Blackwood Trip – November 2023

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I have been organising this trip for the club for a number of years now, but missed last year’s trip due to knee surgery. So, it was good to be back this year.

This part of the Blackwood River is a great section of river to introduce paddlers to whitewater river touring. It’s a very scenic and tranquil part of the Blackwood River, which meanders its way through mainly national park and state forest.

This year we had a group of eight competent paddlers, including myself. Normally there are a few easy grade two rapids along the way which can be fun to stop at and practice our whitewater skills, like ferry gliding and breaking in and out of eddies. Unfortunately, this year, due to the low rainfall, we had mainly rocky rapids that were not suitable for playing, but did keep us on our toes looking out for those sneaky rocks waiting to scrape the bottom of our kayaks, especially Geoff who was paddling his brand-new plastic slalom-type kayak and Dess who was paddling a composite slalom kayak.

The weather forecast for Perth was for a hot weekend so it was great to be in the cooler part of the southwest. Most of the group arrived at the base camp Friday afternoon, apart from Ross who arrived well after sunset and started to set up camp in the dark. After a few drinks sitting around the campfire, it was an early night for most of us.

Saturday morning was warm and overcast. With the help of Geoff’s wife Hett, we were able to leave a vehicle at Hut Pool and all meet at Sues Bridge for the start of the trip.

Everyone seemed to be handling the river conditions really well until someone had a capsize. Luckily Des was there to take control of the situation. Then not long after there was another capsize and again Des was at the right place at the right time or should I say the wrong place at the wrong time.

After a break for lunch, it was mainly flatwater paddling to Hut Pool. After stowing the kayaks and picking up vehicles from Sues Bridge we all arrived back at the base camp for a well-earned beer or glass of wine.

Sunday morning, most of us were up early in preparation to pack up camp. But there was still enough time for a relaxed breakfast around the campfire.

The sun was out and it looked like it was going to be a glorious day on the river. Again, Hett helped us out with ferrying people to Hut Pool, where we retrieved our kayaks and headed off downstream.

After about 5km we came to the end of the rocky rapid section and after a few more kilometers we found a spot to stop for morning tea. Ross who normally has something healthy to eat from his fishing tackle box, surprised us by producing a bacon and egg sandwich. He told us that a young couple whom he was camped next to gave him the sandwich for breakfast, as they had had enough to eat. I thought they might have mistaken Ross for a homeless person, as he was sleeping on a mattress with a tarp
over him.

Back in our kayaks, it seemed like there was a never-ending number of bends in the river to go around before we reached the Warner Glen Bridge. From there it’s only a short distance to our get-out point. Although it had been another great trip down the Blackwood, I wasn’t sorry to get around that last bend before the bridge. Some of us finished off with a roll or two or three. Then after loading the kayaks and picking up a vehicle from Hut Pool, we had a BBQ lunch before most of the group headed off back to Perth. I was staying for an extra day to paddle down the Donnelly River and Dess was picking up his partner in Augusta the next day.

Thanks to all the paddlers, Colin, Des, Elena, Gemma, Geoff, Marty and Ross. Also, thanks to Hett for helping with the car shuttles.

Footnote. According to the river gauging station at Hut Pool, the water level was between 11.02 and 10.98 over the weekend, which is probably the lowest level that I have paddled this section of the Blackwood River. In future, we probably won’t run this as a club trip unless the river level is higher.

Colin Priest

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