Brisbane River is a well-loved part of Queensland’s capital city with an abundance of activities centred around its serpentine bends. Here’s one of the best ways to explore the waterways – by kayak.
- Get a workout while checking out scenic river views
- Negotiate narrow log jams
- Finish off with a swim at Twin Bridges
A New Kind of Adventure
While I usually plan my weekend adventures well in advance, this expedition took shape at the last minute. Originally, my partner and I had borrowed a friend’s kayak to paddle on Somerset Dam.
With only brief paddling experience in a canoe on the Noosa Everglades, we had little knowledge of the best places to kayak near Brisbane. After all, we were typically land dwellers.
But our friend gave us a new idea that sounded more adventurous than exploring a dam.
Armed with the borrowed two-person kayak, a brief guide on where to start, and a sense of adventure, we opted to paddle down a 14km section of the Brisbane River. This stretch would take us from the Wivenhoe Dam spillway to Twin Bridges at Wivenhoe Pocket, located near Ipswich.
Paddling Out From Wivenhoe Dam Spillway
The Wivenhoe Dam Spillway presides high above the Brisbane River from the kayak launching point at Spillway Common.
At this point, the water is shallow and you’ll likely be able to see down to its rocky bed.
We started the trip downstream towards Twin Bridges over small rapids.
Here the river is narrow, shallow and remote, fringed with trees and reeds and not a person in sight. The river is calm and peaceful. We weaved around grass islands and dodged fallen tree branches poking out from the shallow waters.
Floating Through Countryside
Soon the river widened and farmland began to appear, dotted with pumps funnelling water from the river. Their lazy drone was the only sound around. Houses are few and far between but the ones we saw perched high on the top of the riverbank with an enviable, uninterrupted view of the river below.
Birdlife is abundant here, and many cormorants rest on fallen tree branches sticking out of the river, flying off as we approached.
As the river widens, it slows down and the paddling gets tougher, the river becomes more intimidating as it deepens and the view of the rocky bed disappears.
About an hour after we left the spillway, the river narrowed again, veering off sharply to the right. It didn’t look like it was part of the river, more like a little side creek, but the maps told us to follow.
With rain coming the sky darkened, creating a moody atmosphere in this narrow section dotted with small rapids. The river became shallow again, and we encountered log jam after log jam, fallen trees blocking much of the way forward except for small passages we used to slowly manoeuvre the kayak through.
After the log jam, the river starts to broaden again, until it stretches large and wide.
The Final Hurdle – Lowood Bend
It was a slog to reach Lowood Bend, where the river turns to the left around a sweeping curve.
Lowood Bend features the last set of rapids on the 14km stretch, with more fallen trees to negotiate. We somehow managed to capsize the kayak when it became caught on a log and took a swim in the fast flowing water.
Luckily, most of our gear was in drybags and remained dry and attached to the kayak – the rest, like stray flip flops, we managed to pluck from the water before they floated down the river without us. Surprisingly the river water was very warm on a cloudy spring day.
If you want to shorten the kayak trip, you can also start or finish at Lowood Bend with an access point on the right riverbank. After the river bend, the river widened again, remaining wide until Twin Bridges.
We paddled past cows, sheep, ducks and turtles, floating past high-set houses and bright green paddocks, vibrant after recent rain.
After four hours, we landed at Twin Bridges (a popular swimming spot), dried off and my partner ran the 7km back to retrieve the car to finish our Brisbane Valley loop.
- Kayak & paddle
- Dry bags
- Drinking water
- Hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses
- Long sleeved shirt and pants for coverage from the sun
- A set of dry clothes to change into after your kayak
- Snacks and lunch
Read more: Packing List for a Canoe Adventure
The area is remote, and you’ll need a good level of fitness and some paddling and navigational skills. There’s no signage down the river and there are a couple of forks and dead ends, as well as some rapids and log jams to negotiate. The log jams can be tricky when water levels are low. We used Maps.me as a guide for when the river forked. Note that there’s very few exits on the river.
How To Get There
The kayak launching point is at Wivenhoe Dam’s Spillway Common at Fernvale, near Ipswich, and located off the Brisbane Valley Highway. Head down Spillway Common following signs for the launching point.
From the car park, you’ll need to walk down about 200 metres to the launching point. It’s handy if you have a trolley for your kayak.
If you do the 14km stretch, you will end up at the Twin Bridges car park on Wivenhoe Pocket Road. You can opt to either do this as a car shuffle or if you have only one car, you’ll need to walk or run back 7km to your car via the Brisbane Valley Highway when you finish your kayak.
The Wivenhoe Dam Spillway/Twin Bridges is about an hour’s drive from Brisbane.