Kangaroo Valley features a gorgeous and secluded man-made lake known as Lake Yarrunga. The best way to explore it? You better believe it’s a paddlin’
- Private camp spots
- The ‘Gumtree Graveyard’
- Secluded skinny dipping
- Abundant wild life
I’m all about the weekender extender, so when work went back at the start of the year I looked into the future and the only logical idea was to take that Monday off between the weekend and ANZAC day. Bam-! Four day weekend… and what better way to spend it than 3 days paddling along Lake Yarrunga in the scenic Kangaroo Valley.
We departed Sydney early on Saturday morning and arrived at our outfitters base by 7:30am. We hired a canoe for two – nothing tests your relationship quite like river navigation. Included in our canoe hire were paddles, life jackets (compulsory by law), a barrel each to stow gear, laminated maps and drop-off and pick-up.
We had packed as we would for a lightweight hike so all our gear and food fit easily into the barrels, then we wedged these in the middle using our specialised aquatic footwear (thongs) to prevent them rolling around. My husband suggested we leave our sleeping mats out and use them as butt cushions and by the end of the day I loved him more than I ever have for that nugget of wisdom. So we donned our life jackets, grabbed our paddles and by 8:30am we had hit the water at Bendeela Recreation Area, bound for Beehive Point.
The first half of day one is through residential and farmland, though you rarely see a house or hear a person. As it’s hard to tell at some forks which way is a dead end and which isn’t, the houses that you do come across are often mapped land marks and are a great navigational aid. During the second half of the paddle the lake narrows and you are surrounded by rocky cliffs and tall gums and the view is sensational. By 12:30pm we had arrived at our campsite, one we’d chosen on the south side of the lake that is inaccessible by car to guarantee our privacy and seclusion.
After some lunch and a quick kip we hopped back in our canoe and headed up a tributary north of our campsite to see a ‘Drowned Forest’. The Shoalhaven River was dammed in the 70’s causing the level of Lake Yarrunga to rise. This drowned all of the vegetation on the banks and these days in some parts of the lake, big, old gumtree skeletons rise up out of the lake and create a very eerie atmosphere. I like to call it the Gumtree Graveyard.
We spent the rest of afternoon drinking wine on the river bank as a storm passed overhead and skinny dipping as the sun set. Absolute paradise.
Emerging from our tent early in the morning we were met with low lying cloud veiling the tops of the gumtrees and steam rising from the river. Indescribable really, but otherworldly is a start. So of course after packing up we headed to the Gumtree Graveyard to see it rising out of the mist.
Day two was a big one. We spent roughly 5 hrs paddling and covered about 24km all up. From Beehive Point we paddled all the way to Fossickers Flat in the Shoalhaven Gorge section of Lake Yarrunga. You know you have hit Fossickers Flat as there are small rapids flowing toward you, not passable in a canoe for two. We had scoped out a nice looking campsite on the way in so paddled back to it and set up for the night. There is no way to access this section of the gorge apart from on the water in a man powered vessel, so once again we had a totally secluded campsite all to ourselves.
After another evening of wine-drinking and skinny-dipping we awoke feeling refreshed and rested. Another early start and we had covered the 15km back to Tallowa Dam by 10am. At this point in time we had no idea how far we had paddled and were surprised to find a map in the recreation area telling us we had covered at least 51km over the past 3 days, making us feel much better about our aching arms and shoulders.
We chose to spend three days on Lake Yarrunga although this is not your only option. You could easily flesh out the same paddle with an extra night in the Shoalhaven Gorge section, alternatively an overnighter into the Shoalhaven Gorge or to Beehive Point from Tallowa Dam is easily done as well.
And finally, practising the ‘Leave No Trace’ camping principles is very important. Lake Yarrunga is a back up water catchment for Sydney and the Illawarra and is full of native wildlife.
I will do this trip again, more than once as it was so fantastic. As you are canoeing the extra weight isn’t really a big deal. Instead of eating two minute noodles and dehydrated meals I would make the effort to cook up a bit of a feast each night. You can afford to pack a pan and even a little esky for meat and other perishables.
- A paddlin’ pal
- Traps of steel (not really, but they’ll help)
- Swimmers (if skinny dipping isn’t your thing)
- Overnight camping gear and food
- Water purifier
- Barrels or water proof sacks for essentials
- Map (preferably with marked camp spots)
How To Get There
From Sydney, hit the Hume Highway and take the exit for the old Hume highway towards Mittagong and Moss Vale. From there follow your GPS to Bendeela Recreation Area, or your chosen outfitter, along a series of twists and turns through the super scenic back roads of Fitzroy Falls. Eventually you will descend through the epic S-Bends into Kangaroo Valley.
Families, couples and friends with little experience to pros looking for a relaxing paddle.
By paddling from Bendeela to Fossickers Flat and returning to Tallowa Dam we covered 51km.
Bendeela to Beehive Point – 14km
Beehive point to Tallowa dam – 7km
Bendeela to Tallowa dam – 21km (maths yo)
Tallowa dam to Fossickers Flat – 15km