River height: 1.6m Weeragua, 0.6m Chandlers Creek
Location: East Gippsland Victoria
The genesis of this trip came out of a very cold winter in Canberra with little thought to paddling, rather looking for a spring trip to re-unite the triumphant triumvirate from the Mitta Mitta trip last October. Having done a bit of straight paddling I was keen to but the pack back into pack raft. Basically you can paddle the Cann to the sea and walk to Eden if you liked, but given we were looking at 3 days we figured a slightly shorter walk would suffice and hopefully make for a very varied paddle /walk.
Haydn couldn’t make it (too many surfing options, eh Haydn?) but Matt was keen so we set a date for late July. I’d recently done a walk out to Pantoneys Crown with an old mountaineering mate, Paul, and raised the idea of a trip in Victoria (Paul is one of the original pack raft owners although we had never managed to paddle together) and was surprised when he indicated that he would be keen to do the mega drive along with his paddling mate Dave so we had a party of four.
The intention was to put in at the gauge track and make our way to the sea followed by a walk to Clinton Rocks along the coast, about 40km all up. The fly in the ointment was water levels. Both the old McLaughlin guide and Paddle Australia website used the Weeragua gauge as the measure for the Cann, with heights between .75 and 1.2m being recommended for the trip. They both also talked of solid grade 4 paddling through a lengthy gorge section, above my skill. It sounded portagable but given the Weeragua gauge (the only one visible on the BOM site) had been sitting at 1.6m for a while it sounded like it may be a more walk than paddle trip. I was bamboozled by the gauge as all suggestions were that the river dropped reasonably quickly. Anyway we had a plan as we would be driving past the upper Cann on the way down and Matt was going to check the Genoa on his way from Bega as another option if things looked too high.
As we passed over the upper Cann it looked anything but too high and Matt reported the Genoa as looking similar to a previous trip which he reckoned was on the low side. We decided to head to the put in off the gauge track to have a look. Thankfully there is a nice grade 2 rapid right there and it looked lowish but more than enough for the rafts.
We had a slight miscalculation with the car swap as the road to Clinton Rocks was closed for the winter (note for future trips everyone!) so we decided to park at Tamboon Inlet and deal with a 8km road bash at the end, also useful if we got held up in the gorge section and ran out of time.
Back at the start I was first away and thought I’d paddle the first rapid without the pack and prompting went in. No mind I now had the line and after taking pics of the others jumped back in with pack and promptly went in again. Hmm, wet and with confidence shot I pushed on, at least it was a gorgeous sunny day. The paddling was really good fun, some nice rock gardens interspersed with decent drops of maybe grade 2-3 standard through a nice forested granite valley for a few kms until we reached the Cann Falls, which was a shelf like drop with no real lines at the height we had. We portaged on river left and jumped in just below for a scrubby few hundred metres until the valley opened out into a flat section with nice forest and a few good campsites. We ended up setting up camp later afternoon on one such spot after a total of about 4 hours paddling.
The sun was quickly hidden behind progressively darker clouds as we set off the following morning before reaching the ominous ‘6km grade 4 gorge’ section. The valley narrowed impressively and the rains started as we entered what turned out to be a series of grade 3 standard drops and runs. All easily scoutable and potentially portagable however we were able to run everything. The water levels through this section were good for the bigger drops and rapids but a touch low on other sections, although still enjoyable and paddle able without major issues. It’s a really nice section although it seemed to be over after about half a dozen rapids and about 2km of river. After this the paddling whilst flat was still pleasant although we were all getting pretty cold (except for Matt in his toasty dry suit !) making the lunch stop into a couple of quick snack stops.We ended up pulling up stumps late afternoon at a really sweet little campsite at the head of the Tamboon Inlet, about 5 hours paddling time from the morning camp. Thankfully the rain stopped long enough to get set up and get a raging fire going to warm frozen limbs. All was well with the world.
We awoke on the third day to the sound of rain on the tent fabric and paddled the short distance to Tamboon Inlet, the river widened and the vegetation became more coastal. It was a pretty easy decision to pull up stumps at Tamboon, no one was that keen for a frolic on the beach in the rain on a chilly winters day. A bit of a shame as one of the attractions of the trip was the change in landscape and opportunity to walk the coast here.
The mystery of the gauge was solved when I got back home and checked the heights; miraculously another gauge appeared for Chandlers Creek at about 0.6m. This coincided with the minimum in the McLaughlin guide and concurred with our experience of the water levels on the trip (that being good but about 15cm more would have been even better). This seems to be the gauge to work off although I’ve also included the height at Weeragua for comparison.
Overall a pretty good trip, the Gippsland area, whilst out of the way, has some really nice country and well worth exploring. The paddling is reasonably solid and it’s a pretty isolated area so a sensible assessment of skill level is needed although it is not as continuous as we believed and relatively easy to portage, certainly nice grade 3 but not grade 4 at these levels.
Thanks to the crew who made for a good party and fun times. Attached pics and vids should give an idea of the terrain and rapids