If you’re like many thousands of people in Australia this year, you may be considering getting into canoe or kayak paddling for the first time. And why not? It’s a great way to experience our beautiful water ways, is fantastic exercise and is suitable for people from 6 to 96 years old (well usually somewhere in the middle there). Whether you’re a loner, a family or a group of friends, paddling can offer something special that few other recreational activities can, and like most other activities is greatly enhanced if you choose the right gear.
To help you make a good investment and allow you to have a great experience out on the water, here are a few tips for buying your first canoe. I’m aiming this article at choosing a canoe, as that is where most of my experience lies, but most of the points will apply equally well to choosing your first kayak.
First off, you really need to think about where you’re going to be doing most of your time paddling. Anyone who has bought a one size fits all shirt, knows that one size DOES NOT fit all! By that I mean decide what 80% of your journeys will look like. Will it just be you or with your family? Will you be fishing, sightseeing or camping? Will you be paddling down rivers or across lakes? Having a clear vision in your mind of the typical makeup of your paddling trip will go a long way to helping you decide what canoe is going to fit your needs best. Some of the most important things to consider are number of passengers, type of waterway, distance to be paddled, carrying capacity required and other activities undertaken whilst paddling.
Sure, there will be exceptions to the norm, and they can be factored into your selection criteria, but defining the most common use is what you need to do first. If you have absolutely no idea where your paddling journey will take you, its probably a good idea to hire or borrow a canoe for your first few outings and see what takes your fancy.
Once you’ve got a handle on what you want to use your canoe for, its then important to understand how the different design characteristics of a canoe affect its performance and ultimately deliver a boat that is fit for your purpose. Afterall, there’s no point buying a 4wd if you’re never going to go off road… A little bit of basic understanding of hull shape and fit out will go a long way to helping you buy the right canoe.
Sure, canoes do tend to look all alike. There are however a few basic features of a canoe hull that you need to be aware of and consider in your new purchase. I’m going to exclude length and width of the canoe from this list as boats of similar physical size can have widely different performance. We will discuss those in the next section. The things I tend to look at are the shape of the hull bottom and sides, the shape and style of the ends at bow and stern and the amount of rocker (curve) along the keel of the canoe. Let me explain in a little more detail.
Hull Shape of a canoe affects its stability on the water. The flatter the bottom of the hull is, the more stable it will feel whilst sitting still on flat water. The more round the hull the more it will feel unstable whilst sitting still. This is known as primary stability. The flip side of that is when the canoe is exposed to choppy water from waves or boat wash. In this case a rounder hull will tend to be less affected by the waves and will feel more stable than a canoe with a flat bottom. As a consequence, most designers opt for a shallow curve in their hull bottom to allow for a range of water conditions. In addition, some canoe designs will have a generous curve in the hull where it passes from the bottom to the side and the side will have a small amount of flare outwards to increase the resistance to overturning in choppy conditions. This is known as secondary stability. The decision for you to make is, do you want a boat that will feel very stable in flat undemanding water or do you want a boat that will feel initially unstable but will have a tendency to resist overturning in chop or boat wash?
The shape of the canoe ends has an effect on a number of factors including manoeuvrability, stability and drag of the hull (how well it cuts through the water). A fuller more rounded end of a canoe will tend to offer more stability, a bit more carrying capacity and better turning ability, but will suffer from increased drag and create more wash. A more slender end will offer slightly reduced carrying capacity and will sit in the water a little deeper, but will track better and offer less drag to the paddlers. Beginner paddlers will appreciate the stability of a fuller end but may be frustrated by its tendency to wander about and not hold a straight line.
Rocker, or curve along the keel of your canoe, affects its manoeuvrability. Canoes with a pronounced curve have less of their ends in the water and therefore resist turning, whilst canoes with flat straight keels, very little rocker, tend to track very straight but are harder to turn. The intended use of your canoe will determine your choice. A canoe for running down rivers and making tight turns will need a good deal more rocker than a canoe used for long straight runs on a lake.
