For the past two years, The Living Murray has sponsored the Murray Meander. It’s a great charity event that travels a different part of the Murray River each year, raising money for breast and prostate cancer support services, as well as raising awareness about the value of the Murray River.
Jamie Hearn, The Living Murray communications coordinator for NSW, not only participated in the event but took the time to write about (and grab some snaps of) some of the highlights of the last Meander.
If you have any questions or you’ve taken part in a Meander yourself, let us know at the end of the post.
The Murray Meander come endurance test
Friday February 24 — clear skies ahead
The Living Murray team travelled with about 35 other teams past Corryong to the Colac Colac (pronounced Klac Klac) Caravan Park to start this year’s event. Expectations were high with clear skies and high temperatures. There were some forecasts of significant rain events on the way but that didn’t dampen our spirits and they were probably wrong anyway, we couldn’t possibly get THAT much rain. Could we?
Saturday February 25 — shallow water
Most teams put their boats into the fast shallow water of the upper Murray just above the Bringenbrong Bridge at around midday. Spider Everitt made an appearance with his camera man at the launch and did some on the spot interviews (our team included) for his TV show. I managed to squeeze in a few words about The Living Murray and the health of the river.
The river was crystal clear and my team mate Glen swore he saw a cod swim under the boat in the first 200 metres! It is certainly a pretty part of the river with rock bars, pebble beaches and eddies among the surrounding mountains. The shallow water meant that it took the boats six to seven hours to complete what was only 30 km by road. Hopping out and dragging the boat across the very shallow areas was a regular occurrence.
Sunday February 26 — eating locally
Another glorious morning, although the forecasts were becoming a bit serious. Overnight there were stories about fish being caught and the wonderful scenery as well as the odd collision with willows and rock bars. Camp was to be at Walwa tonight. On most occasions, the organisers made use of local sporting clubs and CWAs to provide meals for the 180 plus participants. Ingredients for breakfast were also picked up locally along the way.
Monday February 27 — the rain arrives
A change over into our larger boat today just before the trip across Lake Hume. Navigating through the dead timber upstream of the weir proved to be quite a challenge. Any boats without a depth sounder found it quite difficult to locate the river channel, and a few boats ended up high and dry on occasion.
We reached our camp site as the rain set in! About 130 mm fell overnight on the meander crews. Those in small tents and swags on the ground had a very ordinary night. Daylight found clothes drenched, collapsed tents and saturated swags but lots of undampened enthusiasm.
Tuesday February 28 — rest day
The Living Murray team took the opportunity to take a rest after the hard days in the shallow water and from the wet night before. The outlets on the Hume Dam had been closed to capture all the rain and the river at Albury was falling fast. This meant moving the main launch site for the day downstream.
Wednesday February 29 — broken propeller shaft
The surrounding countryside got pretty wet as the rain started to fall again. Small waterfalls were seen along the banks as creeks and depressions started to flow into the Murray. About two hours into the leg our team members in the other boat hit something and snapped the propeller shaft. We had to then find a spot that we could access the river to get their boat out.
We then headed to Bundalong (were the Ovens meets the Murray) for lunch where we put the smaller boat back into the river for the trip across Lake Mulwala. We gained the safety of the Mulwala Ski Club as the first spits of rain started again.
Thursday March 1 — more rain
With a new leg and prop for the boat, our team members set off from Yarrawonga after another 125 mm overnight. The river had risen significantly (almost a metre) and there was more rain coming. Mid-morning the boat again hit something in the water and broke the drive shaft. This time there was too much water around to get to them and they could only tie the boat to another crew and continue on slowly.
Our road crews only just got through to Cobram before the Murray Valley Highway was closed to traffic. The river was rising rapidly but there was only a short stretch to the new camp site in Tocumwal. The original site had been washed out with no access by road at all. Wet and cold we weakened and booked a cabin for the night.
Friday March 2 — Barmah–Millewa Forest icon site
Tocumwal to the final camp site downstream of Barmah was the longest stretch at around 170 kms.
The small boat was put in and we headed down the river. All the regulators into the Barmah–Millewa forest had been opened and the floodwaters were just entering many of the creeks as we passed. We navigated the fast flowing narrows without incident. No rain overnight but it got very windy and concerns about trees coming down kept those in the campsite awake for much of the night.
Last day (Saturday March 3) — successful fundraising
The last morning was cold, windy and threatening to rain again. We took the boat through to the Echuca East boat ramp (raining again by now) and completed the final 5 kms into the Echuca Wharf and the finish line. Absolutely saturated we pulled the boat out and headed for home. We met everyone else back at the presentation dinner in Moama that night. The Living Murray team was recognised on the night for its fundraising efforts.
As a returning team The Living Murray team had a much higher profile than last year. The vehicle stickers again proved a hit (one team had left theirs on from last year’s event). Discussions on fish populations and floodplains were common place with many genuinely interested in carp control, fishways and re-snagging.