Once off the Murray River, this 2-3 day loop paddle takes in backwaters through the semi-arid region of the Chowilla floodplain, an area largely untouched by irrigation and development. Enjoy this special place, a haven for wildlife from kangaroos to emus, parrots to pelicans and black swans.
Note: an alternative route to tackling Suders Creek aka “Swiftys” aka ‘The Shute’ is described in the Trail details for lesser experienced paddlers.
Canoe Launch near Border Cliffs Customs House (GPS: 33.9727 S; 140.9575 E)
Start at Canoe launch near Border Cliffs Customs House (GPS: 33.9727 S; 140.9575 E).
Paddle downstream to Suders Creek, known as the “Shute” (approximately 150m). This is a fast-flowing, narrow creek (entered by leaving the main river on the right-hand side). The Shute connects the Murray River and Hypurna Creek. Once you enter The Shute, you will be swept right through it. Consider reconnoitring it from land to check for current obstacles.
NOTE: If the “Shute” is considered too hazardous for the skills of the group the alternative is to paddle upstream for approximately 1.5 kms to a portage point just before the 638 Km marker (Point W: GPS: 33.9828 S; 140.9686 E). Portage into Hypurna Creek (approximately 75 m) and then paddle back down to the junction of the “Shute”. This alternative route has an approximate distance of 2.2 kms in addition to the 75m portage.
When you reach Hypurna Creek from the “shute” turn left and continue to the junction with Salt Creek (approximately 200m) at Point H (GPS:33.9711 S; 140.9683 E). The stumps of an old footbridge may be visible in the water near this junction.
Turn right into Salt Creek and continue to paddle along this waterway. You will notice that there are two branches of Punkah Creek that appear on the LHS at approximately 4 kms and then again 750m later at Point J (GPS 33.9636 S; 141. 0016 E). Do not take these, but remain on Salt Creek.
You have now crossed the border into NSW and will continue to crisscross the border a number of times throughout this trip. NOTE: In NSW you are in Kulkurna (formerly Tareena Station) and camping is not permitted.
After a further 4.3kms Salt Creek divides into 2 branches at Point L (GPS 33.9797 S 141.0032). At this point you are on the border between SA and NSW.
Note: the LH branch is approximately 1.8km long and is the deeper waterway but may have some snags to negotiate. The RH branch is approximately 4.2kms in length and travels along a shallower horseshoe lake which in low river flow years may be dry. However large flocks of up to 150 birds of black swans or Australian pelicans may be seen in the horseshoe lake when there is water about.
The LH and RH branches meet at Point M (GPS: 33.9803 S 141.0164 E). Turn left here (or continue straight along if you have taken the RH branch) to follow Salt Creek. Paddle for a further 7.8km.
Look for a creek entrance to your right at Point S (GPS: 34.0188 S; 141.0469 E) noting that this is still Salt Creek here; turn right and continue for approximately 3.2km to the junction with Hypurna Creek on the RHS Point Q (GPS:34.0215 S; 141.0250 E). Note this section could have fallen trees to negotiate.
Turn right into Hypurna Creek and continue to paddle for approximately 5.6km to the next significant junction at Point N (GPS: 33.9943 S; 140.9950 E).
Note: you are now back in South Australia!
Take the right hand branch and continue for about 4 km where there will be a sharp bend to the right at this point. Soon after this bend there is a rusted tin marker identifying the portage point (Point W: GPS: 33.9828 S; 140.9686 E) which will return you back to the Murray River.
Turn right in the river and you will soon be back to your initial launch point at the Border Cliffs Canoe Launch site.
NOTE: The ‘Shute’ is fast flowing and dangerous for inexperienced paddlers but an alternative route is provided if this represents too great a challenge to paddlers.
Overnight lightweight camping. Camping Permits available at National Parks and Wildlife Service at www.parks.sa.gov.au
Note: be aware that access to campsites and tracks may be limited during periods of planned environmental flows of the river. Check alerts on National Parks SA website
Also the open season for duck hunting (designated dates in March – June) means that you may hear noise associated with hunting activities during those times (again check National Parks SA website for details).
Shady trees, café, toilets. Grassy area, picnic tables and BBQ belong to Customs House so ask before using them.
- Border Cliffs Customs House Walking Trail (1 hour 30 mins return, 4km)
Located at the northern end of the Border Cliffs campground. Enjoy a one-and-a-half hour return walk from the car park and discover this special wetland system. Take the 350m detour to the lagoon and observe a variety of native birds including great egrets, superb fairy-wrens and white-faced herons. Return to the main path and take-in excellent views of the Murray River sandstone cliffs in the distance.
Along the way, watch for parrots, bats, possums, kookaburras, kangaroos, lizards and other wildlife. See National Parks SA website for information.
- Border Cliffs Customs House
The Customs House (under the Border Cliffs at Port Murtho) was originally established to take some control over the large volume of river craft travelling between various ports on the River Murray. New South Wales, which claimed the river as part of its colony, built customs houses at its state borders to impose duties on items being transported by river from Victoria and then from South Australia. This caused much dissent and anger with other colonies and they too eventually established customs houses at state borders.
In January 1884 the SA Governor dispatched a party to establish a customs post on the SA/Vic border. On 8th April 1884, a reserve for a customs house to be known as Port Murtho was gazetted. The Customs House was built by December 1884 at a cost of less than $1000 in current terms. The Customs House watched over river trade for about 20 years and was served by four customs officers in that time.
Legend has it that river-boat skippers objected to paying their way and often goods were smuggled over the state borders or dumped to avoid paying taxes. One skipper who objected to paying the then impost of 10 pounds as poll tax on his Chinese cook had the fellow walk through the scrub past customs, supposedly to rejoin the boat further upstream, however the cook never made it back to the riverboat – he was later seen working on a sheep station further North. At the time duty on a sheep was (in today’s money) 10 cents, pigs 50 cents, cows $2 and horses $4 – little wonder the skippers objected to paying! From time to time Customs Officers fired shots over the bows of passing steamers, whose skippers had ‘forgotten’ to call in and declare their loads.
In 1901, Federation brought an end to customs houses, free trade was allowed between states. The advent of railways to river towns (especially in Victoria and NSW) saw the riverboat trade decline. In 1902, the Commonwealth Gazette announced The Customs House at Port Murtho in the State of South Australia was to close.