Wallis Lakes

January Long Weekend 2009.


The Great Lakes District Map 1:70000 - [Link to Map]


Mark, Ken, Graham, Gay, Hubert, Ron, Dug.

Boat ramp on Wallamba River Nabiac - photo by dug

Wednesday 21, Nabiac, Wallamba River.

I left Newcastle about 0630, with Ken Harris's river touring kayak atop the CRV, to drive to Nabiac, to meet the others by 1000.  A pleasant enough trip, with all going to plan.  At Nabiac I needed to find Wharf Road, the locals in a shop were not sure so, I explored down near the river, while doing so I saw another vehicle with a kayak and we stopped to chat. This was Hubert from NPA in Sydney and luckily he had a sketch map.  Down by the river Gay and Graham were getting ready, Mark turned up soon after and we all unloaded the cars and loaded the kayaks with camp equipment for six days, Only two days of food though because we will leave our cars in Tuncurry with other food.  Eventually Ken and Ron arrived and unloaded in preparation for the car shuffle to Tuncurry.

We drove in convoy along The Lakes Way to park in a side street beside the Wallamba River and returned Day 1 - Wallamba River, nice waterway - photo by Hubert to Nabiac in Hubert's' car. Ron and Gay had continued to pack while guarding the boats. A pleasant sunny day in the tree lined park with a rough boat ramp to the river.  Just the place for lunch and then launch our seven kayaks, 6 sleek looking sea kayaks and my rather shorter stouter river kayak.  I must admit I was a little concerned about being able to keep up, especially since in the couple of practice paddles in Throsby Creek the craft tended to veer left of it's own volition and I had difficulty steering it straight. 

We all set off about 1330 paddling down stream, my boat as before tending to dart to the left every now and then but I seemed to be going ok as we all kept together.  A pleasant tree lined river about 50m wide smooth and calm, under a pleasant sunny sky.

About 1640 we found a place to land and camp in a flat paddock just before Darawank, a good time to stop on the first day.  A nice camping spot with the occasional sound of a boat towing water skiers passing on the flat water.  I was apprehensive about biting insects with so much water about, but this was unfounded as only a few appeared around sundown and sun up.  By when I was safely inside my tent, protected by fly-screen mesh.  We all prepared delicious evening meals on a variety of stoves, no fire tonight, out of consideration of the land owner.  I tried my hand at fishing with a spinner to no avail - well you have to try - don't you :-}

First evening - Camp by Wallamba Rive - photo by dug Overall a good day and we are on our way.  The weather was pleasantly hot on the water and I wore a hat and sunglasses for a change (very rare for me).  About 2 hours into the trip, damp and stiff with dried salt - "ah I remember what extended kayak trips are like.  You are damp and stiff with salt all the time!" ☺ Of course the view from a kayak is rather close to the water, excellent for watching the river banks, a bit short to see on top of them.

Thursday 22nd, Wallamba River, Tuncurry, Coolongolook River

A good night not to hot not too cold, just right.  Away about 0730 for the paddle to Tuncurry to replenish the larder from the cars and duck down the street for shop food.  This section of river much like the previous but with increasing urbanisation on the banks and oyster leases and moorings on the river. The odd recreational fishing boat cruises past to give us a wave :-)

Away paddling through the maze of islands, oyster leases, and channels about 1300. A fairly congested part of the lakes with islands dotted all over the place, oyster leases, working piers, work sheds, and fisherman's storage.  About 1600 hr we started seeking a suitable place to camp just before the Minimbah Creek. Wallamba River - morning day 2 - photo by dug The chosen spot was the northern most nose of the little bay shown on the map. Flat grassy ground, with a cover of Teatree, not too much rubbish and an easy landing without getting the feet any wetter.

We spread out to set up camp and start preparing tea. Hubert had brought prawns for bait in Tuncurry and started fishing, he soon pulled in his first eat size brim plus a number of smaller ones. I tried my hand but only hooked a couple of too small ones. You beauty fish entree, thank you Hubert. Dinner on a canoe trip tends to be more complete than on a bushwalk because you can stow quite a lot of food in a canoe, even the small one I was using. So we all dined well to our own taste. Very enjoyable sitting around the fire watching the sun go down. I was pleasantly surprised to find so few mossies.

Friday 23rd, Coolongolook River, Wang Wauk River, Coolongolook Nature Reserve.

