Brisbane River Canoe Trail

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.

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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.

Sue in Dreamcatcher

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!

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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.

There’s Something About Mary…

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.

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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.

long pool

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.