So, with a basic understanding of the effects of hull shape on your canoe, you can now consider the physical size of your craft. As a general rule with any paddle or rowing craft, longer is usually better. Longer boats tend to track (stay on course) better, have better stability, increased carrying capacity, and have a higher top cruising speed than a shorter boat of a similar style. Wherever possible I encourage people to buy as long a canoe as is practical for their use. The down side of choosing a long canoe is reduced manoeuvrability and increased overall boat weight. Some people may also have limitations placed upon them by their car and storage space at home to what length of craft they can accommodate. Common sense ultimately will be your best guide, a fisherman dragging his canoe down steep banks into twisty back waters will always err towards a shorter lighter canoe, whilst a family of 4 doing overnight trips on open water will lean towards a long lake cruiser.
Width of the canoe doesn’t play as much a factor in the decision process as you would think. Most designers of recreational craft will select a waterline width that gives good stability without overly increasing drag and ultimately performance. Generally speaking if you want increased carrying capacity, get a longer canoe. A quick read of the intended purpose of a craft will give some clue to its stability i.e. a canoe described as a fast lake cruiser, is probably not going to be ideal for a family with small children or a fisherman wanting to stand and cast.
In summary choose longer canoes for increased speed, carrying capacity and tracking and choose a shorter boat for increased manoeuvrability and ease of handling off the water.
The final consideration is fit-out and construction of your new canoe. What is your boat made of and what accessories are fitted to it? The old argument that arises here is fibreglass verses plastic, a topic I have covered previously. My advice to people is unless you are intending to run down some serious white-water, fibreglass is better. Fibreglass is lighter, more abrasion resistant and easier to repair than plastic. Plastic is generally cheaper and has very good impact resistance but you suffer every time you have to lift the canoe onto your car! If you can afford it, get a fibreglass canoe. Your kids will still be using it in 30 years time!
The other main consideration with your new canoe is seating. How many seats, what style of seating and what configuration? Unless someone tells me they are a confirmed hermit, and will never paddle with a friend or loved one, I advise them to buy a 2 seater. The reason being is that most 2-seater canoes can still be paddled very comfortably as a solo. The usual way this is done is to sit yourself in the bow (front) seat and paddle the canoe facing towards the stern. This seating position is closer to the centre of the canoe and gives better trim and control of the canoe when paddled alone. To do this a bench or flat style of seat must be installed to allow for a sitting position in either direction. If additional seats are required in a canoe for extra passengers or paddlers, I usually recommend that people buy a removeable centre seat (or seats). Removeable seats allow a 2-seater to be loaded with gear on camping trips or when put in place give a dry perch for family members or friends. Starting with a standard 2 seat configuration is the best way to ensure you have a versatile boat suitable for a wide range of uses.
So now you’re ready, or at least a little more informed, I hope. There is a lot to consider if to want to make a purchase that is going to last you or your family a long time (paddling does have that effect on people). To be on the safe side, it is best to speak to someone who is an experienced paddler, or to try a few different boats out before you buy. Most retailers have a demo or hire fleet available for customers to get a feel for their new craft prior to making a purchase. I highly recommend you take that opportunity.
If you need any more information about selecting a new canoe or other paddle craft, or want to arrange to hire a canoe, please give Dan a call from One Tree Canoe Company on 0424 00 1646 or visit our website www.onetreecanoe.com. Happy Paddling
Anyone who is an enthusiast, no matter what the pursuit, has a bucket list. A list of absolute ‘must-do’ activities that have to be experienced before you die. High on my personal bucket list was the mighty Clarence River. I have now in part ticked that one off my list!
The Clarence is according to size and volume of water flow the second largest river system South of the Tropic of Capricorn. It flows from the Border ranges near Tooloom and empties some 395km later into the Pacific Ocean near Yamba. Along its journey South and East it collects water from 24 major tributaries including notably the Nymboida, Mann, Orara and Timbarra Rivers. It flows through country as diverse as rocky gorges and mountain ranges near its source to wide open flood plains dotted with farmlands at its mouth. It was the section below the rugged mountains of its junction with the Mann River that interested us and is the topic of this article.
When setting out on any journey through territory not previously experienced, it’s important to do good research in advance and make an achievable and manageable travel plan. Fortunately for our group there is a very detailed canoe trail map series published by the Clarence Valley Council and NSW Department of Lands (www.myclarencevalley.com) which provides maps, launch sites, camping and river conditions for 195km of the Clarence, Mann and Nymboida rivers. Our plan was to do a 2 day, 50 km downriver trip on the Clarence river from The Gorge campsite to Copmanhurst (sections 7 and 8 of the Canoe Trail Map Kit). This section involved traversing river conditions varying from wide slow-moving pools, class 1 shallow gravel riffles and some class 2 rapids. What more could you ask for?
