A fair few Christmas’s ago, Tom (my brother) & I went canoeing down the Glenelg River over a few days in the very south-west corner of Victoria. We slowly paddled down stream through the stunning dry forest and gorges, camped at canoe only sites on the river banks and ate like kings, courtesy of Mum.
We enjoyed it so much that we’ve decided to do it again.
The whole (first) trip was our present from Mum, she dropped us off on Christmas Eve and we finished up on Boxing Day. She organised everything, even multiple roast’s, including a complete Christmas Day lunch and as we were only staying at canoe camps, she had to cart the food in via 4WD trails then walk through over grown tracks to find us – a champions effort!
This time there’s four of us for four days fending for ourselves, including Eva and I, Tom and his partner Dr. Cil.
The Glenelg River Canoe Trail is a 75 km stretch of the 350 km long or so river. The trail starts at Dartmoor and finishes at the river mouth in Nelson, although around Dartmoor is a bit too dry at the moment and we weren’t out to prove anything, so we just covered a bit over 45 kms from a place called Pines Landing to Dry Creek, just inside South Australia.
We spent the eve of the trip at our Mum’s beach shack at Eight Mile Creek, not far from the river. Mum and her partner, Bruce cooked us a barbecue while feeding us red wine and last minute safety tips, then bright and early the next day, we hit the river.
Paestan Canoe Hire dropped off the canoes last time, this time we headed to their yard near Dartmoor, left the cars there and packed all of our gear into barrels and dry bags, then they took us to Glenelg.
The plan was to start with a long day of paddling down the river, then make each day progressively easier. Day one was a bit under 18 kms and the last day was just 5.4.
3-4 kms into our version of the Glenelg River Canoe Trail, we made our first stop at Moleside Campground to stretch our legs, make some readjustments and to get a quick glimpse at what the camping and picnic areas are going to look like over the next four days.
It took us until the evening to reach Skipworth Springs Canoe Camp where we stayed for the night. Along the way, we stopped at Saunders Landing for lunch, then just mucked around exploring the river and being witness to two snakes swimming across right in front of us.
It’s hard to see, but in the 2nd video above there’s a snake swimming on the edge of the river heading into the reeds.
We were all pretty exhausted but in good spirit at the campground. Most of the evening was spent beating Tom at ring toss, Eva winning at cards and drinking by the camp fire.
Day 2 was another pretty big day on the river, but we brought the pace down a notch, putting the focus on spotting Koala’s and relieving ourselves from the full exposure of the sun by figuring out how to have a swim without having to dock the canoes, jumping out and climbing back in while floating down stream.
We found a mother Koala sleeping in comfort while sitting on her joey.
By the late afternoon, we reached Bowds Canoe Camp, our home for the second night on the Glenelg River Canoe Trail.
Bowds was a nice shady place to spend the afternoon, which followed a pretty similar course to the night before, just with a bit more fishing from Tom and Cil.
Day 3 was a hot one and we only had less than 8 kms to paddle for the day, so we took it even easier.
Our first stop for the day was at McLennans Punt Campground, not far from where we had camped. Last time we were on the Glenelg River Canoe Trail, a lady told us about a cave down at the end of a short trail from the campground. We had a quick look, but without any lighting, we couldn’t see much. This time we were prepared with headlamps and a torch.
The trail was completely overgrown, at times we had to crawl under branches or over fallen trees. The girls were both reluctant to come in at first, but FOMO took over and we all had a spelunk.
There was freshwater streaming through the base of the cave that seemed to tunnel on for miles. We only went about 20 metres in and cooled off in chamber. When we came out, we noticed how hot it was and decided to take our first swim for the day, this time with a bit more ease as we entered from the jetty, rather than bombing out of the canoe trying not to capsize it. Then it was back to the ship and onto to the next landing.
By lunch time, we reached our last campground for our trip, Lasletts Canoe Camp. A lot of the campground was already taken by other people on the Glenelg River Canoe Trail and although we had plenty of space, most of it was in the full sun, so we threw down the oilskin ground cloth in a small patch of shade and took rest.
Mum made a “tactical drop off” in the form of snags, beers and ice. Her & Bruce had originally planned on coming down to the campground and having a barbecue with us, but it was super hot and a much harder trail than any of us had realised, so we all had a hug, got updated on the behaviour of our dogs that they’re looking after, then went back down and enjoyed Cil cooking for us on the camp the fire.
Tom & Cil are keen fisherwomen and have been having a good crack on this trip without any luck, other than the occasional nibble. They seem to know what they’re doing, on the other hand, when it comes to fishing I have less luck and skill than the worst of them, but after dinner, I rigged up my rod and had a go anyway.
After some observing and consultation, I cast out with a bit of sausage skin on my hook and to everyone’s surprise, I caught a Bream!
4 koalas, 3 snakes, 2 talented hands, 1 bream.
Our final day was upon us and we set the alarm for an early start so that we could definitely make it to Dry Creek in time for our pickup, then we paddled a bit fast and got there 2 hours early. Fortunately, Mum came and dropped the dogs off to us then Paestan’s arrived and taxi’d us back to our cars at their depot.
It was a bit of an exhausting trip, but a ripper and a great experience. The prospect of coming back in another 5-10 years and doing it for a third time is exciting and on the cards.
If you’ve paddled along the Glenelg River Canoe Trail or have any questions, we’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!