Here is a surprising little paradise for campers, kayakers and fishing folk in Victoria’s central north
Occasionally a place can really take you by surprise. I’d driven past this spot at the bottom end of the Ovens River on numerous occasions in the past and just assumed the camping would be much the same as the nearby Murray River locations. A bunch of Red Gums, brown water and loads of space sums up my basic assumption. But this is on the Ovens River just upstream of the point where it joins The Mighty Murray and that makes it a different place altogether. Particular attractions with this site include the relatively clear water, the low banks and the multitude of interesting islands, lagoons and hideaways that make this an aquatic paradise for anyone with a kayak. It is also a dog-allowed site which is important for those with a hound or two. It is convenient to the highway with 2WD tracks and over 50 campsites, many of these large and open so particularly suitable for larger caravans or motorhomes. Rutherglen is about 15 minutes east and Yarrawonga is about the same off to the west for supplies and there is even good phone cover, so you don’t need to be without any of the necessities of civilized life.
But this is basic bush camping. No power, no toilets, no rubbish bins. It is just you and a series of magnificent riverside sites along a really scenic section of the Ovens River. There is plenty of shade under the Red Gums, but the usual cautions about setting up under these renowned widow-makers apply. Mobile reception was pretty good with a couple of bars of signal which gave me a pretty good hotspot for the internet so my colleagues could not tell I was bludging just a bit as I put together some work stuff. Not a bad lark working from a place like this.
Probably the best aspect if you like water access is that the banks are low level and only a couple of steps from most of the campsites, unlike many parts of the Murray in this area where the banks are high cutaways which require a little agility. This is nice for the fishing and launching your kayak or similar little water craft and another huge advantage is that there is practically no current. There is a boat ramp at the northern end of the camp area but some care is required with boats here as there are a few submerged stumps that loiter just below the surface. But that is what makes the fishing great and the natural clutter is also very scenic.
There are plenty of high water marks on the surrounding trees that indicate flood events, noting that this is on an extensive flood plain. You’d have guessed that on the way in with the multiple lagoons and channels and lush islands. And there are a few spots where you can bet the nesting kingfishers got a little nervous when past water levels have left their marks on the surrounding forest. Occasionally this area gets a pretty good flush most years, keeping it clean and fresh and I assume it also protects it from any development or infrastructure. Good, suits me fine.
For travellers itching to settle in somewhere for a few days to try some of the fine Rutherglen wines, you may want to have a look at this mini Everglades spot or ‘Claytons Kakadu’. It’s got all the benefits of a lush wetland without the crocs and alligators.
Getting There: Signposted off the Murray Valley Highway, about half way between Rutherglen and Yarrawonga. The entrance is a few hundred metres east of Parolas Bridge.
Facilities: No facilities of any kind so what you bring in, you take out. There are around 50 campsites, all large and flat and close to the water with magnificent river views.
Pets: Permitted on leads and under suitable control.
Contact: Parks Victoria