Acheron paddle, near Buxton, Vic

This sunday gone, a mate and I paddled a section of the Acheron that goes from just south of Buxton to about 7km north, right alongside the Cathedral ranges in Victoria. We paddled the section outlined in the “Paddle Southeastern Australia - Vic and Murray” book The book is a good one for someone who has no idea where to paddle and includes camp spots, kind of limited beta on river conditions and some nice photos.

The weather was absolutely awesome. I left my house near Melbourne and the skies were grey and there was some heavy rain around, but as soon as we got over the Black Spur just past Healesville the skies cleared and it was blue skies and no wind for the rest of the day.

We drove to the take out point, got on our bikes and rode the 8km or so back to the start. The Cathedrals were looking magnificent, and there was a vintage car show on in Healesville, so the traffic going past was at least a little more interesting than an average Sunday on the Maroondah.

The put in is at Dyes Rd, about 200m before you get to the general store in Buxton. The Acheron here is about 6 or so metres wide, easily the narrowest river I had been on, and it was snagged pretty badly. The first kilometre stays like this until it meets the Stephenson, and just (50m or so) before the confluence you hit the best little rapid of the day. I have no idea what grade it is, but its a bit of a horseshoe shaped drop, about 1.5m wide and maybe 60cm deep, it felt tight in there, anyway… it gave Rob and I something to think about. Its the first rapid we’ve ever scouted and probably the most technical bit of water I’ve been on. We got through it well, and Rob took a nice vid that I will link to here if he puts it up somewhere.

After the confluence the river more than doubled in width and was less snagged. The rapids were pretty frequent for 30mins or so, and included a section of nice easy broken water that was an obvious downhill, which might sound stupid, but I’d never been on water and felt like I was going down a slope before. After this section there is a pedestrian bridge that has a drop of about 75cm right underneath it, which is a lot of fun. If I was going to go back again, I’d get out at this first bridge. As it was, we were probably less than half way finished with the paddle. Up to this point we’d probably portaged 10 trees, and gone under and through some trees and branches that were ultra low and nose skimming when laid right back in the boat. It was all a lot of fun and the portage to rapid ratio was quite acceptable.

From the first bridge, the river narrows again and gets more and more and MORE choked. I’m not sure, but I’d say the we took out another 20 to 30 times in the next 90 mins of travel, and dodgied our way through maybe 10 or so other trees that were line-ball stay in or get out scenraios. It was nice to think that the rafts were getting through were other craft would have been definite take outs, but still, but the time the sun was going down and we were still trudging along, portaging every couple of minutes, it became more of an epic than a paddle. We even came across two barbed wire fences that spanned the whole river, just above the water level. These were particularly great in low light. We ended up getting out a little after 5:30pm, had to jump a combined barbed wire and electric fence to get to the road and packed up in the dark. It was a great time!

I think we learned a lot about reading rivers and not getting too deep into technical sections without having a firm idea of where to get out or stop if things get a bit too fast paced. We became a lot better (if not expert) at portaging fallen trees, and we often just pulled up to them, climbed on, dragged the boats across and jumped back in. Learning how to jump back into the boats from different positions was also useful. I tore my seat back again. The thigh straps were good for making quick direction changes when paddling among and around branches of fallen trees, though I dont think they really gave me any better tracking in a straight line, or at least I couldnt perceive it if they did. I like having em in there though.

Here’s a pic of the ride to the start

and at the put in (i forgot to take my camera so there are no in raft pics… boo!)

Good to hear you guys are getting out there! I remember doing this section in a kayak a couple years ago (12 months after balck saturday). Waterlevel was high but was very slow going due to all the fallen logs in the river as a result of the fires. So slow going infact we bailed 1/3 of the way through and headed in for a Buxton Burger!
I just bought a packraft and am very new to packrafting (I jhave been kayaking and rafting for a while though). Keen to get out on some class 2 to get my packrafting skills up. Give me a shout or send me an email next time you are heading out. Would love to join! markfowler(at)netspace(dot)net(dot)au 0422360043


Fun paddle, though as mentioned only the first 1/3 is worth it in its current state, plus most of the rapids are in this part of the river.

By the time we got out of the river it was about 6.30 and like the river Buxton Burgers was choked up with a 45 minute wait on burgers!

Hey Mark, great to hear there is another PR in Melb. Will definitely get in contact next time we head out. Planning an overnighter somewhere if anyone has any good suggestions? I am keen on the upper part of the Thompson in Baw Baw NP.

Would be super keen on the top of the thommo. Maybe some of the tributaries that run into the thomson or tribs of the mitchell (got my eyes on the wongungarra when my skills are up to it). Please do let me know when you next go out. Email is best contact. ATM really only keen on class 2 - 2+ trips till my skills are up to bigger and better stuff