We planned to break our journey with an overnight stay ay Lilydale Bridge campsite which means we had to carry enough gear to camp overnight and be completely self sufficient for 2 days on the water. Selection of paddle craft for this trip was very important. We needed a boat that was capable of carrying (in our case) gear for 2 people, manoeuvrable enough to handle class 1 and 2 rapids but also efficient enough to move at a reasonable pace along the long wide pools between rapids. We choose a 15-foot canoe for the trip, with the other guys paddling 13 foot sit inside plastic kayaks. We found both choices to have pros and cons, but on the whole good solid performers. So, with plan, gear and boats chosen, we set off on our adventure.
Our launch site was the popular camp site, The Gorge, located on the river just below the Clarence Gorge. To say the country side in this area was spectacular was very much selling it short. The drive into the campsite showed rocky tree lined ridges strewn with granite boulders that would make a diesel locomotive blush. It turned out to be a very an accurate preview of what we would experience on the water later that day.
Our leg for the day was a 30km run through some of the most spectacular country Australia has to offer. From putting in at The Gorge homestead we wove our way through crystal clear water dotted with huge outcrops of granite. The banks were lined with gums and bottlebrush trees and varied from gently rolling green hills to rugged cliffs. It truly was living up to our expectations.
The river was at first relatively easy to negotiate with a clear path between the large outcrops of grey rock and as we progressed further down stream and the frequency of these outcroppings increased it became more challenging. This was exacerbated by the low water levels on the river from the recent drought. This was particularly noticeable as we entered into the sections above Gordon Brook which contained a series of class 1 and class 2 rapids. The lower water levels meant that often a path through the boulders was not clear or contained insufficient water to clear the rocks on the river bed. We found ourselves having to line the boats through sections that would normally have been navigable. Whilst this did add some delay to the journey it certainly didn’t take anything away from the shear beauty of the river or the excitement of running a remote body of moving water. There were plenty of opportunities to have a laugh as one of the other boats in the group would suddenly lurch up after running up on a submerged rock the size of a council bus! The clear water made it hard to judge whether they were 2 inches or 2 feet below the surface.
The latter part of the day found us entering into flatter terrain typified by large slow-moving pools separated by shallow gravel riffles. Again, here the low water meant we were unable to travel over the rocky bottom without exiting the boat and dragging it for a few metres before re-entering and carrying on. The last section before Lilydale Bridge frustratingly saw an increase in these shallow gravel runs and meant we didn’t reach the campsite until just on dark.
Lilydale Bridge is a free campsite located right beside the bridge and along the bank of the river. It has flushing toilets and, in the section where we pitched put camp, plenty of shade from trees along the bank. It was quite busy being school holidays, however we had no trouble finding a quiet spot right on the river bank to hang our hammocks for the night.
The second leg of our journey was an easy 20 km run from Lilydale to Copmanhurst. The river here was similar to the last stage of the previous days paddle, and we found ourselves more regularly stretching out and getting the boats up to a good pace on the wide deep sections. As with the previous day the scenery did not disappoint and we saw an abundance of birds, turtles and fish. The clarity of the water made turtle spotting one of our favourite pursuits on this trip, and there were certainly plenty to spot!
This section is an easy class 1 paddle and would suit novice paddlers wanting to experience a longer down river paddle on moving water. The only thing to really watch out for are the series of railway iron posts in the river bend immediately before arriving at Copmanhurst. These are fairly easily avoided if you are aware they are there.
We arrived into Copmanhurst at 1.30 that afternoon after a relaxing day on the water and set off to retrieve our drop off car from The Gorge. By 5pm that afternoon we were back in the caravan park unpacking gear, enjoying a refreshing beverage and discussing which section of the river we would tackle next.
