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Flora River Canoe trip


Back in the days when we were active with the Katherine Canoe Club we did a 3 day paddle along the Flora and Daly Rivers. The access to the river in those days was through Scott Creek Station (70 km west of Katherine) over the usual station tracks and down fencelines until you hopefully found the spot you were after.

Our canoe trip was to take in two nights of camping with paddling over 3 days.

We arrived at Kathleen Falls (a goat track) ( now the Park Campground) late in the morning ( there were over 20 people on this expedition and organising a car shuffle was a major planning exercise)

The canoes all packed we paddled out into the River with a backdrop of the many waterfalls of Kathleen falls and the unusual aqua colour of the spring river water, then off we paddled.

Fifty metres later everyone was getting out of their canoes , doing balancing acts on the tufa dams and swimming along side their canoes as they lowered them over the edge of the least flowing dam.

It was an exercise in itself , portaging your laden canoe over a 6 foot drop with little room to place your feet. But we did it and there was jubilation by all involved .

Little did we know this would happen another 20 times

I must admit that even though we sweated and toiled and unloaded our canoes over the tufa dams and through the vegetation, spikey pandanus leaves, spider webs, over branches in the water, the scenery was fantastic and I wish we had a team of professional photographers to capture the moments.( cause I was too busy keeping the boat upright and dry)

We all paddled on for several kilometres having alot more long clear stretches the further downstream we went. All the way down the river was lined with thick vegetation.

We got to a section in the river that split for about 4 kilometres before joining up again, everyone had their own views about the best route to take and the expedition split into about half and explored both tracts of river. Maria & I went left.

Our small group paddled off, all helping each other through the narrow sections and waterfalls. It was only about another 50 metres after this photo that Maria & I were out in front of the others who were restowing their canoe when we heard a rustle in the crisp leafy undergrowth, thinking it was a buffalo we paddled along until we could see it was a saltwater crocodile now running on all four legs for the river (the same river that we were in)

The croc was startled, we were startled , and we were in a little canoe , it all seemed like a dream for the long 10 seconds it took to hit the water about 20 metres in front of us. All I could think of was to gun it and keep our momentum up as we paddled over the bubbles it left as it dove in the dark aqua river. ( If we had of tried to stop and turn around we probably would of lost our balance in the panic).This section of river was dark from the large overhanging trees and was a deep waterhole.
The dissapointing thing was my description of its size at the time. I said it was about 6 foot (ie as big as me). Everyone just shrugged the experience off and went for a lovely swim at our first nights camp at a unnamed large waterfall. ( It wasnt until a few months later I saw a verified 10 foot croc and said that was more like the size we saw, it had a body similar size to me and a 4 foot tail. The 6 foot crocs are still only the size of your thigh)( How wrong I was in our 10 seconds of heart thumping)
By the way , when they declared the Flora River a Northern Territory Nature Park a few years later they set Croc traps and pulled out numerous 10 & 14 foot crocs ( maybe even bigger)
We set up camp for the night under the clear sky and everyone sat around the campfire and talked rubbish into the night, with the sound of the waterfall roaring through the night.

The next morning we were packed and off again using all able bodied people to lower the canoes over the waterfall at our campsite.
We paddled until about lunch time ( there were no real exit points to have a cuppa) when we made it to the Junction of the Flora & Katherine Rivers. Here the river becomes the Daly River and the exotic beauty of the 100% spring fed river changes back to the familiar waterways we are used to. Broader , sandy , rocky and not so many waterfalls.

Another good nights camp around the campfire, some people made repairs to their canoes after a few rocky mishaps. Everyone had a good dip in the river and those who had a spare cup of red wine gave it freely.
You can see how the River is affected by the great rise & fall of the wet season water levels. The photo of our campsite has a huge uprooted tree wedged 18 feet high into the branches of another. For it to be wedged up there the river had to be at least 30 feet high (10 metres) at this section of river. But at this time of year it is a nice 'trickle'.

We made our final destination at a pick up point on Florina Cattle Station , where many of the lead pack missed the tape in the trees to signify the exit point.
A terrific trip and a wonderful experience to paddle out in the tranquil settings of the Australian outback.
I'm still to obtain a proper map of the trip and work out how many kilometres we paddled. I have a feeling it was about 40-50 km which was just right. Considering alot of us on this trip had just done the 81 km Katherine River Marathon a few weeks before, this was a pleasant pace.

We enquired at the Katherine Ranger Station before we went about Crocs & were told "No, she'll be right, it's all fresh water, no crocs there" It was 1990 back then & no crocs had been seen in the Katherine River for a long time let alone anywhere else. We saw some & everyone still frolicked in the water. It wasnt until a few years later when they Rangers turned it into a park & threw in a few croc traps that they pulled out many beauties.