After three days on the Ord River, the East Kimberley has captured Amy’s heart. Paddling 55km downstream through one of the most remote regions in the country, with seven mates in tow (not quite literally), isn’t something she’ll forget any time soon.


We acknowledge that this adventure is located on the traditional Country of the Miriwoong and Gajerrong peoples who have occupied and cared for the lands, waters, and their inhabitants for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

Quick Overview

This 55km, three day canoe trip down the Ord River winds from Lake Argyle to Kununurra in Western Australia’s Kimberley region. It’s a rare Saltwater croc-free section of river in Northern Australia that offers up endless views and good times. 

About the Ord River Canoe Trip

The Ord River in Western Australia’s Kimberley region is a 651km long river that winds its way from the Kimberley Plateau to the Cambridge Gulf. However, a 55km section of it, between the man-made Lake Argyle and the dam wall in Kununurra, is regularly monitored for Saltwater crocodiles, making it safe enough for a paddling adventure! (Although it’s still teeming with Freshwater crocodiles, so don’t become too complacent.)

Read more: How To Stay Safe in Croc Country



To paddle the entire 55km length takes three days, with stopovers at two riverside campgrounds along the way, as well as waterfalls and creeks to explore. The best way to organise the trip is to make a booking with Go Wild Adventures who’ll supply you with the canoes and almost all the gear you need for the trip. 

The team also offers single or two day canoe options, but it’s definitely worth going the whole hog!

This is a completely unique way to immerse yourself in the Kimberley region, and Northern Australia in general, as it’s rare to get such a long stretch of river safe for paddling!

Ord River History

Known as Goonoonoorrang to the local Miriwoong people, the Ord River winds through the traditional country of the Miriwoong and Gajerrong peoples, who have lived in the area for thousands of years. 

The western name was given to the river to commemorate Sir Harry St. George Ord, who was the Governor of Western Australia for 1877 to 1880 (yeah just three years, go figure).

The damming of the Ord River in 1972 as part of the Ord River Irrigation Scheme, created Lake Arygle, the largest man-made lake in all of Australia at 741 square kilometres in size. 


How to Get to the Ord River

The Ord River canoe trip starts from the north side of the dam wall at Lake Argyle, about an hour’s drive from Kununurra. If you book through Go Wild Adventures, they’ll pick you up from Kununurra to drive you to the start of the river and meet you at your preferred pick up point once you’re back in Kununurra.

Kununurra is an 8.5 hour drive from Darwin along the Stuart and Victoria Highways. If you’re coming from further afield, you can fly into Kununurra Airport. 

Kununurra is also the eastern end of the Gibb River Road, so if you’re road-tripping along, this is a great adventure to tack onto your trip.


Where to Stay Along the Ord River

There are two campgrounds for use of paddlers on the Go Wild Adventures trip. 

Both Cooliman Camp on the first night and Stonewall Camp on the second are well equipped, with five tent platforms available, as well as a shower, toilet, and camp kitchen at each. 

When we took the trip, a few of the platforms at Stonewall Camp were a bit overgrown, but we were on the second trip after the wet season, so things had really sprung up!

In terms of accommodation on either side of the canoe trip, Kimberleyland Waterfront Holiday Park in Kununurra is a beautiful waterside caravan park with great facilities including a pool, cafe, and camp kitchen.  

At the other end of the river, Lake Argyle Resort is known for its spectacular views over the lake, including the Insta-famous infinity pool. Cabins and camping spot for caravans and tents are available, and there’s a cafe/restaurant on site.

Skill Level

Beginner – Intermediate 

I believe anyone with even a small amount of previous paddling experience would be able to handle this trip. It’s more about endurance than technical skill.

As the water level is constantly controlled by the pump at Lake Argyle dam wall, the river is rarely at risk of rising dramatically. Within the first few hours, there are a handful of minor obstacles, but after that, the river widens and becomes quite slow-moving. 

If anything, the paddling becomes hard work, especially if a headwind picks up. Two of the days are quite long (23km each) and on flat water, so can become a little bit of a drag. But the scenery more than helps!

Distance / Duration / Elevation Gain

55km / 3 days / zero

Essential Gear for Ord River Canoe Trip

Read more: Packing List for a Canoe Adventure

  • Long sleeve shirt and pants 
  • Sunscreen
  • Wide-brimmed hat
  • River shoes
  • Bug repellent or mosquito coils 
  • First aid kit
  • Toilet paper
  • Head torch
  • Camera
  • Drink bottle or hydration bladder (the river water is safe to drink)
  • Swimmers
  • Three days of food and drink
  • Sleeping bag
  • Lighter

If you go with Go Wild Adventures, the rest will be supplied for you (including a PLB)!

Read more: Remember to leave no trace

What it’s Like to Paddle the Ord River

Day 1 – Lake Argyle dam wall to Cooliman Camp

Distance: 23km
Duration: 5.5 hours

The first day of the paddle starts with an early wake up in Kununurra, where the crew from Go Wild Adventures will pick you up, help you pack your barrels, pick up any last supplies, drive you to the start of the river and give you a detailed briefing. 

This all took a fair while longer than I expected, so we didn’t start paddling until around 11:30am, and the sun was scorching! 

The first few hours of the paddle are certainly the most fun of the whole trip, as the water is moving fast and there are a few trees and islands to maneuver. 


