Can we kayak when the river is high?

What is the current state of flow on the Murray?

Background: Flow on the Murray in SA is generally measured at the border, in Gigalitres per day. A Gigalitre (GL) is One thousand million litres. That’s equal to volume to approximately 444 Olympic swimming pools, or a cube with sides of 100m.  Without getting into the politics, SA has a guaranteed minimum entitlement in September of 4.5 GL/day.

Since July the flow into SA has been over 40 GL daily, and has gone as high as 54.8GL.  SA Water has great graphs if you’re interested. Currently (18/9/22) it is back on the rise. It’s expected to continue rising through October, with expected maximums of 75-80GL/day.

Note that in Berri, that forecast makes it 39cm lower than the highest level in 2016 (2016 was the most recent high flows which saw water creeping onto the flood plains in SA)

How does it look? The river is flowing strongly, and water is flowing into the often-dry creeks on the floodplain. Flow into the side creeks is variable: this is where local knowledge goes a long way.

How will the increased flows affect kayaking on the Murray and backwaters in South Australia?

Kayaking has become even more interesting (picture yourself kayaking on normally dry creeks and floodplains), but also needs careful thought, and at Canoe Adventures - Riverland, we’re well placed to guide you through the planning.

Although river flows have increased, and should be treated with care and respect, we can recommend specific places to paddle in the backwaters and side creeks with little to no flow.

Paddling upstream on the main river is significantly harder than usual. Average paddling speed on still water is around 4km/hr. Be aware that downstream flow at the moment could be between 4 -8km/hr More skill is required to negotiate obstacles. It is important to line yourself up well in advance to avoid them. And the danger, if you fall in and become pushed up against obstacles such as fallen trees, is real.

River access will be limited, due to submerged roads.

Camping in Murray River National Park has already been closed.

Be aware that you may come across submerged obstacles such as trees.

Riverbank collapse and falling trees is a small possibility, mainly on the outside of sharp bends.

As always, never jump or dive into unknown waters, which could be shallow or have underwater obstacles.

As always, wear your PFD, paddle with a friend and take care for the added dangers of high flows.

If you’re planning a trip, feel free to give us a ring for information on current local conditions.

What does this mean for Canoe Adventures?

We are still happy to hire kayaks to individuals with experience and the ability to control their kayaks. Together we will discuss current conditions and your level of experience to help find the best route for you.

For the less experienced paddlers, we suggest accompanying us on a guided tour, for your safety. During increased flows all tours will only take downstream routes.

As we did in 2016, we hope to offer a series of half-day high-water guided tours. As they are very dependent on the conditions at the time (weather, flow, water levels, road closures, etc) they can’t be planned too far in advance. If you’re interested , keep an eye on our Facebook page, as they won’t be bookable via our normal booking system. You’re also welcome to email us requesting to be kept informed about our high-water tour plans.

You might find the following levels interesting

(from the High Flow Advice#13/2022, issued 16/9/22)

Up to 40 GL/day at the border is within the normal range, and no warnings are required.

Above 40 GL/day, High Flow Advice is issued by DEW.

Above 60 GL/day, River Murray towns are unaffected and a High Flow Advice remains in place.

From 100 GL/day, a Flood Advice - River Murray is issued by SES.

From 130 GL/day, a Flood Watch and Act – River Murray is issued by SES.

From 200 GL/day, a Flood Emergency Warning – River Murray is issued by SES.


Water Connect Flow Reports and Advice.

SA Water River Murray Reports

You can subscribe to the weekly flow report

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