Rafting the Snowy River

McKILLOP’S BRIDGE to BUCHAN – 2 – 5 October 2019
I’d always wanted to raft the Franklin River, but just lately I’d been thinking that maybe I was “past” such a big adventure.  So, when Daniel B proposed a three night/four day white water rafting trip on the Snowy River, it seemed like a safer (softer) option.  Although, once they described how you could fall out and be washed downstream (chin up/feet up!), I was then stressing about falling out! How was I going to manage paddling plus holding onto something so I didn’t fall out at the same time?

13 of us rendezvoused at the headquarters of Snowy River Expeditions at Karoonda Park at Gelantipy, Victoria, (where we stayed the first night),   Most of us took the route down the Barry Way (mostly winding dirt road with precipitous drops off to the side – real Man from Snowy River country). Snowy River Expeditions would be providing all the equipment we would need, along with tents and all meals during the adventure.

We’ve packed all our gear and are ready to go (l-r) Yolanda, Tom, Phoenix, Bill, Heather, David, Melissa, Daniel, Peter, me, Marcia & Garry (Ursula was “somewhere”).

One of our guides, Xavier loading up the raft with gear.

After an hour-long (slightly) hair-raising drive down a narrow dirt road we arrive at McKillop’s Bridge.  The construction of this bridge began in 1931.  At first it wasn’t as high as this but in January 1934, prior to its official opening, a big flood washed the upper section away and the concrete pilons were then raised by roughly 1/3 of the (then) existing height.  Construction was then completed in 1936.

Rafts loaded up, PFD’s and helmets checked and we’re ready to launch.

The first day started with relatively gently paddling, the river wide at this part and flowing through low forested hills.

There were quite a few of these minor rapids (I do confess to having to hold on tight though, very nervous about being thrown out!).  Notice the green of the vegetation, the whole of the Gippsland area was green-as – a big contrast to the areas of NSW that we’d driven through.

When we approached each rapid, our guides sussed out the best “route” noting where difficult rocks would be and avoiding them by getting us to paddle “forward” or “back”.

Initially I was confused when our guide, Jason, would head right for a rock sticking up but then the current beside the rock would spin us in the right direction and we’d avoid bumping it.

We arrived at our campsite (which was half way through the section called the Rock Garden) at around 4.30pm and the guides set up camp, put out “happy hour” nibbles and wine for us, then prepared dinner.  On the first night we had stir fried vegetables and dessert – the catering was exceptional.

We were on the river by 9am – this would be our biggest day with the most rapids – we first had to negotiate ourselves through the second half of the Rock Garden.  At this part, the water was a little low and this raft got caught up on a rock, everyone got out and walked downstream for 20m or so.

Then Jason, Xavier and Glen negotiated the raft beyond the shallow section.

The rapids are getting bigger and bigger – most of them had names like Gentle Anne or George’s Mistake.

Once through a rapid you had to paddle hard to avoid rocks on the bank (or in the middle of the river).

We came to the “A Frame” rapid, a section of the river that wasn’t easy to negotiate when the water was as low as it was on our trip.  Tom and Glen paddled the raft over to the far edge and then put it on its side and negotiated it through the gap.

Xavier and Jason coming out of the gap with the rest of us watching.

The final raft through the gap and we were all able to get back aboard.

By now you can see that the river is a well defined gorge (photo: Garry K Smith)

More of the Gorge.

We arrived at the Gentle Annie rapid and pulled in at a beach for lunch (delicious meat & salad wraps).  We set up a tarp for shade it was the hottest day.

There was much discussion about this rapid, “George’s Mistake 1”, a large double stage rapid with tricky lines – the water was a little low to make it “safe”, so most of us watched from the side as the guides took the rafts through.  At the beginning of the rapid, the raft got “caught up” on a rock and there was much moving around in the raft to release it.

They’re now working hard to get the raft in position so it didn’t slam into a big rock.

More maneuvering and they’re nearly past that rock.

Shortly after was “Gentle Annie”, and then we came to the “Washing Machines”.  Jason had all the rafts pull in on the side and everyone walked down to look at the line.  I decided not to go, I thought if I saw what it was like I might decide to walk around it, better not to know.  Jason then said that anyone who wanted to walk around it could but I thought, what the hell, how bad can it be?

