I had spent the first two weeks of 2010 in New Zealand, kayaking nearly every day. There are rivers everywhere, and the issue we had was that the rain kept coming, meaning most rivers were too high to paddle!
Back in Australia it’s a different story. We have to play the patient waiting game until the rains come and fill up the rivers, which usually only lasts a few days at best. Meaning rain on Monday, Tuesday or even Wednesday in most rivers will usually be well gone by the weekend. But when everything comes together and the rains fall in the right catchments at the right time, Australia has some great paddling.
So after some rain down near the South Coast of New South Wales, we quickly organised to head down to the Shoalhaven River. This section of the Shoalhaven River really is a gem. Every rapid has a substantial pool above, so you can jump out and scout or walk anything. Below every rapid is another pool, so if anything does go wrong, recovery is quick and easy. This also means that you can concentrate on one move at a time, and not worrying about linking multiple moves. For paddlers looking to move up to grade III/III+, this has to be one of the friendliest rivers around to hone your skills.
Putting on the Shoalhaven River via Ningee Nimble Creek starts out with about 1km of flat water before you get to the first major rapid. There’s also the option to put on from Oallen Ford. This gives you a few km of class II to warm up on. I’d recommend starting there for anyone trying to build their skills or confidence.
The first major rapid is either called Frustration Falls or Razor Falls, I’ve heard it been called both, but I’m not much into the names of rapids. As always on this section of the Shoalhaven, it ends in a huge pool, and is very easy to scout. There are a few smaller rapids before the next major rapid. This river likes to play tricks on you. There are a few spots where the river looks like it starts to narrow, and big jagged rocks tower out of the water, blocking the view of the entire river. It looks as if it’s about to get serious and committing, and then as you round the edge of these large stone gates, you’re greeted with more friendly and easy whitewater.
The next major rapid is called the Pimple. At lower water there is a rock in the mid current. At this level, we boofed right off the top of it! You can see these two rapids in the video at the end of this post.
Double Falls is the third of the four larger rapids on this section. It’s one of the few times on the river where two consecutive drops aren’t separated by a large still pool . Although there is a large eddy on river left between the two drops. This is quite a wide rapid, so there are multiple lines you can run, depending on what takes your fancy.
The final major rapid for the day is Rodeo falls. It’s the highest drop on the run, and it has a tendency to want to flip you half way down. We ran the main line on river left, however there is a much cleaner line to the right of this channel, toward the middle of the river. You should be able to see the main flow going through some boulders toward the centre whilst you’re scouting. It can be a little hard to view from the rivers edge, but so long as you can see water flowing through here, the line is clean and the landing is deep. There is also an option to run the river right side in higher water.
Depending on where you get out, there is one last nasty rapid. It’s directly beneath the power lines and has a nasty rock pointing upstream in the main current. It’s notorious for trying to pin boats. Make sure you have a look at the rapid and know where the danger is before paddling it. There is a much friendlier channel on the river left which you can either paddle or walk, depending on the level.
The river gets far more committing and challenging below the power lines, and truly is a classic run! It is an awesome section of class IV/IV+. However, the steep gorge walls, and lack of river access below the power lines mean that unfortunately, this section of river is rarely paddled.
Click play below to watch the video of our days paddling.
Trip Date: 20 February 2010