Sunday, March 1, 2015

Branching out: a Moorabool paddle - on the rocks

On Saturday I decided to investigate a section of the Moorabool River which I had not yet seen - by kayak. I knew there would be obstacles, rocky sections and probably fallen trees and that at this time of year, water levels would be low. Boy, was I right! But that was only the beginning.
The section in question was the 10km stretch of river between Batesford and Fyansford which in recent decades has had an interesting history which I wasn't fully aware of before we began our paddle.
Old Batesford Bridge beside the Midland Highway
Starting from the back of the Dog Rocks Hotel in Batesford, the first part of our paddle took us past farms and beneath the Moorabool River Reserve off Dog Rocks Road which I have walked before. The river alternated between deeper pools or short stretches of water and shallows which required some manoeuvring to negotiate, not to mention the masses of azolla which is currently choking the river through this section.
Azolla carpeting the surface of the river near the Moorabool River Reserve
At one point we discovered this pretty (but environmentally inappropriate) little pool, formed partly by a man-made rock weir and surrounded by exotic plantings such as willow and ash:

Small weir below Batesford
As we passed beneath the Dog Rocks Flora and Fauna Sanctuary, owned by the Belcher family since the 1850s, we encountered our first rocky obstacle, which required us to exit the kayaks and clamber around. No problem. A couple of photos and we were on our way again...
The first of many...
...only to be confronted by another rock pile, and another, and another as we slowly worked our way downstream. None of them were insurmountable and the water was relatively shallow however, it did make for slow progress and I was soon convinced that there would be no returning the way we had come. Of course, added water flow at other times of the year may change the situation, but whether increased flow would make continuous passage easier or just create further difficulties when hauling over rocks, I don't know.
In addition to the rocks, previous flooding events have also ensured that there was also the occasional large bank of driftwood to be negotiated too:
Log and rock jam
So, we continued in this fashion, paddling short sections and then exiting the kayaks to pick our way through, around or over various obstacles. At some points, the river is little more than a rocky creek bed making paddling impossible, however we pressed on and eventually, the rocks came to an end.
Paddling really wasn't an option here
 And that is where I intend to finish this post. The next instalment of the journey is an interesting one which will require some historical background and a bit of research before I post it, but the next 3-4km stretch of our paddle took us through a section of the river which didn't exist more than a few decades ago.