It was REALLY exciting, am so glad I did it.  Here’s Xavier’s raft ready to go over.

This part was really good, heading full-pelt down the rapid.

Then popping out! and you’re still moving pretty quickly in the white water.

We were into camp at 4pm and the guys set up the kitchen (fabulous green grassy campsite) and set to cooking tonight’s dinner (Spaghetti Bolognaise) and plum pudding.

And then they brought out beers! Life doesn’t get much better than that after a hard day on the river.

Next morning it was bacon, scrambled eggs, mushrooms and grilled tomatoes and filtered coffee for the coffee drinkers.

Whilst there were no BIG rapids, there were quite a few medium sized ones.

What it looks like when you’re in the chute.

A shot of the two other rafts.

Interesting geology on the river, note the folds of the rock on the bank, also quite a few karst areas, in fact, we visited a cave on New Guinea Ridge (was significant aboriginal site and had been efficiently gated off to prevent visitation).

Another great lunch.

Our campsite for Day 3, we had camp oven roast lamb with vegetables and dumplings in golden syrup – bravely made without a recipe (well done guys).  Here Jason’s cooking pancakes for breakfast.

Daniel had done this trip before as part of his Outdoor Rec Cert and the guides on that trip had shown him how to “helicopter” a raft.  One (or two) people paddle and one stands at the back holding the nose up, the raft spins around and then flips over, tipping everyone out.

It looked like fun and I joined in to give them more speed, that’s me in the yellow helmet, I had a go at standing up holding the rope too, can’t believe that everyone else didn’t want to join in (lol). Water very mild. (Photo: Garry K Smith)

We were packed up by 9 and on the river for our 15k paddle downstream, a few minor rapids but nothing like days 2 or 3.  We were all pretty much over paddling long stretches of river by the time we reached Buchan and the extraction point.

The park at Buchan, packing up the van and trailer and a great al fresco lunch (and beer).

The guides were excellent, negotiating us through all the rapids, the river level could have been a bit higher, which would have made some of the easy rapids more exciting, but it was high enough that we didn’t need to portage around anything.

The three campsites were huge, so we could spread out and the food was excellent, more than enough for anyone with a big appetite.

This trip was a great introduction to white water rafting for those who hadn’t done it before. We had great weather, and plenty of opportunities to cool off in the river when it got too hot. There were lots of laughs, a couple of “men overboard” and heaps of photos were taken, thanks Daniel for organizing the trip and David for doing most of the driving!

Stats:

  • Distance – approximately 75k
  • The River height at the McKillops Bridge gauge was just under 1m and held steady at that for the four days (.5m is considered low and 1.5m is considered high)
  • Three busted paddles (good thing they had spares)
  • Two “men overboard”, they were pretty efficient getting back into the rafts though
  • Rapid classes – probably I to II, maybe a III but probably not
  • Wildlife:  a couple of platypus sightings, an eel, lots of Wedge Tailed Eagles
  • LOTS of dead animals – hard to know what they were sometimes but there was evidence of feral dogs, deer and pigs

Koala Sightings

Karoonda Park was established in the 1970s as a beef and sheep farm and is now a Hereford stud farm.  At some point they expanded into the outdoor adventure industry.  Somewhere along the way, in another area in Victoria, it was found that the koala population was too large to be supported by the trees in the area, so a few koalas were trapped and relocated to Karoonda where they have flourished.  All we had to do was walk 20m from our Lodge and we were soon koala spotting (12 on the first day and then another 10 on the last day – but possibly the same koalas – lol).  Here are some of my shots!

On a very thin branch eating leaves

Mother and baby

This one didn’t like me watching him, so he walked along this branch

then launched himself so that he could climb up the bigger tree

Mother and baby, the baby was really cute, wandering around then crawling onto the mother’s back.

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5 Responses to Rafting the Snowy River

  1. David says:

    Great trip and great report. I’d do it again!

  2. Jeff says:

    looks like a great trip Ill book in on the next one

  3. Kathy Leslie says:

    Looks like great fun. I rafted on the Karawa River in New Zealand years ago (1984) and the rapids were were pretty intense. I just remember we had to straddle the raft so one leg was in the water all the time! How fun to go for a few days and camp! Especially with someone else preparing the meals!!! Thanks for sharing!

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