Camp day 2 near Minimbah Creek mouth- photo by Hubert A pleasant night again, and a delightful dawn. No great hurry eating breakfast and preparing for the days paddle. We were away about 0800 on a delightful sunny day again. Our course west on the broad waterway enjoying the bush on either bank. Only the occasional indication of habitation. Prolific water-bird life. A couple of paddles saw dolphins playing in the shallow water. We investigated the northern bank for suitable places to camp and eventually dropped our packs on the north bank opposite Coolongolook Nature Reserve, at the foot of a small hill.

Then we paddled northish up the Wang Wauk River to just before the freeway crossing.  Lunch time, on the bank under tall shady trees. This section of river has thick bush on the western side and increasing farming on the eastern bank. After lunch half of the crew paddle the extra 200 or so meters round the bend to be blocked by the work done to provide bridge for the freeway, the others stayed lazing in the shade because it was a hot day now.

We paddled back the way we came, most of us seeking the shade of the trees overgrowing the banks where we could. I was getting short of water by the time we reached the junction with the Coolongolook River. Mark made a quick dart up the hill to a house seeking water, no one was home but we were able to use a tap.  Mark and I paddled up the Coolongolook a short way to check Morning 3 paddling towards Wang Wauk River- photo by dug for better camp sites while the others went on to set up camp.  A possible camp place on the western bank was no better than where we had dropped the packs.  The Nature Reserve on the other bank had picnic tables and fire pits, and no people, but there was a bit of a bank to scramble up. We went over to the others and it was decided to move over the river to the new spot.

The bank proved no problem and we soon had all the canoes out of the river and camp set up. A most pleasant spot to spend a night amongst the tall trees with the dark river sliding by. Ken would have preferred a bush camp but the rest of us enjoyed the BBQ and picnic table and stools.  One needed a bushwalk with map and compass to find the dunny, they tell me :-}.

A pleasant night starry and quiet except the occasional splash of fish in the river. At one stage I got up to look and was engaged by the bright photo fluorescence as water creatures swirled past.

Saturday 24th, Wallingat River, Coolongolook River.

A pleasant morning, greeted with the dawn bird chorus easing us awake. A leisurely breakfast and we were away about 0830, paddling down stream on the glassy water towards Junction Point and the Wallingat River. This is a broad waterway heading from the south, past an island (Mills Island Nature Reserve), and a pleasant mixture of farm land, swamp and forest.

We stopped for morning tea at a boat ramp/jetty on the east bank opposite Junction Point, and walked up to the house on the hill to beg a refill of water from the great family holidaying there, thank you. We continued upstream till about lunch time when we landed, as one should at such times. Over lunch we discussed continuing up river, with numbers divided. Eventually Cooloongalook River - photo by Hubert we decided to return so that we would have more time in the Wallis Lakes proper. On the way back the see breeze had picked up considerably and I was having problems keeping my boat straight, in the cross wind and waves. I found I needed to keep closer inshore where the wind and wave chop was not so pronounced. A fair bit further to paddle than the others unfortunately, still overall the borrowed boat is going well, much better than I had expected.

We camped in the same place near Minimbah Creek that we camped a couple of nights ago. We quickly set up tents and shelter as we could see a storm threatening. Dinner was cooked over fire and on gas stoves, unfortunately not enough fish for everyone tonight. Just on dark a thunderstorm dumped a heavy rainfall for a short while enabling those inclined, to dash about three quarters naked and wash of days of dried salt, most welcome they said. Fortunately the wind and rain soon died down and nothing vital was too wet. We retired early as the fire was out and the damp conditions with occasional slight drizzle was not conducive to siting and conversing.

There was indications in the sky of a southerly change to come and this duly arrived during the night, with very strong wind gusts blowing things about and necessitating re-pitching a couple of shelters.

Sunday 25th, Coolongolook River, Coomba, Yahoo Island.

Storm at camp on day 4 - photo Hubert Not what I would call an auspicious morning, strong winds, mist with the occasional flurry of drizzle. Still we are here for the adventure, aren't we :-{ We breakfast and pack up to start paddling about 0800, heading for the lee shore (southern river bank), where possible to reduce the effects of the wind. Not all that bad really and about 1000 we arrive at Coomba village, where we land for smoko. It didn't take long for some to decide that shop coffee in town is a must and they disappear while I watch the boats and enjoy the foreshore.

