned's Corner Station.
Day 19: River landscape near Snake Island.

Evening was approaching and my tired body was telling me that it was time for camp and dinner. With no beaches around and a lot of mud, I found a spot where I could get out on some river red gum roots and dragged the boat up the bank. Using it as a seat I prepared dinner and then set up the tent. Can you imagine how nice it is to lie down after a full day of kayaking? 

Campsite near Snake Island. All of the banks were steep,
so I had to climb tree roots and drag my boat up over these as well.

Day 19: Snake Island campsite in the late afternoon light.

More from this expedition:

  • Google+  Murray River Paddle Echuca To The Sea Photo Album
  • Facebook Murray River Paddle
  • YouTube Murray River Paddle

More information about topics from this page:
  1. Trust for Nature: Ned’s Corner Station
  2. Barry and Maureen Wright's River Murray Charts
  3. Wentworth Shire Council: Moorna Station
  4. Wikipedia: MilduraWentworthList of crossings on the MurrayThe Darling River
  5. Discover the Murray:  Murray River Lochs, Dams and Barrages
  6. Murray Darling Basin Authority: Loch 9, Lake Victoria
  7. Environment Victoria: The Living Murray 
  8. Visit Mildura: Lake Cullulleraine.
  9. Ecology of Floodplain Lakes and Billabongs Lake Cullulleraine.
  10. Geology: Murray Valley Geography (A geological timeline of the development of the Murray).
  11. Victorian Geology: Tectonic Framework of the Lower Murray. (from Red Cliffs).
  12. ABC Mildura swan Hill: News and Community Events

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