Tucked away in northern New South Wales you’ll find the mighty Clarence River. Whether you tackle the river by kayak or canoe, here’s what you need to know!
Getting to the Clarence River
First things first, where is the Clarence River?
This hidden gem is tucked away in the Northern Rivers district of New South Wales, snaking out of the Great Dividing Range.
No Canoe? No Worries…
You’re not getting far without a vessel. It’s unlikely you’ve got a Canadian canoe in your garage… So renting one from a trusty provider in the region is the smartest move. All owners of these businesses are fountains of local knowledge. Don’t be afraid to ask plenty of questions when you book in with them.
There are a number of operators who serve up wet and wild adventures on the Clarence River. The three major providers are:
2. Mann River
Before You Go
Here’s a simple checklist of things to do before you head out on your adventure:
- It’s essential for safety (and fun) reasons that you check the river levels before your trip. These can be found on the WaterInfo or Bureau of Meteorology websites.
- Always let someone at home know what your trip plans are (including a pick-up time and location for your support vehicle).
- Familiarise yourself with the environment; the hazards, the camping spots, the entry, and exit points. Set these points on your GPS if you have one.
- Ensure you have enough food, water, and fuel for your trip.
- Never enter or camp on private property without first gaining consent from the owner.
Which Section For Me?
The Clarence Canoe and Kayak Trail is not a beginner’s river! It’s imperative to assess your ability and choose a relevant section with sections involving rapids and compulsory portages. Below is an outline of the eight sections.
Section 1 – The Junction to Cartmill Park
‘A great open Canadian section with numerous grade 1-2 rapids and two grade 3’s.’
- Skill Level: Intermediate
- Grade: 2-3
- Distance: 24km
- Paddling Time: 6-8 hours
- Camping: The Junction, Black Mountain Reserve (for canoeists only) and Cartmill Park
Section 2 – Cartmill Park to Buccarumbi
‘A long but fairly easy day trip suitable for most paddlers with long pools separated by occasional rapids. An early start is advisable as there is no easy intermediate access.’
- Skill level: Intermediate
- Grade: 2
- Distance: 28km
- Paddling Time: 7-9 hours
- Camping: Cartmill Park or Buccarumbi Camping Reserve
Section 3 – Buccarumbi to Nymboida River Campground
‘Mostly long pools separated by races and occasional rapids. A great open Canadian section if care is taken on the rapids.’
Section 4 – Nymboida River Campground to Jackadgery
‘This stretch generally flows through the remote Nymboida National Park. Canoeists should be experienced and well prepared as there are a few long grade-3 rapids that can be difficult in higher water and several grade 4 rapids where portages are recommended.’
Section 5 – Jackadgery to Cangai Broadwater
‘The river is generally wide with long pools broken by occasional rocky races or rapids. The rural outlook is pleasant and mostly cleared with low gravel banks. It is suitable for touring Canadians and novice paddlers in the company of intermediate canoeists who note the location of Cangai Falls Road.’
- Skill level: Novice / Intermediate
- Grade: 2
- Distance: 27km
- Paddling time: 5-7 hours
- Camping: Mann River Caravan Park or Cangai Recreation Reserve
Section 6 – Cangai Broadwater to The Gorge
‘The journey to the junction with the Clarence River is predominantly gentle with long pools interspersed with rocky races. 2km downstream of the junction with the Clarence, the Clarence Gorge is entered and needs to be treated with great care.’
Section 7 – The Gorge to Winegrove
‘After the gorge, the river down to Winegrove is predominantly a series of long pools separated by gentle races and a few easy rapids. This section would normally be canoeable in all bar the driest seasons, as the river has now become more reliable.’
What Should I Pack?
It’s easy to get carried away with adventure packing. But if there is one area you must never skimp on, it’s the safety gear:
- A lifejacket/PFD at all times
- Helmets must be worn when paddling rapids
- Hat, mosquito repellent, and sunscreen
- Map, compass, and GPS
- A water filtration kit
- Enough food (and then some) for the entirety of your trip
- A first aid kit and basic knowledge of CPR
- Suitable footwear for water and submerged rocks
- A throw rope in case of rescue
- All canoes and kayaks should have fixed buoyancy with securing loops at each end
Most importantly folks, be safe and have an epic time on the water!
This information has been adapted from The Clarence Canoe & Kayak Trail map packs.