There has been quite a lot of hype in recent times of the newly constructed Brisbane Valley Rail Trail, and with good reason. This trail provides hikers, cyclists and horse riders the opportunity to explore the countryside of the Brisbane Valley on a purpose-built trail that is low impact and safe for non-motorised travel.
What a lot of people may not be aware about is that there is an alternate trail in the Brisbane Valley that offers some of the most spectacular scenery that SE Queensland has to offer. And it’s completely free to use!
The Brisbane River Canoe Trail winds its way through the Brisbane Valley from the Spillway Common at the base of Wivenhoe Dam to Kholo Bridge crossing some 52km downstream. Like its Rail Trail cousin, the Canoe Trail traverses farmland, forests, picturesque rural settings and country towns. It offers a variety of conditions from long wide pools with very little flow, to challenging sections of Grade 1 rapids and old log jams to negotiate.
Most paddlers of reasonable proficiency will be able to travel the entire 52km length without concern provided good paddling practices are followed. If you’re unsure, paddle with a group of more experienced paddlers the first time to get a feel for what to expect.
The river is suited to all styles of paddling craft from Stand-up Paddle Boards to Canoes and Kayaks. As a general rule avoid craft in excess of 16 foot as some of the tighter sections will prove difficult to negotiate.
There are numerous launch sites along the river and they offer the opportunity to experience different sections as a shorter journey or gain access to the easy to paddle sections for novice paddlers.
The following is a brief guide to the various sections and the launch sites at each end.
Spillway to Lowood Bend (7km):
Access is from the carpark located near the spillway lookout. The river is accessed via a track leading down a quite steep ramp and then a gravel track to the launch site. It’s about 200m and highly recommended that a cart is used to carry your paddle craft.
This section of the river contains a number of small rapids at the beginning and log jam about half way along. The log jam is well cleared now but still requires some care to negotiate. The section ends at a series of easy grade 1 rapid at Lowood Bend. They are easy to navigate and add a touch of fun to the end of the paddle.
A very scenic section of the river with a few interesting sections to keep you on your toes! Next access / egress point is Lowood Bend.
Lowood Bend to Twin Bridges (6km):
This section is ideal for novice paddlers
Access is either above or below the last set of rapids at Lowood Bend. There is a bush track down to the river which can be accessed by a 2WD vehicle with reasonable clearance. The point in points are not very large but quite easy to access. It will be necessary to move cars away from access points once paddle craft have been unloaded.
This section of the river is stunning! It is a wide slow-moving pool which runs for approximately 6km down to Twin Bridges. Lined on both sides by Bottlebrush and large Gums, it is not unusual to sea eagles, cormorants and kingfishers. With a bit of luck, you may even spy a lungfish in this section.
Note: this section can also be done launching from Twin Bridges and doing a 12km return trip to Lowood Bend and back.
Twin Bridges to Savages Crossing (5km):
The access at Twin Bridges is one of the better points on the river. The gravelly bank beside the low bridge on Wivenhoe Pocket road is a popular local swimming spot and an easy launching point for paddling craft. Parking is plentiful and relatively secure.
As stated above it is possible to launch from here and paddle upriver to Lowood with relative ease. Paddling down river will take you under the high bridge on the Brisbane Valley way and around the back of Fernvale towards the over local swimming spot at Savages Crossing.
This section of river is categorised by small faster moving riffles and some deep pools. It is a good spot for quiet early morning paddlers to spot a Platypus if they’re lucky. The river does pick up pace at the end, so be sure to make your way to the bank as you approach the landing site
Savages Crossing to Burtons Bridge (12km):
The access at Savages is similar to Twin Bridges and easy to park and gain access to the water.
This is a very pretty section of the river and signs of human habitation are few and far between. It does however contain some sections of high grade 1 rapids which must be negotiated with care. Be aware of sweeping bends with fast moving water which can cause a boat to be swept into a bank or under a tree.
Burtons Bridge to Kholo Bridge (22km):
The access at Burtons Bridge is quite good with a rough track leading down to almost the waters edge. What used to be a very pretty spot has become tainted with large amounts of rubbish being dumped and people squatting under the Bridge. This is NOT a good spot to leave a car and I recommend seeking a drop off to do this section as break ins are on the rise.
The section of river from Burtons to Kholo is without a doubt the jewel of paddling in SEQ! It seems that something new lies around every corner as you paddle down the river. It really is a mix of all the previous sections with challenging higher grade 1 rapids and large slow-moving pools. You will likely see a variety of bird and fish life and with luck a shy Platypus!
This is a long section of the river and can take up to 6 hours to navigate. Several of the small gravelly riffles may require boats to be walked through to avoid damage to the hulls on low water. On high water care must be taken to avoid getting trapped under low hanging tree branches.
The reward is definitely worth the risk and this section of the river is a must-do for all keen river paddlers!
Note: near to the egress point at Kholo is a large long pool on the left side of the river. This is a dead end! Take the right fork of faster flowing water and follow it around to the Kholo bridge.
Egress from the river is at Kholo bridge. This access point is relatively easy to get out of the water and cars can be brought close to the river’s edge. It is a popular fishing spot so may be busy at times.
This is the last access and egress point on the upper Brisbane River. It is not possible to paddle from here to Colleges Crossing due to the Mount Crosby Weir.
For more information about paddling the Upper Brisbane River or for hire of canoes please contact Dan from One Tree Canoe Company on 0424 00 1646. Our factory is based on the section of river between Twin Bridges and Lowood and we offer pick up and drop off services locally.