Paddling Australia’s mighty Murray River.


The following  is an account of a  kayaking trip done by my  hiking friend , kayaker and intrepid traveller, Bernhard Weitkuhn….  a 49 day expedition down Australia’s Murray River from the Snowy Mountains to the Southern Ocean. This was  an impressive feat of endurance…. solo and unsupported.  Here is Bernhard’s report:

Text and photos by Bernhard Weitkuhn
Bernard celebrating the half way mark on his Murray River journey.
Photo: B.Weitkuhn: Bernhard celebrating the half way mark on his Murray River journey.

2400 kilometres , one million strokes and 49 days

 After one million paddle strokes, 2400 kilometres and 49 days of continuous paddling, usually 8 hours a day I arrived at the Murray River mouth on 28th of April at 9.30 am. I was lucky with the weather crossing the Lake Alexandrina. It has a reputation of getting very choppy in any kind of wind as it is very shallow and big.
Map: Glenn Burns
Map: Glenn Burns


Bernhard’s Photo Gallery:

I had a wonderful time doing this trip and although it was at times quite hard and lonely I am really glad I decided to do it. Living in Australia it has given me a lot of insight of how Australia must have been when the early explorers discovered the Murray and the country. Of course a big part of the river is built up now, but there are lots of stretches where you could think you are the first person to be there.

A quiet reach in Murray Sunset National Park
Photo: B. Weitkuhn: A quiet reach in Murray Sunset National Park
The weather:

The weather was  kind to me. Until the last week I had only one full day of rain and one wet morning. There were  strong winds much of the time, especially during that last week where the Murray does not wind as much. There are long straight stretches towards the west where the wind funnels along and builds up a steep chop. At the notorious Pellaring Reach even Captain Sturt waited for better weather. It was too rough even for him apparently. Well, I did not want any rest days so I kept going on, but at times was actually pushed backwards and had to take shelter in the reeds and willows.


The scenery along the Murray does not change like on our bushwalks. The banks on both sides were mainly  river red gums.

River Red Gums
Photo: B. Weitkuhn: River Red Gums

On the upper Murray after leaving from Corryong you can see a few distant hills. Later I did not see any until I came into South Australia where there are also the colourful cliffs lining the Murray River.

Cliffs on the Murray River
Photo: B. Weitkuhn: Cliffs on the lower Murray River
Because I had a good full river I was having a better view sitting high, and I could see over the embankments most of the time. That was important to find a suitable campsite.
Bernard's first campsite on the upper Murray
Photo: B. Weitkuhn: First campsite on the upper Murray
Birdlife was prolific, especially waterbirds. I also saw eagles and other raptors,  kingfishers and other small birds as well as emus.
Other wildlife was a bit disappointing. I only met some kangaroos, a few white-tailed water rats, one brown snake and one platypus as well as turtles and one seal. Then, of course, I encountered the ones I didn’t want to see, like rabbits, foxes and feral pigs.
White-tailed water rat
White-tailed water rat
Duck hunters !!!
There were few other day paddlers and one couple who did it for a week.  Caravan parks right next to the river were the exception,  so it was mainly camping wild along the river.
Caravan Park on the river
Photo: B. Weitkuhn: Caravan Park on the  banks of the Murray  River
Sometimes in New South Wales, other times in Victoria. I tried to avoid Victoria because of the duck shooters. I could hear continuous shooting for some days and it worried me. I don’t think I looked like a duck but they might have had bad eyesight.
Paddlesteamer Emmylou
Photo: B. Weitkuhn: Paddlesteamer Emmylou
Fortunately there were no equipment failures or accidents. I never had a bad day feeling unwell. I was bitten at least 50 times by mosquitoes every day, you just can’t avoid it, but I did not pick up any of those fevers.
Now I will have to build my legs up to their old strength and I hope my fellow bushwalkers will have patience with me… ha!
Sunset at journey's end: Lake Alexandrina
Photo: B. Weitkuhn: Sunset at journey’s end: Lake Alexandrina
Bernhard W.

Useful Info:

Website: for info on the Murray River Trail.

E.Gill Rivers of History booklet ABC Radio History.

C.R. Twidale Geomorphology Nelson.

A. Hughes: Australia’s Paddling Hit List A.G.Outdoors Jan-Feb 2010.

A. Gregory Kayaking around Australia .  My kayaking  bible. Well worth buying . Has very detailed information on paddling the Murray River: maps, camping, seasons, access supplies etc.

Charts for the Murray River:

  • Maureen Wright: Renmark to Yarrawonga .
  • K. and L. Bentley: Yarrawonga to Hume Dam.
  • Baker – Reschke: Goolwa to Renmark. 



Australia’s  Murray-Darling Basin

The 2520 kilometre long Murray River forms a natural border between New South Wales and Victoria. It is joined  by many tributaries  including the Darling and Murrumbidgee on its journey from the Australian Alps to the Southern Ocean. The Murray-Darling Basin is the fourth longest river system in the world, exceeded only by the Nile, Amazon and the Mississippi-Missouri systems. In terms of catchment area the Murray-Darling is the sixth largest behind the Amazon, Congo, Mississippi, Yangtze Kiang and the Ganges. But the crucial difference is that the annual discharge is far less than any of the rivers listed. Much of the Murray-Darling  catchment is arid or semi-arid with the average annual rainfall over the whole catchment only 425 mm per annum.

The Murray is an allogenic stream, that is, it rises in the high rainfall Australian Alps and has sufficient discharge to survive passage across extensive semi-arid deserts. In its variability of flow the Murray is typical of most Australia’s inland rivers, experiencing periods of high and low flow but as much of the infrastructure is geared to the usual low flow states any flooding results in significant damage to bridges, buildings, fences and livestock.

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