Katarapko Paddle Report – May 2007

Paddle Report
Katarapko National Park –
May 2007
This report is of a trip done with a group of students from Parafield High School. It highlights the track conditions in Katarapko National Park.
We set off on a Monday morning and arrived at Booky Cliffs camping grounds in the northern end of the park early that afternoon. With daylight to spare we took the students on a short paddle to explore the Gurra Gurra Creek system on the other side of the Murray River, with the intention of finding out where the creek could be accessed from the main road. Paddling north from Booky Cliffs, we crossed the river and entered a creek which was labelled by a large sign on a tree as 'Salt Creek'. Further exploration, however, found that it was in fact Gurra Gurra Creek and that there were a number of excellent camping spots and launching sites along the bank.

Later that evening, we had some light rain, which we had predicted, yet none of us twigged as to the real significance of the shower. We huddled down in our tents and slept through to the Tuesday morning. At this time, we were more aware of the light showers which were coming more frequently. We realised that we should have known better and never entered the area when we knew rain was forecast.
We did have a little hope, however, that if we left immediately, we might get out in time, but it wasn't to be. We made it maybe one kilometre down the track before it all fell apart. At almost exactly the same time, the 4WD and the mini bus lost grip in the mud and slid to the side of the track.
What followed could be viewed with good humour, but at the time it wasn't a happy place to be. We realised that the 4WD would be able to make it through with the boat trailer, but the mini bus was going to be a serious issue. Initially, we made what we thought was good progress, getting the bus and trailer fifty metres up the track. At that stage, however, on a corner where the sticky clay soils had softened from the pooling waters, the bus went in up to its axles and it took us over an hour to get it back out again.
We sacrificed the clean clothes we were wearing and, after unhitching the trailer, we slowly but surely pushed the bus down the track and back onto firmer ground at the park entrance. That is to say, we spent seven long hours, slogging our way through the mud, driven only by the desire to not have to spend another night in wet tents.
As it turned out, the students outdid themselves and we couldn't have been prouder of their efforts. Furthermore, we thought that the silver lining to this must be that our experience could serve as a warning to other campers, to not to enter the park if rain is forecast. Even taking a 4WD was a risk, and for a few hours, it didn't look like either vehicle was going to escape, and even though we did, it was at the cost of a nicely graded track.
So if you are planning to camp in Katarapko when wet weather is forecast, try to set it up so that you are paddling the entire way and not looking to rely on vehicle support.
J. Hazel – 22 June 2007.


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