Colo River NSW

Walk down to Colo River via Bob Turners Track, paddle down river to just past Colo Meroo, then walk back to Colo Heights via Cerones Trail

BOM gauge at Upper Colo reading 0.92m, steady
Weather: fine, sunny morning, becoming overcast later

April 10, 2011

First trip in my new Alpacka Llama. Left the car at the end of the firetrail section of Bob Turners Track, then a pleasant walk down to the river. Took just over an hour and arrived at 8.15am. Sunlight just catching the tops of the trees on the opposite bank, and a slight mist rising off the water. Inflated the boat and got going. First impressions? Two things were a nice surprise. First, the comfort – it’s like being in a big, springy armchair. Second, the speed – much better than I’d anticipated, almost as good as my sit-on-top kayak (even allowing for the flow of the river, which is very gentle in the deep pools on this section of the Colo).

Water was beautifully clear. Even when the river was 2-plus metres deep I could see lots of details on the bottom. Very pleasant paddling for 45 minutes, looking at the forested hills and listening to the birdsong, until the first set of rapids. They looked a bit obstructed at the bottom so I decided to portage. Riverbank, it turned out, was full of evil looking spiders sitting in webs like mozzie nets; but this at least was better than picking my way over wet boulders, which was pretty hazardous in my cheap neoprene boots (I put socks over the top, which made it a bit better, but still not good enough. Can anyone recommend a boot with a good grippy sole and some ankle support?). At least it was a short portage, about 50m. After another 45 minutes reached another set of rapids, and shortly afterwards the third and final rapids on the route; these were also short, and I portaged them too.

About 5km into the paddle, shortly before the river does a hairpin turn and swings north, there’s a lovely section where it narrows and hugs a cliff-face, with great views of a high ridge – Mailes Ridge – up ahead. The sun was getting pretty hot by this stage so I was glad for the shade I suddenly found myself in.

After you round the hairpin bend the river suddenly becomes much wider and shallower. Until this point I’d encountered only a couple of (very short) sections that were too shallow to paddle. Now, I was finding I had to hop out and pull the boat quite often; nothing too bad though – generally about a dozen paces before I could find water deep enough to float again. Usually I could find slightly deeper water on the outside bends, where the water flows faster. Also, I found that by manoeuvring my body so that my weight was distributed over the tubes, rather than on the floor of the boat, I could squeeze a few more centimetres of draught out of it. (For the record, I weigh about 85kg and had a small pack on the front of the boat) Doing this, I found I could get by in as little as 10cm of water.

Beautiful section of river along here. I found myself drifting along, often not even paddling, listening to the birds and the trees rustling in the wind. I found my boat has a strange habit: as soon as you stop paddling it turns quite quickly around 180 degrees, then it slowly pans back around so you are facing your direction of travel again. At first I thought this would be pretty annoying, but actually I found it strangely pleasing. Made me realise I don’t stop and look back nearly enough when I’m bushwalking. It was like the boat wanted me to take in the view. (Then again, maybe I’m reading too much into it.)

This long, shallow section was punctuated by a couple of shortish deep sections where I could suddenly sit up and get the blades of my paddle working properly. About 10km into the paddle, and nearing the end, the river swings southeast. I was looking out for Colo Meroo campsite on my right here, but saw no sign of it from the river. Another 1.3km on, I reached the end-point of the paddle: just below the firetrail marked on the Mountain Lagoon map as the “Cerones Trail” (I’d marked this spot beforehand on my GPS, and I’m glad I did; there’s not much around here in the way of landmarks). I reached this spot at about 1.30pm, after a leisurely 5-hour paddle.

After packing up it was a short, unpleasant bash through undergrowth, straight up the steep slope, to pick up the Cerones Trail; then an hour-long slog back to the Putty Road, mostly uphill but with a few nice views of the Colo. At the Putty Road I jumped on my bike (which I’d left locked to a post on my way in that morning) and rode back to my car. A great day out.
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Nice work mate! Great little adventure.

Thanks for posting the river height data and conditions too.

Nice work Ross, a few of the Sydney Packrafters are doing that trip now, great report.

I have been wearing Dunlop Volleys with Mirage neoprene surf socks of late, work well for portaging, I can swim in them (when I find my raft up the wrong way…) and they are the best grip around on slippery stuff. They lack serious ankle support but…can’t have everything.

I have found just leaning forward gives me extra buoyancy in the skinny water, I would like to move my seat forward 6 inches or so generally.


Hopefully we’ll see a TR. Any word on how it went Steve? 20mm around the Sydney region on Saturday barely made a dent in the Upper Colo gauge!

