The “Wollz” was a vernacular term coined by Paul Godfrey to shorten the “Wallpolla”, an intricate, interlacing system of waterways just upstream from Lock 9, and south of the main Murray River (downstream from Mildura/ Wentworth). There is a boatramp with sandy edges just east of the Lock, and only a short paddle to enter the maze of creeks. The first creek is the Mullroo that takes off north after a major lagoon system. This twists and winds and has various blind ending offshoots before joining the Wallpolla Ck. Trevor Moyle was the other member of the exploratory team and had spotted the waterways on a topo map.
This snakes it’s way up to Deadman’s Ck (an ominous name), and is lined by river red gum trees, sheoaks and bulokes. Reaching the junction about midafternoon we camped at a good spot here (well sheltered, and heaps of firewood). A westerly setting sun set the clouds ablaze with red as it went down along the line of the creek.
The canvas on my trusty old seat gave way, unceremoniously depositing me on the ground. A sewing repair met with the same result – so the material was cut away and a rope seat constructed from binder twine that did last till the end of the trip.
We now paddled south along an ever diminishing Wallpolla Ck, and after about 3 km encountered increasing snags and lack of water which turned us back upon encountering a road bridge. Deadman’s Ck is short but pretty and leads into the main River. Broad sweeping bends took us upstream past the Fort Courage Caravan Park (one would expect to see cowboys and Indians), then an acute bend with a short beach, good for a camp on the beach to avoid the towering river red gums (and dropping limbs).
We meandered upstream to Eureka Rocks. We couldn’t find either rocks, or gold!! Trev and Paul checked out the start of the Wallpolla, finding it was mostly dry. Trev estimated one would need another ½ metre of water to make it navigable by canoe.
It was rather hot (mid 30s) and large sandbars beckoned for several swims that afternoon. We camped on a big bar, enjoying the crystalline sand that went well out into the river (flow was minimal).
Next day a cool front was working it’s way in from the SW, and the sky was ominously black. We tried to get into the waterway north of Box Island but it was choked off by large logs. Therefore we paddled back downstream to enter the shallow lagoon that leads to the Darling anabranch. There were big flocks of pelicans and swans in the lagoon, presumably because the fish are easier to catch in the shallow waters. The anabranch was most unappealing and a cold wind sprang up to make paddling back a chore. Luckily we found a sheltered spot on the main drag for lunch before relooping back to Deadman’s Creek camp, and another beautiful sunset. The clouds really set off the sunset and no rain eventuated.
On our final full day of exploring we entered the southerly branch of the Wallpolla, shortly encountering dense reeds, then a fallen tree. Undeterred Paul thrashed his way through the reeds, then Trev broke off much of the snag so we did not have to portage it. After that conditions eased and the waterway was pleasant and open (we did find a side branch that may have circumvented the difficulties but Paul and Trev seemed to be enjoying themselves!!).
We avoided the most southerly branch is it was very narrow on the map, and the water level was down. It was calm, so the canoes just skimmed along (well, it was some effort!). We came across a lovely lagoon and pealed off into that, finding a great camp amongst sheoaks and the lagoon had big bird populations. Trev and Paul went bird hunting and photographed and identified the smaller birds.
That evening we encountered an eerie sight. A boat with an intense searchlight came probing along the main creek. The light did not fall upon us however, and being off the mainstream our fire did not seem to attract attention. It was a warm, moist night and some rain spattered down shortly after retiring. It made the river mud somewhat gluey, and we were a bit worried about a repeat of the deluge we had experienced around Lock 7, but the roads were fine.
It remained to paddle the few kilometers to the boat ramp, pick up the cars from the Lock and head for the pasties. One wonders what other waterways exist further upstream!!