28 January, 2013

Lunch at "the break"

"The second break in the Barwon River." This was the Google Images search which greeted me as I took a quick glance at my stats page before starting this post.
I am guessing that someone was looking for pictures of the lower breakwater. I hope they found the first of my kayaking posts from earlier this month, but as it happens, I can add to the collection after another paddle down the river today. In fact, I stopped at the lower break for lunch before heading back to the upper breakwater to catch a ride home.
But first things first. I hit the water just near the Geelong Water Ski Club at the end of Wilsons Road in St. Albans Park and headed downriver, hoping to get a better idea of where that 19th century picnic spot "The Willows" was and also to see if I could access Reedy Lake.
Assuming my reasoning as outlined in my post The Willows is correct, then I was successful in my first endeavour and now have some photos to show for my efforts:
Thicket of elms at the possible site of The Willows, looking upstream
The above shot shows a thicket of elm trees, clearly non-native and well-established. There are no willows to be seen anymore anywhere along this stretch of river or even signs that the area may have been used for picnics and camping. Nor is there any sign of the "cutting" described by James Lister Cuthbertson in his description of The Willows, where the Grammar boys ran the boats up onto the bank.
Thicket of elms looking downriver towards The Willows
In fact the only place I could conveniently get out of the water to have a look around was several hundred metres away....maybe next time.
And so I paddled on. My next aim was to see if I could get inside Reedy Lake for a look around, however I soon discovered that the channel which connects the lake to the river is not designed for boat access.
Channel to Reedy Lake
None-the-less, it is a rather pretty part of the river with farmland on one side and high reeds interspersed with gum trees obscuring any sight of the lake on the other.
Looking downriver, about 2.5km below Wilsons Road
My next stop was the lower breakwater where I hauled myself and the "yak" out of the water, took a few photos and had some lunch at which time a decision had to be made. The weather was mild but increasing winds were forecast for later in the afternoon so I decided to leave a paddle around Lake Connewarre for another occasion and head back upriver.
Above the lower breakwater
Below the lower breakwater
As on at least three other occasions, the trip upstream was wind-assisted and therefore easier than the trip down.
At one point as I drifted quietly near the bank I became aware that I was not alone. As they often do, a number of carp were cruising along the bank looking for food. They were quite confident - provided I didn't move much - and were happily snapping up the grass seeds (we used to call them fairies) which were floating on the surface of the water.
A carp eating a "fairy"

A carp stalking a seed
After spending a bit of time stalking the carp, I got moving again, sloshing my way through the wake of several power boats at the water ski club until I reached quieter waters (and a patch of waterlilies) near "Greenbanks" on the Marshall side of the river.
From there it was an uneventful paddle round the bend to Breakwater and a quick ride home. Not a bad day's paddling and my first solo expedition.

Yellow waterlily


  1. Fantastic! I'm so glad I found this blog. I've been looking for interesting stories about exploring the Barwon by Kayak and your blog is just the thing I was looking for! I'm hoping it's possible to travel all the way from Geelong to Barwon Heads by kayak. Looking forward to reading more in your other posts.

    1. Thanks David. Glad you enjoyed the post. Yes, it is technically possible to paddle from Geelong to Barwon Heads. I have done it several times. There are a couple of obstacles however. I normally start at Breakwater so I don't have to carry over the road.
      The first obstacle is the aqueduct. It is not technically legal to paddle/walk under it due to the danger of falling concrete and there are floats on the river which are supposed to stop people...
      The second obstacle is the lower breakwater, however there is access to the bank via a gap in the reeds a short distance up and downstream of the break, so it is possible to drag around.
      From there, it is a couple of km to Lake Connewarre. The lake can be very shallow in places (I have had to get out and drag the 'yak into deeper water on occasion). The entry into the lower part of the river is not at all obvious and I would recommend that if you use a GPS device that you look at the channels on Google Earth satellite view and then plot a few points on the GPS to get you into the mouth of the river and on your way again.
      Once you're in the channel again it is fairly straightforward, however wind can make life difficult as can tides, but not impossible, but it might be worth checking conditions before you paddle.
      Now, having said all that, yours is the second such query I've had like this in the last few weeks and I'm planning on giving a more blow by blow description of the paddle from Inverleigh to Barwon Heads (which is the section I can vouch for from personal experience), so stay tuned for some extra details.
      Any questions, just ask!

    2. Thanks Jo, That's just what I wanted to know, good advise. I was curious about the depth and thought it might be likely that the lower end could get clogged with cumbungi. Think I'm going to need to get a gps. Cheers

    3. Hi David, it's not reeds but the lake itself is just really shallow in most places and you step out of the 'yak into calf-deep mud in most places, not always a sandy base which can make it tricky.
      Having said that, friends were accompanied by a seal which had made it up as far as the lower breakwater a couple of years ago, so it somehow found enough depth to get through the lake without too much trouble!

  2. Salty mud sounds like not fun, but I like your friends choice of guide. I'll have to add friendly seal to my list of required kit. ;)

  3. Good luck with finding a seal! I was there the following day and there was no sign of it. I have yet to see one that far up river, although I did catch a brief glimpse of one at Barwon Heads a while back!