There's something about loading up a canoe with food, camping gear and pushing off from the riverbank.
Stunning scenery, wildlife and that campsite of your dreams. What will be around the next bend?
Before the prep came the decision of which river to paddle. We nailed it down to either the Deep River flowing through the Walpole Wilderness Area or a section of the Blackwood River. Both rivers are beautiful as they wind their way towards the southern coast of Western Australia. Both rivers are spectacular in their own unique way.
The Blackwood River begins in Quelarup and enters the Southern Ocean at Augusta, some 300 kilometres away. With 42 tributaries, the Blackwood River has Tight twisting romantic bends in the upper reaches with fast-moving shallow rapids that gradually transform into wide open and slow flat water.
We chose the section from Sues Bridge to Warner Glen. This section is mainly forested, with a few places for car camping along the river banks. We'll encounter a few rapids along this stretch, and the plan was to portage around them. To "portage" is to pull into the river back upstream of the rapids, unload all the gear, carry the canoes and equipment around, and then repack. The other option is "lining" the canoes and gear through the rapids unmanned, kind of like walking a dog on an extendable lead.
The crew of five consisted of Pete, who has a YouTube channel, WA Camping Adventures. His adventures consist of mainly 4WD and Tinnie camping trips across Western Australia and potentially now canoeing trips.
We also had Alex along for the ride. A young videographer and photographer working commercially with brands and filming his trips under the YouTube channel Intents Offroad. Alex would be Pete's paddle buddy, the motor up front in the double canoe for this trip.
Kip also joined the group in a sit on top fishing yak with a drop-down propeller with peddles, and this was going to be interesting in moving water. Kip is a FIFO with a passion for the outdoors and is a keen photographer but needs better drybags hint.
Mark was the wildcard who recently bought an inflatable yak online. Inflatables or smaller flat hull craft are very manoeuvrable in the tight turns and flowing water. The only issue was he would struggle on the flat water where the touring canoes came into their own.
Our two Wenonah Canoes are for flatwater touring. They are purpose-built to be loaded up with all the camping necessities and get off the beaten track. The double canoe, an ultra-light "Minnesota II", can handle a payload of half a tonne, including the paddler's weight. Because of this flat hull, super stable no rocker design, it doesn't like rapids, nor does it like tight turns but eats up the flat still stuff and tracks in a straight line beautifully. The sexy red ultra-light "Prism" is a solo canoe perfect to tag along with others on a trip or head out for some alone time with your thoughts. It too, is capable of taking a week's worth of gear to explore on the water.
Head to the Paddle and Portage website and speak to Travis for more information on these beautiful canoes.
When water is involved, you'll need to pack everything into waterproof drybags. Buy the best quality you can afford, and don't be shy to double up. Your gear will be sitting in a small, consistent puddle of water due to drips off your canoe paddle.
Unfortunately, my drybags did leak, and I needed to dry my nightclothes by the fire. When packing your gear, larger drybags are better, so when it's time to portage, you don't have too many trips around the rapids.
We had a long weekend lined up for the trip to do two nights camped up cooking over the fire. Kip also had some bad luck losing a camera to a dry bag that was not up for the challenge of keeping things dry. Luckily for Kip, his insurance had him covered.
We took all the usual items for car camping/4WD touring but were mindful about load limits and canoes becoming harder to manage when heavier, especially in moving water. We packed camp chairs, a table, and Yeti coolers for our food and beverages, plus dry clothes, a sleeping kit, and our giant tipi to sleep in. Able to still have fires but unsure about the firewood collection near the campsites, we carried in a few bags of firewood. We were carrying plenty of photography gear and Pete with all his camera gear to catch all the action on and off the water.
Pete, Alex and I were sleeping in an eight-person Nordic Adventure Tipi. The simplicity, ease of pitch, and versatility for hot to freezing conditions are why we bought this as our family tent for canoe trips and 4WD touring. It's beautifully made and will last a lifetime of adventures. It's also possible to have an open fire or stove inside during winter or snow camping. Tipi blog CLICK HERE.
A tree-lined river is bound to hide some beautiful campsites. Car campers have good access from both the north and south of this river section. There are plenty of spots to stop for lunch on the bank or stay the night.
Well, we ate well on this trip. The first night we camped out of the 4WDs, Pete cooked smash burgers. This burger is the best I have ever eaten; hands down, Pete's got this down to a fine art.
I've wanted to cook Toad in the Hole in the camp oven for some time now and had the right audience/crew to cook it for and taste test. Incorporating a few packs of Campers Pantry veggies, so our Yeti coolers were free for more essential items, beers, of course. The Toad in the Hole turned out spot on and the batter mix, one day old, of course, rose to the occasion fluffing up nicely around the snaggers.
On the last night, Alex cooked a veggie curry from scratch. The spice aromas filled the camp as we sat around the fire and relived moments on the water. The curry was delicious and perfect to end the trip.
Another reason for choosing this section was the ease of putting in and pulling out. Sues Bridge access is near the camping, and day-use areas, as too is the Warner Glen. We parked at the Sues Bridge Ranger access gate and unloaded the canoes and gear. Alex stayed with all the paddle craft and equipment while the others drove the cars to Warner Glen's endpoint. This 60 odd kilometre car shuffle is a round trip of around one hour as you travel through some beautiful farmland along the Brockman Highway.
With canoes and paddle craft loaded up, we hit the water. A bit later than planned due to a steep and slippery exit from our overnight camp. Mark was last up the short incline and, in the end, needed to winch out.
The river was very high due to a large amount of winter rain. We were expecting rapids and got none. Small standing waves made their way over and into my canoe and Pete and Alex's double. The only portage was Great Northern Road. As we rounded the bend in the river, we could see a canoe that had wrapped and folded on a marker pole. With gear still held tight in its clutches, a note on the bank informing us the paddlers were ok, safe and were hopeful of retrieving equipment and craft at a later date when the swollen river receded.
All in all, an unforgettable canoe trip with a great group of fellas. I urge you to explore some of your wilderness areas by water.
To watch how the trip unfolded, Pete has edited this trip into three parts on youtube. Part 1 below
PART 2 - eta 19th November