After the stop our course is round Coomba Point into Wallis Lake where we cop the full force of the gale as we paddle round the point, south into the wind. We continued down to Coomba Island and Black Rocks which we explore for a possible camp site with no joy. Well we could have camped but it would have been a tad breezy!

We backtracked, tail wind. With the waves from directly behind I found my boat would surf these small waves quite well thank you and the others had to keep up me now, somehow. The longer boats do not surf well. We explored the long northern lee shore of Yahoo Island protected from the wind, and found a good camp site on the north-eastern tip where we stopped for lunch.

We then paddled south down to the two Snake Islands, the number of water birds sheltered in the lee between Dug on lee of Black Rocks Island, It's stormy out there - Photo Hubert the islands was astounding. Hundreds of pelicans on land and on the water, hundreds of swans on the water, hundreds of Ibis on shore, thousands of sea gulls, terns, sandpipers all over. They were quite content to sit there and watch us. We then paddled east across towards Green Point shore, before continuing south again towards Booti Booti. After a short while I decided that my boat wasn't enjoying these conditions much, so turned around, Gay and Hubert joined me. We Paddled back to the Snake Islands again and landed on the Little Snake and explored (all 150 paces or so). Then back to our previously identified camp site, the others caught up with us before we got there. They had decided that paddling in that wind wasn't all that much fun either.

Hubert and I went fishing from our canoes, I with a spinner and Hubert with bait he had collected in his drop net. I have found in the past fishing from a kayak some what problematical, no difference this time. A quite strong current with the wind meant that we covered a lot of ground quickly one way but going back was much slower. Hubert was successful, catching a small brim on a one legged shrimp bait, he was startled by a quite big stingray as well.

Back in camp we were out of the wind which was abating, thank Birds sheltering in Lee of Snake Island - photo dug goodness. A pleasant last night conversing over dinner leaning back watching the night close in about us, until we could no longer see the Lake or the Islands, just a few nearby trees and the faces around us. One notable thing about the day was that there were no other boats about :~}

Monday 26th, Yahoo Island, Tuncurry, Home.

A pleasant sunny morning for our last day and we set off about 0800, paddling north past Wallis Island. A noticeable current set against us. Little Snake Island looking to Snake Island.  Gay and Hubert - photo by dug This increased considerably in the shallow narrows by Tonys Point and Hadley Island. We all had to paddle hard and seek the course of least resistance, at times we were stationary or even going backwards. These conditions must have been good for fishing as there were recreational fishers in boats all around this area. We did see some good brim pulled in too.

The current eased off in the deeper water further along the passage by Wallis Island and we were soon making good time again. We dropped into the beach by the wharf on the Island for smoko and a stretch of the legs. Then the last leg across past Mather Island and the myriad of small sand islands back to the inlet where the cars have been parked for the past six days. A quick shower in the nearby camping ground sees us all set off on our various ways back home.

A great trip, thank you, Mark for doing such a great job leading, and thank you Graham, Gay, Hubert, Ken, Ron ,for your great company and interesting interactions.  Till next time.  © Copyright 2009 Dug Floyd.


Some Photos of the trip

Dugs borrowed river Kayak - photo by dug

Last Camp on Yahoo Island - photo by Hubert

Wallamba River day 2 - photo by dug

Day 2 rest stop Cooloongalook River - photo by Hubert

Day 2 Oyster Leases and Pelican - photo by Hubert

Wallamba River day 2 - photo by dug

Camp on first evening - Ken - photo by dug

Day 2 Camp site Minmbah Creek mouth - photo by dug

Bird Shelter - photo by dug

Yahoo Island Camp - photo by Hubert

Hubert Little Snake Island - photo by dug

Wallamba River day 2 - photo by dug

Morning 3 at camp - photo by dug

Yahoo Camp last night - photo by Hubert

Morning 3 Coolongalook River- photo by dug

Weather comming in - photo by Hubert

Camp first day Ron and Dug - photo by Hubert

Last Camp Yahoo Island - photo by Hubert

Paddle day 1 Wallamba River - photo by dug

Yahoo Island Camp last night - photo by Hubert

Sunset 4th day storm front approaching - photo by Hubert
   Copy of CMA - The Great Lakes Map CMA Great Lakes Map with camps and tracks shown