Murray Delta – October 2023

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This year’s Murray Delta paddle started (and finished) with 13 seasoned Swannies taking to the water at Jetty’s Bar and Grill in South Yunderup. This locality is on the lower portion of the Murray River a few kilometres upstream from where it flows, via a multi-channelled delta, into Peel Inlet. So, despite the name of this club trip suggesting it was only for those paddling a Delta (4 of us on the day) it was open to all comers!.

We had a slightly staggered start due to a brain fade by your’s truly in neglecting to contact one paddler with the news we were starting half an hour earlier than previously planned – but we are almost on speaking terms again aren’t we Sarah?

A full car park at Jetty’s greeted us with a number of dragon boats also taking advantage of the pleasantly mild paddling weather. After breaking the news that our planned coffee stop on the homeward route (Pelicans on the Murray) was temporarily closed, your team leader skulked off with most of the pack while Geoff and Claire waited to placate Sarah when she arrived. Heading downstream past all the holiday houses and their private jetties, the advance party led by Colin took a detour up one of the canals (Murray Waters) until everyone caught up.

With a full compliment, temps in the low 20’s, and under a cloudy sky, we paddled westwards down into the delta via the river’s Minjoogup branch on the southern side  of Yunderup Island. Judging by the number of signs adjacent to river the local inhabitants appear to be in a battle with our beloved State Government over some issue, possibly the potential loss of some shacks deemed unable to comply with current planning requirements – but really this does seem to pale into insignificance compared to the closure of the coffee shop!

The initial ‘residential’ portion of the paddle provided an interesting insight into how holiday shacks inevitably morph into substantial homes/ aka Mc Mansions. The delta area, in contrast, provided a number of channels where we were able to quickly get away from ‘civilisation’ and boat traffic, and just enjoy the fringing vegetation and its associated birdlife. There was also the prospect of encountering dolphins (although personally I only saw two this year).

Briefly entering Peel Inlet and passing some patient fishermen / fisherpersons, we managed to avoid shallow areas, as we skirted around Little Yunderup Island and headed back eastwards. Passing along the northern side of Yunderup Island we encountered Worallgarook and Ballee Islands on our left until emerging back into the main boating channel.

OK I confess, I couldn’t really remember the names of the various islands and channels without the attached map / cheat sheet!

Once back in the main boating cannel we headed north-west to our lunch spot on Cooleenup Island where picnic tables, toilets, a kids playground, and access to historic Coopers Mill awaited (see red dot on map between Meeyip and Jennala Islands).

At lunch we seemed to split into a girls group (Gabriella, Bec, Evi, Maria, Sarah, Shantha and Claire) and a blokes group (Geoff, Colin, Ross, Trevor, Patrick and Marty) – I will let you guess where the most impressive food was laid out!  Ross bravely tried to gate-crash the girl’s table with a bribe of grapes – but returned empty handed!.

Geoff made the 100 m pilgrimage to Coopers Mill on behalf of all of us and STOP PRESS we didn’t have any issue with mossies this year! This was probably due to the gradually increasing wind which, were predicted to reach more than 20 knots on the Inlet in the early afternoon.

So, with an abundance of caution, the decision was made to truncate a small part of the trip. Instead of our planned excursion out into the exposed part of the inlet and then back into the Serpentine River and around Jennala Island, we instead just briefly stuck our noses out and then scuttled around to the northern side of Cooleenup Island. From here we paddled back along the narrower, scenic Wargoorloop branch towards ‘Pelicans’ café on the main part of the river. (see blue dot on map).

After shedding a tear or two at the café’s closure we continued back up-stream for a few more kms on our return to Jetty’s B & G. Being back in ‘civilization’ we were entertained by a bit of raucous doof doof music from some bloke’s powerboat while his female passengers sat in the back looking completely miserable (at least he was enjoying himself!).

After a modest 13.5 km paddle, we congratulated ourselves on ending with the same number of paddlers we started with. The hardiest members of the team (Ross, Sarah, Shantha, Maria, Evi, Bec and myself) then took the opportunity to stay for a while at Jetty’s and listen to some far more pleasant music (80’s era) over a leisurely drink before returning home.

A good day – thank you linesmen, and thank you ball boys.   Marty

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