With turtles sticking their heads up to say hi, and Freshwater crocs basking on the reedy riverbank, there was plenty of wildlife to spot as we stroked our way between the rough, red ranges. 

After around 2.5 hours of paddling, we rounded a corner and found a sandy bank to pull up on for a lunch of wraps (classic) and a splash in the shallows.  

We set off again around 2:30pm and we started to find nooks of shade behind the ranges as we paddled our way to camp. The last half hour or so was the best of the day, as we made our way between the hugging walls of a gorge and finally evaded the sun. 



We arrived at Cooliman Camp to much delight at around 5pm, with just enough time to set up our tents before sundown. 

We lit a fire (mostly to keep bugs away) and tucked into a scrumptious Italian dinner and red wine before hitting the pillow. It was a sweltering night, even without the flies on our tents. 

Day 2 – Cooliman Camp to Stonewall Camp

Distance: 9km (plus side trips)
Duration: 4.5 hours

The sun rises early in the far east of WA, with first light around 5:30am. I watched the pink light make its way across the still river from my tent with a cacophony of birds as a backing track. 

As this day was by far the shortest amount of paddling we had to do, we enjoyed a slower morning, making multiple rounds of coffee, tucking into muesli, and planning the day ahead.



Pushing out onto the river by about 10am, we travelled less than 100 metres before diverting down a small and jungely creek in search of a waterfall, with much success! 

After an hour or so of rock scrambling and stripping off to swim in cascading falls, we settled back into our canoes for a longer journey up the river in search of the next waterfall – Herbies Hideaway. 

After an hour or so of paddling, we spotted the entry point to the track, docked our canoes, and made haste along the 1-2km jungle trail, with little idea of exactly what to expect. Herbie certainly delivered!



This magnificent tumbling waterfall provided a beautiful big swimming hole to delight in with (limited) fear of Freshies. Definitely worth the trek in! 

We trod our way back to the canoes and continued the final 6km paddle to Stonewall Camp, passing by a magical waterfall in a cave as we went.  

Unlike the first day, this day we started to see other boats on the river enjoying the water and scenery too, but all of them had cleared out by late afternoon, when we paddled back to a nearby lookout for sunset and had the landscape to ourselves.


Day 3 – Stonewall Camp to Kununurra Diversion Dam

Distance: 23km
Duration: 6 hours

The final day of our paddle was just as long as our first, but with much more tired and sore bodies. Luckily, it was overcast so the beating sun wasn’t an issue, the headwind however, certainly didn’t help morale. 

Breaking camp and paddling out at around 8:30am, we had a tiny kick of a current from the adjoining spillway, but it was short-lived as the river got niiiice and wide.



The first few kilometres saw us wave goodbye to the ranges that had flanked us for the last two days, as we moved closer to town and into more low-lying agricultural territory. 

Signs of civilisation started popping up on the banks, and about halfway along, we pulled up for lunch at a public jetty and boat ramp. If you’ve well and truly had enough by this point, you can give the crew from Go Wild Adventures a call to come pick you up early for a small fee. 

Our egos however were too large, so we jumped back in the canoes for the last 10km or so. 

With food in our bellies and show tunes on our lips, the last few hours were a delight. We watched sheets of rain travel along the river before showering down on us, we admired Elephant Rock erupt from the surrounding plains, and we remembered we had the esky with the beers, so cracked a celebratory Black Fish for the final kilometre. 

Cheers to an unforgettable adventure!

Tips for Paddling the Ord River

  • Prepare for it to be very humid and very sunny! You’ll be exposed during the entire paddle, so even if it’s hot, long sleeved pants and shirts are best for keeping the sun off
  • Freshwater crocodiles will be present, and I’d be surprised if you don’t see at least one. It’s good to be cautious and obviously never approach them, but don’t let them stop you from getting in the water! They’re not aggressive like Salties and will usually swim away when they feel you coming

FAQs Ord River Canoe Trip

Where is the Ord River canoe trip located? 

The canoe trip happens in the Ord River between Lake Argyle and Kununurra dam in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia. 

How do you get to the Ord River? 

You can drive to the start of the canoe trip in a 2WD, but if you book through Go Wild Adventures, they will organise pick up and drop off from Kununurra. 

When is the Ord River canoe trip open? 

Technically you can paddle the Ord River at any time of year, but the Go Wild Adventures self-guided tour operates from mid-April to the end of October. Paddling outside of these months means you’d be out during the wet season, which would make it extremely hot and humid. 

Is the Ord River canoe trip good for beginners? 

Absolutely! With little navigation and technical paddling skills needed, almost anyone could take on the Ord River canoe trip. You’ll just need to be able to swim and have a bit of grit and endurance!

How long does it take to complete the Ord River canoe trip? 

Three days 

How long is the Ord River canoe trip? 


Can you swim in the Ord River? 

In this section of the river between Lake Argyle and the Kununurra dam, yes, you can swim. There are even a few hidden waterfalls along the way as well.

Do you need a 4WD to get to the Ord River? 

Nope! 2WD cars can access the start of the Ord River, however after wet season, there may be some damage to Lake Arygle Road, as well as shallow water crossings. Make sure to check the depth of the water before crossing!

Is paddling the Ord River free? 

If you have your own canoe, gear, and transport, you can paddle the Ord River for free. However if you’re booking your self-guided tour through Go Wild Adventures, the cost is $300 per person.