Based on our experience of these sections we most certainly will be tackling the other 6 sections of the Clarence Valley Canoe Trail. It is at this point that I need to stress that our party consisted of 4 experienced paddlers who had previously paddled on moving water. Some sections of the Canoe Trail are deemed suitable for experienced paddlers only and should be treated with respect. The river can be very unforgiving and is often in very remote areas where help could be many hours away. The preparation required is definitely worth the effort as the reward is paddling on some of the most pristine waterways in our country. For inexperienced paddlers there are a number of guide services running on the river which offer the opportunity to experience various sections in a controlled environment. I recommend you add this amazing river to your own personal bucket list! For more information about this trip and other similar locations feel free to contact One Tree Canoe Company at www.onetreecanoe.com.
Without a doubt kayak fishing has become one of Australia’s rapid growth activities. More and more amateur anglers are hitting the water in an array of craft from cheap plastic sit-on kayaks to top end composite offshore fishing kayaks, fishing in waters from narrow freshwater creeks to open lakes and oceans. It’s not surprise really; paddle craft offer anglers a low-cost and hassle-free method to get off the river bank or ocean shore and onto the water. They are generally speaking lighter and easier to manage by yourself than a tinnie and can in some instances get into places they can’t.
The one style of paddle craft that is seemingly overlooked in the fishing world is the humble canoe, despite its long history as a traditional fishing craft. This to me seems a shame as it truly is a versatile and very capable fishing platform with a lot of very positive attributes. So, in the interests of defending the canoes honour, I shall outline what I think are the 5 best things about fishing from a canoe.
A word of warning however, canoes like most paddle craft, have their limitations. Unless very experienced, I do not recommend taking a canoe out on open water when there’s a strong wind warning or chance of a large swell. Canoes being an open topped boat can become swamped in heavy conditions providing you with an unwelcome dunking. Most modern canoes will have buoyancy fitted to prevent them sinking completely but you could still be up from an uncomfortable swim back to shore.
On rivers, lakes and sheltered bays, it is hard to beat a canoe as a comfortable and versatile fishing platform. So, when you’re next in the market for a new fishing platform, give the humble canoe a thought. It might be the right craft to chase those elusive big ones in your secret spot! If you want to know more about fishing from canoes and fitout options give Dan a call from One Tree Canoe Company at www.onetreecanoe.com. Happy Paddling 😊
It’s no secret to anyone who has known me for more than 30 seconds that I’m a huge fan of canoes. The primary reason for this is their incredible versatility; their ability for one simple craft to be able to fulfil so many perform tasks. One of my personal favourites, aside from paddling of course, is canoe sailing.
Canoes having a relatively stable and efficient hull lend themselves very nicely to sailing. Whilst not as capable as a dinghy of withstanding an overturning force, with the correct rig they make a fun and effective sailing boat. You’re never going to win an America’s Cup, but you can sure have a great day out on the water when you fit a sailing rig to your canoe! Having said that, canoe sail racing is quite a big sport in the UK, particularly around the Lakes District.
The rig that I choose for my canoes is called a Lug Sail rig. It’s an older design that was developed for fishing and coastal sailors around the 17th century. It’s ease of use and good performance to windward have made it a design that has seen continued use even racing dinghies today. The main reason I use it on my canoes is that it has less overturning force than a lot of modern rigs, so you’re less likely to take a swim 😊.
When fitted to my 14-foot canoe, I’m able to get up to speeds of around 5 knots (9km/h) which is certainly faster than I can paddle at for any length of time. I have taken it out in breezes approaching 15 knots, anything more is a little too exciting for comfort!
So, the question begs to be asked, where do you take your canoe if you want to go for a sail?
Whilst there are a number of great options in SEQ, my favourites have to be the dams in the Somerset region on the Brisbane Valley Rivers. Both Lake Wivenhoe and its smaller brother Somerset make excellent locations for sailing any sort of craft, as evidenced by the location of Brisbane Valley Sailing Club at Logan Inlet on Wivenhoe. With good access to the water, plenty of interesting scenery and a consistent breeze during the summer months it makes for a great day out on the water. Average windspeeds for the area tend to be around 10-12km/h in the mornings with a slight increase in the afternoons. Certainly enough to push a small sailing canoe along at a nice pace and not so much that you could spill your drink…
As any sailor will tell you, sailing involves picking a direction to travel in and then going in another direction entirely. Canoe sailing is no different, Mother Nature has a nasty habit of sending a breeze from exactly the direction you’re intending to travel in! With that in mind, sailing locations that have plenty of open space to manoeuvre in are always the best. If all else fails, you always have a paddle…
On Wivenhoe the launch sites at Billies Bay and Logan Inlet offer plenty of open water and a favourable prevailing breeze, whilst on Somerset the Kirkleigh area is best, especially if you head North and away from skiers. For my money, I think it’s had to beat sailing out from Logan Inlet, across and around Pelican Island and then back again. The scenery on this route offers the full range of what Wivenhoe has to offer with glimpses of the D’Aguilar ranges and the many wooded inlets of the southern end of the dam.