Darren, Gus sent me a few pics etc via email, they had a good trip, I’ll try to get him to do a trip report but he is a bit slack. He did say that they thought you were a freak being able to cover the ground in a solid day (it took them 2 solid days) :slight_smile:

Gus is down this way over Easter we are doing an overnighter in Nadgee NP (only flat water/fishing paddle) We may sneak in a day of white water if we can find some.


Thanks Steve, glad to hear they had a good trip. 2 days would definitely be the norm…It was a reasonable push for a day trip that’s for sure. :slight_smile:

Sorry for hijacking the thread Ross. I’d like to try your variation in higher water. (But not too high)

I’ve been thinking about organising a rubbish run from Canoe creek down to Bob Turner’s to pick up all the junk but it may have to wait until spring now.

Thanks for the feedback guys - and for the tip about using neoprene surf socks, I’ll give that a go.

The other Colo trip that you’re talking about, is that the one from Canoe Creek to Bob Turners - the one you did a trip report about recently, Darren? I am planning to do that one this long Easter weekend…allowing myself three days to do it. Any bits of advice would be really welcome


Hi Ross,

Yes, sorry for straying off the path mate, that’s the one in the trip report.(Canoe creek to Bob Turners)
3 days will give you plenty of time to enjoy it. I originally planned for two days but excitement took over and with an early start (8.30ish on the water) I paddled solidly all day.
I may or may not have sent this to you but I’ll throw it up here anyway.

Tom Brennan’s site has some great info to help with the nav side of things. You should be familiar with the take out now and you cant really miss it anyway as Easter brings a few visitors down Bob Turners. You can portage the lot if need be up to 1.5 on the upper Colo gauge but I have no experience above that height.
Looking forward to another trip report when you return.
Cheers Darren.

Oh man, Tom Brennan looks like he’s got titanium testicals.
the guys are doing these rapids on lilos, no helmets and no safety gear!

As packrafters, this should give you a big confidence boost and theres no reason why packrafters should shy away from this then.

Times have changed I guess. Lilo’s were the old packrafts back in the day. Dave Noble and friends were doing extended lilo trips back in the early 70’s that would put us all to shame these days! (Dave has a great site with many pics…Google…)

The world of mollycoddling and litigation has changed our perspective on what’s daring and adventurous. I remember descending rivers on all sorts of contraptions including truck inner tubes folded and tied together with rope, plastic drums encased in pop riveted alloy frames (which broke up on some low grade rapids) lilo’s, canoes and now packraft’s.
All without helmets, PFD’s, wetsuits, drysuits, throwbags and carbon fibre paddles…(let me adjust my hearing aid and grip the walking frame a bit tighter…)

It was never about ego…it’s just the way it was done. Seemed to be about visiting amazing places with whatever made it easier to get there.
There were plenty of times I could have used some of the gear I have now when thinking back to a few close calls. For the most part safety gear is first in the kit bag but a few liters of common sense is always amongst it.

As for Tom and his friends, thumbs up for doing it two days with the lilo’s and paddles. Big effort!

Hi Guys,
Thinking of a trip from Bob Turners to Upper Colo Bridge and after a bit of info. Regarding a bike to get back to the car- any comments on how hilly this is (not too familiar with the area & not the fittest biker about…) Also thinking of the possibility of taking the kids (11 & 9 ish) on this one- looks like the walk in isn’t too far/hard and only 3 main Rapids so thought this could be enjoyable and not too hazardous- any comments. they have done plenty of canoe camping and bushwalking + some packrafting on small Rapids. I usually like to recce a trip first but am keen to get them out and about. Am keen to do Canoe Ck myself but not with t he kids (yet).

Hi Lizzy,

I have done this loop 3 times, and once with a bike shuffle. The ride was really steep from the river and took me a little under an hour. Bring a mountainbike for the final gravel sections. Definitely doable with kids, there are only 3 or 4 rapids, all of them can be portaged and the rest is mostly shallow and fast flowing with a sandy bottom. It can be done at all levels, but there will be substantial dragging of boats below 0.85m (>1m is better). Either way, the earlier parts are fantastically beautiful!

Thanks Jeremy,
Hmmm maybe I need a car rather than bike! Water levels have dropped a bit… Will write a follow-up if we get there.
Many thanks

G’day Lizzy

Getting slightly off topic but maybe morph this into a kids paddle thread. We recently paddled the Snowy from Halfway flat as a family trip (we being my wife, myself and our 9 year old along with my friend and his seven year old), this is a really scenic float with some decent rapids, all easily scouted and portaged … we ran it all bar the start of the Pinch gorge. We also paddled a section of the Duea as an easy overnight paddle/ camping trip. If you want any further details please PM me. No walking involved but nice camping and paddling


Awesome- thanks Mick. Will look into these and no doubt contact you for some more info. always looking for trips to do :slight_smile:

Colo currently at 9.36m and still rising :open_mouth:
Would not like to be down there now…