The Clarence River Canoe and Kayak Trail is the longest whitewater trail in Australia
On a recent road trip through the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, we had an overnight stop at Jackadgery, where the Gwydir Highway crosses the beautiful Mann River 40km west of Grafton. Apart from the impressive concrete bridge, the sum total of Jackadgery is the Mann River Caravan Park and roadhouse at the junction. This handy waypoint serves not only road travellers but also canoeists and kayakers paddling down the Clarence River Canoe and Kayak Trail, one of the most exhilarating whitewater adventures in Australia.
The Trail takes its name from the Clarence River, which is a major element of the journey but by no means the only, or even the most exciting, one. The Clarence is the largest river on the east coast of New South Wales, fed by some twenty-four tributaries, of which the Mann is the largest. The Mann itself is joined by four other rivers, including the 165km Nymboida River, all of which flow through several national parks and wilderness areas on their collective way to the Clarence. This 22,700 sq. km catchment receives about 2000mm of rainfall annually and, as the rivers are mostly unregulated, their potential for whitewater adventuring is enormous and unparalleled on the east coast.
People in the know have been paddling this ‘wild river’ system for years and jealously keeping it a closely guarded secret. Then, in February 2017, the Clarence Valley Council, in partnership with the Department of Industry (Lands), let the cat out of the bag with the publication of an information brochure and map kit about the Trail. It shows where and how to access the rivers, where to stay along the way and safety information about the rapids and levels of experience needed to complete particular sections.
The longest whitewater trail in Australia, covering more than 195km from ‘The Junction’ of the Nymboida and Little Nymboida Rivers in Nymboi-Binderay National Park to the township of Copmanhurst on the Clarence River, about 35km upstream from Grafton. It can be undertaken as a single journey (over a minimum of 8 days) or, starting from designated access points, in eight shorter sections.
Along the way, paddlers may break their journey at some beautifully secluded camps with facilities ranging from basic to full amenities, right beside the water.