As with any water-based activity, make sure you check the weather forecast before heading out. The old saying ‘You can have too much of a good thing’ definitely applies when sailing. Wind speeds between 7 and 15 knots are perfect, especially if they’re coming from behind you on the homeward leg of your trip. Anything more will be a handful for most paddlers and anything less is really just a paddling trip with an annoying sail flopping about in your face! Also make sure you check direction to determine the best route for your trip. Catching a free ride on the end of an extended paddling journey can turn a long slog on open water into a pleasurable run home.
The best part about canoe sailing is how easy it is to do, it doesn’t have to be a professionally made sail kit, any flat surface will catch a tail wind on a paddling trip and provide an easy ride. In fact, anyone with a hiking fly in their shed can jerry rig up a sailing rig for their canoe. For the handier paddlers, building a homemade sail kit is relatively straight forward and there are plenty of photos on the internet for inspiration. Retrofitting to an old or existing canoe is straight forward and can be as simple as lashing a couple of paddles together. It really can be as simple or as complex as you choose to make it, you’re only limited by your creativity
So, if you’re looking for something new to try with your old favourite canoe or for a new way to traverse our inland waterways, I highly recommend you give canoe sailing a go. To find out more about how to fit a sail to your canoe or having one made professionally, give One Tree Canoe Company a call and we’d be delighted to help get you under sail! www.onetreecanoe.com
Often seen as the dated and less sexy cousin of the kayak, canoes had been sadly left standing beside the dance floor when it came to modernising their designs. I say had, because in recent years canoes have seen a resurgence in their use and importantly for paddlers, significant changes in their design and construction. The timeless design and inherent versatility of canoes has always been the secret of their appeal to paddlers, now with improvements to ease of handling on and off the water that appeal should stretch to a much wider audience.
As one would expect the North American manufacturers have lead the way on embracing new technology in both selection of materials of construction and hull design software to improve the shape and performance of their craft. The Australian market whilst initially slow to respond, due largely to smaller demand here, has now seen an increase in demand for high quality imported canoes which in turn has given local manufacturers confidence to embrace similar technology to that being used overseas.
As mentioned above, the focus of improvements to the humble canoe has been around improving handling the craft both on and off the water. Manufacturers have sought to build boats that are light, stable, quick through the water and responsive to paddle strokes. Whilst equally true for kayaks as it is for canoes, the higher demand for their double bladed cousins meant that more improvements have been seen in kayak than canoe offerings.
Whilst no means a comprehensive list, the following are some of the key developments in canoe design and construction over recent years.
Its seems odd for us to hear in Australia, however in the US the market perception is that if you want a lightweight boat you get a canoe – kayaks are seen as the heavier craft. Manufacturers in the US and Canada have spent a lot of money on research into materials and construction methods to reduce the weight of their craft whilst maintaining strength, durability and importantly stiffness.
To understand why, you have to look at the paddling culture in North America and in particular the notion of ‘portaging’ or carrying the canoe. With large tracts of water separated by short overland trails or sections of rapids, paddlers find themselves unloading and carrying their canoes from one waterway to another. Nobody wants to lug a heavy boat overland through wilderness trails, so demand grew for lighter more manageable canoes.
In the 1970’s materials with high strength to weight ratios like Carbon and Kevlar became commercially available to manufacturers of composite products. Canoe manufacturers, traditionally using glass fibre to manufacture their hulls, now had access to materials that allowed them to manufacture strong, stiff and durable hulls with a significant reduction in weight. Technology has continued to develop and now the composite industry has access to a range of materials from polypropylene and nylon based fabrics through to those made from drawn strands of Basalt rock!
