Paddling Chowilla – revised NFP

Paddling in Chowilla


For paddlers with appropriate equipment and a basic skill level the Chowilla 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 detailed map and basic map reading skills are necessary when embarking on an extended trip into the area. It is also important to check the weather forecast before embarking on an extended trip. 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 November 1st  and ends on April 30th  (this differs to 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

  • Keep it small and use a small amount of wood
  • Bring your own firewood
  • Use only dead fallen wood
  • Use existing fireplaces where provided

Otherwise, dig a shallow pit (30cm) for the fire, in a cleared area, 3 metres away from vegetation, trees and tree roots.


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



During winter, on cold, rainy days with the effects of wind chill, hypothermia is an issue 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 damage the environment.


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 invertabrae 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 occassions, the parks are closed for feral animal control.


It is highly recommended that at all times when paddling in the Chowilla region, protective footwear such as sneakers or wetsuit shoes are worn for protection from sharp sticks and stones, broken glass and bites. Sun glasses are recommended as protection from sunglare and head high vegetation.


When camping at Chowilla, as River Red Gums are prone to dropping limbs without warning, it is highly recommended that one avoids camping under them.

The level of the water throughout the Chowilla 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 many of the creeks there is likely to 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 it is quite easy to be pushed into bridges or fallen trees across the creek resulting in a capsize.and a struggle to get to safety.


Throughout the Chowilla creek system there are numerous weirs which must be portaged around. At all times paddlers must stay well away from weirs as they pose a serious threat to safety.


In the larger creeks such as Chowilla and the River Murray one might encounter power boats and houseboats. In that case all craft must keep to the right of the water way to allow them to pass on your left. This is particularly important on blind corners as power boats might be approaching at high speed. It is important to note that when encountering speed boats on the river, their wake will make the water quite choppy and can be challenging for inexperienced paddlers. This is also an important consideration when paddling on open water when there is a strong wind.


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