This long day paddle from the Border Cliffs campground’s Canoe Launch around Slaney Island via Slaney and Pipeclay Creeks involves 2 portages. Pipeclay Creek is an anabranch creek of the Murray River in the Chowilla Creek system.
If the river is running with high flow then be aware that the final section of 500m of Pipeclay Creek can be quite challenging paddling against the flow.
Canoe Launch in Chowilla Game Reserve Border Cliffs campground
GPS: 33.9727 S; 140.9575 E
One day round trip:
Starting at the Canoe Launch, paddle upstream in Murray River to the portage point just before the 638 km river mark Point W: GPS: 33.9828 S; 140.9686 E). There is a small “portage” sign on a tree to mark the spot.
Here there is a portage of approximately 75m into Hyperna Creek.
Follow Hyperna Creek a short distance downstream (left) to Salt Creek (1.3km), and at Point H (GPS: 33.9717 S; 140.9680 E) take a left hand turn into Slaney Creek.
Follow this to Point G which is a distance of approximately 2.9km.
Keep right and proceed in a north westerly direction to stay in Slaney Creek at Point G (GPS: 33.9555 S; 140.9531 E) and then continue about 3.1Km to follow Slaney Creek until you reach the T junction with Chowilla Creek.
Then turn left into Chowilla Creek at Point F (GPS: 33.9410 S; 140.9326 E) and paddle approximately 3 km until you reach Pipeclay Creek (Point E: GPS: 33.9439 S; 140.9172 E). You will now be paddling upstream towards the Pipeclay regulator. This is a distance of approximately 3.7km. The last 500m leading to the regulator can be challenging during periods of higher flow.
Here there is a second portage of approximately 100m. Exit on the left side.
Continue upstream from the regulator until you emerge from Pipeclay Creek. Turn left to paddle around The Isle of Man and left into the River Murray to return upstream back to your starting point (approximately 3.5 km upriver) at the Canoe Launch
Even blue-tick Telstra phone reception is unreliable in this area so satellite communication is recommended.
This paddle is moderately difficult however it can be challenging if there is a high flow on the river.
National Parks will close Chowilla in high river levels because creek navigation becomes complex and the campsites become inundated.
A Trip Intention Form may need to be lodged with National Parks if camping in Chowilla overnight
NOTE: Portage at the weir/regulator requires steep re-entry and some swift flowing water may be encountered for approximately 500m below the regulator. This could be challenging during periods of higher flow so consider seeking re-entry a little further downstream in such conditions.
Shady trees and toilet in the Border Cliffs camp grounds.
Kiosk at Customs House.
Grassy area, picnic table, BBQ at Customs House (ask permission for access)
- Border Cliffs Customs House (GP 33.9745 S 140.9581 E)
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.
- Border Cliffs Customs House Walking Trail
(1 hours 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 350 metre 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.
If you have time there is a wet-land walk (approx 4 kms) extending into the Murtho forest. Water-birds abound. Ask at the Customs House kiosk for a copy of the trail guide.
See National Parks SA website for information.