Reduced fabric weight combined with low density resins and vacuum bagging / resin infusion manufacturing techniques has seen a dramatic reduction in canoe weight over the years. Great news for tired paddlers hefting their boat back on the roof of their car after a long day on the water.
Back in the days of the Canadian Voyageurs, transporting bundles of furs up fast flowing untamed rivers, large curved ends were important on their canoes to keep paddlers and cargo dry through rough fast-moving water. These were purpose-built boats designed for the local waterways and refined over generations of indigenous paddlers to perform a specific task. Whilst some paddlers still aspire to conquer the mighty rivers of northern Canada, most everyone else is paddling on very different waterways and require different attributes of their boats.
The first composite canoes made were based largely upon the traditional canoe designs of days gone by with some changes made to accommodate the idiosyncrasies of the materials being used. The traditional look often times did not translate well into the new material and a lot of early canoe designs were quite clunky looking beasts.
Aesthetics aside, the large ends required to keep a canoe dry when plunging into a trough in a set of wild rapids was a curse to paddlers moving across open wind swept waterways. Keels with lots of rocker, designed for manoeuvrability on moving water, were a chore to paddle on long straight stretches of water. It was obvious changes needed to be made.
Designers began to experiment with straight bow and stern stems to increase waterline length and it’s resulting increased boat speed. They looked at the effect of more slender profiles on their craft to weigh up reduced drag verses reduced stability. Hull cross sections were developed to improve tracking without adversely affecting manoeuvrability. Most significant of these was the move away from a pronounced keel on canoes to use of shallow vee or shallow arched hulls.
The rise of computer aided drafting packages and analysis software for modelling the attributes of a boat hull in the water has allowed designers to model and revise new designs without the expense of actually making and testing numerous prototypes.
This means that now canoes are being designed to suit a paddlers needs, because as we all know, one size rarely fits all
As materials and hull shapes have developed over the years, fitout of canoes has also come a long way.
New materials and manufacturing techniques have allowed canoe builders to provide their customers with more comfortable and adjustable seating configurations and the ability to configure their canoes for a multitude of uses from sailing to fishing and other outdoor pursuits.
Gunwales and thwarts on modern canoes are selected to allow easy attachment of accessories and other personal touches (some people even fit motors to their canoes!). As most canoe owners will tell you, one of the great appeals of this craft is it’s versatility.
The future certainly looks bright for the faithful canoe. Even though it is one of the oldest designs of watercraft, modern processes and designs have ensured it is as practical and relevant today as it was in the distant past.
Stable predictable hulls and lightweight fittings mean that the humble canoe is a great choice for everyone from young families looking for a day on the water through to couples wanting to get away from it all or seeking a taste of adventure.
If you’re looking for a cost effective and versatile craft to get out on the water, a canoe is well worth looking at. For more information about canoes and new developments in this space, give Dan from One Tree Canoe Company a call on 0424 00 1646 or check out www.onetreecanoe.com
Yes, I’ll admit it I love canoe puns, they never seem to get old for me. Something else that doesn’t get old for me is camping out of a canoe. The attraction very much lies in the simplicity of it. Loading a bunch of gear into a canoe and getting on the water is easier than most people realize, here’s a list of reasons why I think that camping from a canoe is one of the most under rated experiences you can have with your family in the great outdoors.
The first reason is carrying capacity. The misconception most people have about camping from a canoe is that you need a high-tech backpack and ultra-lightweight, space-age camping gear. The perceived effort involved with this seems to stifle the urge to ‘just do it’ in a good many prospective canoe campers.
Unlike a kayak paddler or hiker, the canoe paddler is not obsessed with every kilogram going into their pack. Most 2-person canoes have a carrying capacity in excess of 300 kilograms which means that even with 2 burly blokes paddling you still have room for 100kg of gear! Gone is the worry of purchasing ultra-light tents and camp gear, or for that matter having to carry freeze dried foodstuffs. The canoe camper has the capacity to carry ample provisions, camp chairs, standard tents and even a few cold beverages.
Which leads to the second reason, cost. Not having to purchase expensive light weight gear significantly reduces the cost of camp gear. Most people have a basic camp setup stored somewhere in their back room. A canoe’s larger carrying capacity is usually more than adequate to carry the average setup, plus the cargo area in the centre of a canoe is like the tray of a Ute. The only limit is your imagination!
