Paddling in Katarapko

Paddling in Katarapko
For paddlers with appropriate equipment and a basic skill level the Katarapko region is an interesting and safe area to explore. Never the less, in addition to the planning considerations outlined in the Canoe Guide, there are some other important issues to consider as the area is quite isolated. A map and basic mapreading skills are necessary  when embarking on an extended trip into the area. It is also important to check the weather forecast.

In the summer, day time temperatures can be over 40˚C and so adequate precautions need to be taken on those days, such as staying in the shade and minimising physical exertion during the heat of the day, drinking adequate quantities of water and wearing appropriate sun protection.

The fire danger season for all Riverland Parks begins on 1st November and ends on the 30th April (this differs from the fire restriction dates set by the CFS). During this period only gas fires are allowed. There are no fires permitted on days of total fire ban. At other times campers are encouraged to practice minimum impact procedures by using a gas stove which is faster and cleaner for cooking. This will minimise the impact on the environment as trees and dead wood are homes for native animals.

If using a camp fire

á        Only use a small amount of wood

á        Bring your own firewood where possible

á        Use only dead fallen wood

á        Fires are only permitted in existing fireplaces which are provided at numbered campsites.

Eckert Creek Section

The Eckert Creek Section has become narrowed by the growth of reeds due to the limted river flows and levels. As such it can be difficult to pass through this section without extensive portaging (exiting the canoe/kayak and pushing / dragging through reeds). Allow extra time for trips in this sections as a simple passage may not be possbile.
Katarapko Section

The main Katarapko Creek is usually clear from obstructions, however there are a significant number of submerged and semi-submerged logs / trees in the creek that can prove hazardous to the novice.

Take care to keep a good look out for obstacles just below the surface as the ones you cant see are the ones that might tip you in!
The water can be extremly cold in the cooler months so a capsize may be unpleasant!

For those with limited experience or those new to the area it is useful to speak to someone with local knowledge (DEH Berri or Canoe SA) before embarking on a trip in the area to ascertain the current conditions and ensure that you are well prepared.

During winter, on cold, rainy days with the effects of wind chill, hypothermia is a possibility and appropriate waterproof and warm clothing, shelter, stoves and food and water are necessary equipment in case of an emergency. Nights can be below 0˚C during winter and so a good quality sleeping bag and a tent are essential for overnight expeditions.

After heavy rain the clay soils of the Riverland Parks floodplain become very boggy, and when necessary the Rangers close access roads to prevent damage to the environment. Even when the roads are open, vehicle users are strongly encouraged to avoid wet patches so as not to become bogged and can cause damage. Other hazardous driving conditions include corrugated track surfaces and narrow winding roads.

During hot weather snakes may be encountered and canoeists need to be aware of where they walk and where they put their hands. A compression bandage and a knowledge of snake bite treatment is essential.

During the warmer months mosquitos can be a problem. Mosquitoes on occasions carry the diseases Ross River Fever and Murray Valley Encephalitis. To avoid being bitten by mosquitoes (a particular problem on dusk), clothing which covers all exposed skin plus an insect repellent is recommended. The insect repellent is handy to repel flies which can be a problem at that time of the year during the day. A tent with a good quality insect proof inner is recommended.

In leaf litter, spiders, scorpions and other invertebrates are likely to be encountered which, with common sense, can generaly be avoided. If someone in the group has an allergic reaction to invertabrate bites, there are creams available from pharmacies which reduce the pain, inflamation and itching from stings which if included in your first aid kit, is generally all that is needed if you are unlucky enough to be bitten. When planning a trip it is wise to apply for permits as early as possible, because on occasions, the parks are closed for feral animal control.

Dog owners are advised that dogs are not permited in the park and baits have been laid for foxes that are dangerous to dogs.

When paddling in the Katarapko region, protective footwear such as sneakers, sandals or wetsuit shoes should be worn for protection from sharp sticks and stones, broken glass and bites. Sun glasses are recommended as protection from sunglare and head high vegetation.

River Red Gums are prone to dropping limbs without warning and it is therefore wise not to camp beneath them. The level of the water throughout the system can vary. Thus one must be aware that banks may be slippery, submerged logs may not be apparent, and the depth of water may vary greatly. In some of the creeks there may be a significant current, which means that paddlers need to be able to steer and control their boat confidently This is particularly relevant when paddling with the current as paddlers can be pushed into fallen trees or other obstacles across the creek, resulting in a capsize and a struggle to get to safety. (Campsite 28 shown at right).


In the Katarapko area, there are two weirs at GR: 587989 (shown at left) and GR: 618028 which must be portaged around. At all times, paddlers must stay well clear of weirs as they pose a serious safety threat due to moving water.

In the main channel of Katarapko Creek and the River Murray you might encounter power boats and tourist boats. The rule is to keep to the right of the waterway to allow them to pass on your left. This is particularly important on blind corners where power boats can approach at high speed. Close up, speed boats can make the river quite choppy, making paddling difficult for inexperienced participants. In strong winds the open areas of water can become quite choppy also. In windy weather a steep chop may develop which is quite hazardous for inexperienced paddlers. Small power boats (tinnies) frequent Katarapko Creek.
If the group decides that they want to pass through the lock , then they will need to observe the proper precautions. On approach to the lock, signal to the lockmaster to make him/her aware that you wish to use the lock. This initial signal should be done 400-600 metres away from the lock. The signal can be done by either sounding three long blasts of 4-6 seconds on a whistle or horn, or waving a flag to attract the lockmasterÕs attention, or alternatively, by flashing a light.

When it is safe to proceed, the lockmaster will sigal with a green flag or a fixed or flashing green light. Prior to this signal do not approach any closer than 150 metres. When it is safe to proceed, enter the lock and wait for the water level to equalise. Once inside the lock remain at the end of the lock where there is no water activity. The lockmaster will advise you of this. Do not tie on to anything in the lock, and follow the instructions of the lockmaster. He or she will signal when it is safe to exit the lock.

When planning to use the lock, remember that the lock is only open at certain times of the day, and that it will take up to 30 minutes to pass through the lock. It is advisable to book ahead of departure to avoid delays.It is possible to portage (carry around) Lock 4 rather than passing through, however this will entail a long walk on a narrow track with both the boat and the gear!