We arrived at the Eckert Wide Waters just south of Berri on a cold and rainy winter’s day. The lignum scratched at our car as we nosed along a muddy track to a delightful campsite overlooking the Wide Waters. These are a smaller version of those seen at Ral Ral creek, presumably a flooded old billabong.
A group of bushies gradually assembled – these being Margaret and David Wattchow, Lindy and Trevor May and Trevor Moyle, and later joined for a few days by Helen and David Evans. The campsite is at a confluence of waters – the wide waters, the Splash and Eckert Creek (South arm). We soon had a firepit dug and a warm fire blazing to ward off the cold (it was below zero most nights! – hence the need for lots of duck down, thermals and even fibrepile at night time).
The next day we got our canoeing gear together and set off along the Wide Waters under a grey sky. Though there are surrounding irrigation properties these were not generally visible and it quickly felt quite remote. The top end of the Wide Waters quickly narrows to a series of creeks, one of which is Eckert Creek (north arm) that then meanders and picks it’s way amongst reed beds to a junction with Eckert Creek south arm (known locally as Jarrett Creek). We ducked under a regulator on the north arm but had to portage a regulator on the south arm. We now rocketed down the south arm with substantial flow and back to the campsite.
This was a decadent trip with happy hour being mandatory! Before settling into a convivial evening by the fire.
Next day we went along the top end of the Splash and entered the Sawmill Creek. The local proprietor of Canoe Adventures (Kym Werner) had paddled in that morning for a chat. He had been clearing a channel through reed beds on Sawmill Creek, and warned us of logs and snags in the lower section near the Murray River. Nevertheless we had to haul ourselves through the bulrushes at the entrance to Sawmill Creek before twisting our way down this delightful creek with evidence of the river red gums being cut for firewood in the past. There was some cursing as we negotiated the snags at the lower end before exiting on to the Murray River (near the junction with Katarapko Creek) and depositing on a large sand bar for lunch.
Now we made our way back, again negotiating the snags (Trev Moyle was in his element!). Pulling into shallow waters near our camp our Canadian canoe drifted at 90 degrees to the bank. Of course, if the prow is up on the bank this becomes quite tippy, and I ended up in the water! I can report that the waterproof camera still works, and that hypothermia rapidly sets in. I was lucky we were near camp. It took hours to warm up!
Helen and David now turned up, Dave with his trademark raucous laugh. He was only able to paddle for a day so we went back along Jarrett Creek (the prettiest) then along the final portion of Eckert Creek to the regulator and Murray River. Here Trev (Moyle) and the Mays portaged the regulator and paddled up to the Gurra Gurra Creek entrance. Margaret, Dave Evans and Margaret and I paddled back downstream to a nice side water and patch of scrub for lunch. Dave was tramping around in the mud barefoot, but soon cleaned this up.
The junction was unrecognizable with large stone works and a regulator in place. We meandered along the top section of Katarapko. At the stone weir the kayaks were able to squeak through but Margaret and I needed to portage the Canadian. A local fisherman proved very helpful. This was the second use of Trev’s canoe wheels that day.
The quickest way home was via Sawmill Creek and we avoided the problematic lower section and regulator by portaging across country (third use of the canoe wheels! – sequestered into the Canadian canoe). Dappled light fell across the creek as we worked our way back to the Splash and campsite.
Another fire (wood supplied by the benevolent Trevors) concluded a pleasant exploration of this area close to home.