In addition, canoes themselves are quite inexpensive when compared to other expedition watercraft. An average canoe suitable for camping will cost between $1500 – $2000, compared to an equivalent kayak which range from $2,000 and upwards. Note here I said suitable for camping. A 10-foot SOT kayak is not really going to cut it for multiday camping trips.
Carrying a canoe is also a simple matter. The best way to carry a canoe is upside down on standard roof bars, riding on its gunwales. No need for expensive cradles or tie downs and able to have gear stowed up inside the hull if you’re short of space.
The third reason is simplicity. That canoe design has remained largely unchanged for thousands of years is no big surprise. The secret to their effectiveness lies in their simplicity of design. An open top boat with enough beam to carry large loads and remain stable but with sleek enough lines to be powered easily by 1 or 2 paddlers (or more, if you consider the famous voyageur canoes of Canada). What this delivers to modern day paddlers wanting to get away from it all is a craft that is easy to paddle, can carry heaps of gear, is easy to load and unload, and is robust and most importantly versatile. What more could you want?
The last and perhaps most compelling reason is location. We are blessed in SE Queensland with a range of wonderful waterways with campgrounds located along their banks. A few of my favourites are listed below.
Ngumbi Campsite on Wyaralong Dam. Access to the campsite is via hiking, cycling, horseback riding or paddling. The paddle trip is an easy 6km journey from the boat ramp near the dam wall with camping available either in the old homestead or surrounding grounds located on top of the ridge. Great stop-off point if you’re doing a through paddle to Lilydale camp at the other end of the dam.
Upper Brisbane River (Spillway to Kholo). The navigable length of the upper Brisbane River is 56km with numerous campsites along the way (some by prior arrangement with landholders). The river lends itself very nicely to down stream canoe journeys and there is even a local shuttle service available for shorter durations.
Noosa Everglades. Queensland National Parks have done an amazing job of preserving this pristine wilderness and converting it into one of the premier paddling destinations in the world. Extensive camping sites are available from Fig Tree Point, at the start of the everglades, Harry’s Hut and through to the campsite 15, located some 40km upstream. With the exception of Harry’s, all of these sites are hike in or paddle in only!
Wivenhoe Dam. Whilst different from the others in that access to the campground can be had from motorised vehicles, Wivenhoe has the potential to offer a great canoe camping experience. Our suggested journey would be from Harmon Cove through to Captain Logan’s, camping the night there. The second day’s journey would then be from Captain Logan’s across to Billies Bay. Alternatively, the option could be to camp at the grounds at Captain Logan’s and do day trips from there. Either is awesome!
Other notable mentions are Bribie Passage, Mary River and if you fancy venturing south of the border: the Clarence and Nymboida Rivers.
Just remember, the only thing more enjoyable than camping in a canoe is camping with a whole bunch of canoes. So bring your friends! If you require any more information about camping from canoes and destinations in SEQ, give Dan a call from One Tree Canoe Company on 0424 00 1646 or check out http://www.onetreecanoe.com .
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 54km 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 (9km):
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.
In the late 1800’s the Mary River, then called the Wide Bay River, was an important northern port and point of entry into the then colony of New South Wales. It’s fertile banks and consistent water supply grew a thriving dairy and cropping industry and fostered a gold rush in Gympie until the early 1900’s.
The Mary is unusual for a river in Queensland. Unlike most everywhere else, the Mary flows in a northerly direction, from its head waters in the Conondale ranges to its mouth in the Sandy Straights near Maryborough. It was the focal point of a bitter protest, that gained international attention in the 90’s, to prevent a Dam being built at Traveston Crossing and continues to be an important preservation zone for some of Australia’s most endangered turtle, fish and frog species.
The Mary Valley region, particularly the upper reach, has continued to grow and diversify over the years and has now become a major tourist destination in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. The river itself is a major draw card for those who love the outdoors. As it passes through the hills and gorges of Conondale and Kenilworth it provides stunning views of long deep pools surrounded by tree lined cliffs and sandy banks perfect for diving into for a swim. It constantly changes from long slow-moving sections to fast moving narrow twisty runs, that will provide a bit of excitement for paddlers travelling down the river. You never know what you will find around the next bend!
