Aaron’s mate, aptly nicknamed Hillbill, suggested they spend the summer holiday paddling the Nepean River. Check out their 42km return journey, camping in searing heat, at the foot of the Blue Mountains. 


  • Paddling 21km’s on the Nepean River to camp for 3 days in near 40-degree weather
  • Having a natural spa bath, relaxing in gentle rapids
  • Feeling the power of a waterfall showering over us
  • Swimming in 2 giant lagoons at the foot of the Blue Mountains
  • Seeing Australian animals including water hens, dragonflies, a water dragon and funnel web and golden orb spiders.
Walking over waterfalls, Nepean River, Australia

Walking over waterfalls, Nepean River, Australia

Last time I camped with Hillbill, he grabbed a snake by the tail, reminiscent of the late Steve Irwin. His ideas and adventures are wild, but he’s also a wonderful, caring bloke.

Four of us are lured into his expedition, Davo, Brodie, Jimmy and I. It’s a good group of lads. We launch our kayaks at 8:00am, beside the M4 Bridge that crosses the Nepean River. We pack too much and the boats sit heavily in the water. That is, aside from my kayak. It’s a long, narrow boat, which only holds Jimmy’s backpack and a sleeping bag. I get sufficient criticism for packing heavily and offloading my gear to another boat.

A beautiful red dragonfly, Nepean River, Australia

A beautiful red dragonfly, Nepean River, Australia

It’s a beautiful day

Rocks protrude from the water, close to shore. They look like crocodiles, bobbing on the surface, eyeing off a meal. I give myself room so they don’t take a bite of my kayak. Gum trees and Casuarinas line the banks. The Casuarinas, with their shallows roots, appear to grow anywhere. Despite little soil, small green shoots protrude from a few submerged rocks. A bearded dragon scurries along the bank. Higher on the ridge, there’s a group of mountain goats.

A Golden Orb spider, has one of the strongest webs, Nepean River

A Golden Orb spider, has one of the strongest webs, Nepean River

Rock ledges protrude over the water, forming little caves by the bank. The surrounding bush is thick with no place to go ashore. We paddle as far up river as possible. After 21km, the river is blocked by shallow rapids. We proceed down a side stream and find a large flat area to camp on. There are numerous rocks to navigate but I safely pull the kayak onto the dirt. The ground is dry and cracked — perfect for funnel web spiders. The shore is littered with nests. As I step around, the jet black spiders duck into their holes. Davo walks around barefoot, despite how deadly they are.

It’s mid-afternoon, a scorching 37 degrees

We use a gas cooker to prepare the meat that’s already defrosted. Worried about our food, we’re offered a lifeline.

Camping by the water, Nepean River, Australia

Camping by the water, Nepean River, Australia

We’re not completely isolated in the bush. Across the river, 5 people exit the trees. There’s no boat. They appear from thin air. Calling out, we learn there’s an access trail to Nortons Basin Road, Wallacia (roughly a km uphill). After a quick phone call, Brodie gets a case of beer and 2 bags of ice delivered to the top of the trail.

The next day starts with a natural bath

I stumble over moss covered rocks until I find a deep, circular groove. It forms the perfect bathtub to wash myself in the river. Given the water’s beautiful temperature, we paddle to the rapids. Sitting in the rock grooves is like a spa. Little jets are formed by the water’s flow. I find 2 gaps to hold my elbows and prevent being swept away. There are some minuscule leeches, but they wash off. Besides, the spa is too relaxing to move.

A natural spa, Nepean River, Australia

A natural spa, Nepean River, Australia

The area is surrounded by birds

Two noisy water hens sit on a submerged tree. Nearby, a lone black swan circles. He munches on plants disinterested in our spa session. The beautiful call of Bell birds interrupts the quiet hum of Cicadas. It’s incredibly tranquil.

Needing deeper water to escape the 42 degree Celsius heat, we search for 2 lagoons. It’s a short hike up the access route (halfway toward Nortons Basin Road). However, I’m panting intensely in the heat. My water bottle is no relief. It’s near boiling.

The trail passes a few rusted cars, long abandoned, before descending steeply. At the bottom, there’s an enormous lagoon. Water enters via a cascading waterfall. The last descent is the largest (about a metre high). I walk across the top and sit on the edge of the waterfall. My legs dangle on the ledge as water pours around me.

Joining the lads, we stand beneath the waterfall and experience its force before heading upstream, jumping across rocks and boulders for 500m. We discover the second lagoon, which is enormous, roughly 100m wide and 6m deep. It’s enclosed by a huge ridge, almost blocking the sun.

Beneath the waterfall, Nepean River, Australia

Beneath the waterfall, Nepean River, Australia

It’s hard to wake on the third morning

At 6:00am, I unzip the tent and start packing my bag. There’s a light breeze. It’s a nice reprieve from the recent heat. We load the boats and launch by 7:45am. It’s overcast. The clouds partially block the sun’s intensity. We maintain a steady pace, stopping only at Glenbrook Creek. I refuel on 2-minute noodles and continue home.

Swimming in the lagoon, Nepean River, Australia

Swimming in the lagoon, Nepean River, Australia

We always seem to follow Hillbill’s wild ideas. While camping and paddling in 40-degree weather seems crazy, the valley keeps us cool and the swimming is refreshing. Plus, the Nepean River is a beautiful place. It’s surrounded by the iconic Australian bush. However, I wouldn’t camp here unless you know someone from the area with first aid training and possibly a satellite phone. There’s a high risk of snake and spider bites, falls or getting lost in bushland. Luckily, we return safely to the M4 Bridge after 3 hours paddling. After a week’s reprieve, Hillbill calls with another great camping idea.

Essential Gear

  • Tent, sleeping bags, headlamp
  • First aid kit for falls, snakes and spiders
  • Satellite phone (if possible)
  • Kayak and paddle

How To Get There

Launch locationCamping spot (roughly).


  • Paddling
  • Swimming
  • Bush walking / Hiking
  • Camping
  • Photography
  • Fishing (if you want)

Skill Level

Intermediate — a decent amount of paddling in tough conditions but flat water. It also requires knowledge of the bush around the Blue Mountains.

Distance Covered

A 42km return paddle and, approximately, a 1km walk to the lagoons.


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