And that’s why the Mary River is one of my favourite paddling destinations. What the Mary offers better than most other locations in Queensland is a trail. A trail offers a challenge and some excitement on a paddling journey. A trail gives a traveller a sense of purpose, a one-way journey through new country with new things to experience around each bend in the river. It’s this sense of anticipation that make down river trips so exciting. The opportunity to spend 2 or 3 days on the river, paddling downstream and camping on the river bank at night. It’s like a Mark Twain book come to life!
Gympie Regional Council have recognised the potential of water based trails and commissioned a study in 2015 to investigate the potential of establishing water trails on the Mary River and its tributaries. In their study they have identified a range of water trails in the region to suit paddler capabilities from novice to advanced over distances ranging from 2km to almost 150km.
The plan outlines a series of project stages to introduce regular river access points along with the necessary infrastructure at each, including all weather roads, picnic shelters and launching ramps. To date council have installed 6 new launch sites in the region with 3 on the Mary River along the town reach section of Gympie and a further 3 in the townships of Imbil and Kadanga. Plans are also well underway to have improved access points installed at Moy Pocket and Walker Road bridges opening up one of the most scenic and ecologically diverse sections of the river.
With increased access to the river comes increased risk of damage being done to the delicate ecosystem. I asked the Gympie Council what we as users could do to ensure the long-term sustainability of this project. Their answer was a timely reminder of the responsibility we all have to protecting our natural environment.
“Our waterways are unique, diverse and incredibly ecologically significant, and we want others to love them as much as we do. It will be very important for users to take an active role in caring for the environment they are paddling in, including taking rubbish with them, staying in the river, protecting our native species and their habitat and being safe.”
Whilst many of the proposed water trails may take some time to be formalised, the good news is that most of the stretches of river nominated are already able to be paddled on in an ad-hoc basis. Here are a few of my personal recommendations for great day paddles onthe southern section of the Mary River.
Moy Pocket to Walker Road (11.5km): This section of the Mary River is stunning! Clear, deep pools over looked by sandstone cliffs with native timber interspersed with twisty quick flowing gravelly runs. A short and reasonable challenging section of the river that should present no problems to paddlers with a bit of experience. Walkers Road Bridge is not a great access point and has limited parking, it may be ok to leave a car for a shuttle back to departure point. Return trips on this section are not advisable. Another option is to carry on to Vic Olsen Bridge.
Walker Road to Vic Olsen Bridge (15.4km): Similar to Moy Pocket section, this is slightly longer and with similar conditions. Allow adequate time to portage canoes and kayaks through the gravelly shallow sections on low water. As mentioned above, Walker Road is not a great spot to park multiple cars, arrangements should be made to car shuttle. Return trips on this section are not advisable. Another stunning section of the river!
Vic Olsen Bridge to Traveston Crossing (22.2km): A longer section but somewhat easier as sections between shallows are tending to be longer and deeper. Will suit experienced paddlers as 22km is a long way to paddle in a day. Access points at Vic Olsen and Traveston are good and have been established, if informally, for quite some time. As with the upstream sections of the river, allow time to portage canoes and kayaks through shallow sections at times of low water.
Traveston Crossing to Carlson Road and Return (14.6km): An easy section of the river to paddle without having to organise a car shuttle. Traveston Crossing is a good place to leave a car and the access to the water is easy. The river is wider in this section and as a consequence the current is not too strong for the return journey. Still a pretty section of the river with opportunities to see lungfish and turtles as you paddle along.
The Mary is a seasonal river and as such river levels should be checked prior to departing on any section. Low water will mean a lot of carrying or dragging boats through shallow sections, which are often frustratingly, just too shallow to paddle through.
The reward however is great! There are few rivers in Queensland that provide the opportunity for an extended trip through such pristine countryside. The Mary offers an abundance of wildlife in and around the river that can’t be seen in many other places, and there is still an untamed element to the upper reaches that will excite the adventure buffs.
So, don’t delay! Grab a canoe, kayak or SUP board and get out onto the Mary River today. Because there really is something about Mary..
For further information on the Mary River and the Canoe and Kayak trails you can contact the Gympie Regional Council website www.gympie.qld.gov.au or call Natureline’s Showroom team for advice on this and other destinations on 0424 00 1646.