WE came from Sydney up through drought stricken western
districts where every one stared at our dust covered
canoe, borne on a trailer behind the car.
Our objective was Nymboida, where we planned to commence
a canoe trip down the Nymboida or South River, to its
junction with the Clarence which we intended to follow
to Copmanhurst. Jock Kaske had loaned us his
fifteen foot iron canoe, the "Trail-blazer," that
veteran of many trips. And it was to carry Frank
English, my husband Bill, and myself, with ten days'
We stowed our food into four airtight kerosene tins, our
garments and sleeping gear into proofed bags, and packed
all into the canoe. Everything was covered with ground
sheets and lashed well in.
We left Nymboida on Monday, 6th April, on what was to be
the most eventful canoe trip we had undertaken. A
fourteen foot weir below Nymboida necessitated a
semi-portage, and then we were away.
The river ran swiftly, a three foot fresh the week
before ensured a good depth of water, rapids were
plentiful and gave us many thrills. The current was at
times so strong that it took us under low hanging trees
by which we were brushed out of the canoe to float
downstream till we could land and bail out.
On the second day we struck trouble by attempting to
shoot a rapid that really needed to be treated with more
respect. We lost a paddle, some eggs, and a lot of time.
But this did not deter us from treating all the rest in
exactly the same way.
On the third day out we met our first serious obstacle,
that is, the first we treated seriously. Here the river
took two bends within a hundred yards, with falls on
each bend. The first we negotiated by roping but the
second we portaged round. This portage took time but was
rendered quite easy because of the yokes which Jock had
made for the canoe. These screw onto the gunwales and
enable the canoe to be carried upside down on the
Below these falls the river descended into a gorge,
which provided some thrilling rapids next morning. We
got a_way early, as rain threatened and we had no wish
to be caught there with storm water coming down. About
ten w_e left the gorge and floated into a long pool
where the Mann River came in on our left. On the
hillside above was a most picturesque little bark roofed
shack, covered with vines. It had been built and was
inhabited by Bert Fenny, an Inspector of Stock, who
treated us with true Australian hospitality. Reluctantly
we left his place late in the afternoon, getting through
the Bridal Falls below it without any difficuly.
For a while the country was more open and next morning
we came to the first settlement on the river—Jackadgerry.
There is a wine bar at Jackadgerry, and the boys went up
to sample what they fondly hoped would be local vintage.
It wasn't, but nevertheless, somewhat fortified, and
rejoicing also that we'd been able to obtain some more
solder, we essayed to shoot the local rapid just to show
how it should be done— and we were all thown out.
Here we were told that there would be no more bad
rapids, but we came across a wicked looking one that
afternoon. Practically all the water in the river
plunged into a fissure, about ten feet wide between!
rock walls. Bill wanted to shoot it. Frank and I didn't.
Eventually the boys got the canoe through by following a
small channel, dragging where necessary. We camped that
night at Hanging Rock Station.
When we left next morning we had on board a weird
arrangement of two poles and a kite shaped tent lashed
together, which on the first long pool became a sail.
With a strong wind behind us this gave us more speed
than our three paddles. It gave us plenty of fun too;
being erected in the bow with Frank in charge and Bill
using his paddle at the stern as a rudder. When
approaching a rapid Bill would call for the sail to be
lowered. The roar of the water prevented Frank from
hearing and we would just sail down the rapids,
endeavouring to dodge rocks and trees, while'Bill made
frantic efforts to keep the boat head on into the
Eventually we took down the sail and then came upon a
rapid which nearly finished the trip. While deciding
which channel to take we were caught in the main current
which whirled along and landed the canoe broadside on to
a couple of rocks. With the tremendous force of the
water holding her there the boys had partially to unload
the gear on to a rock in midstream. Scarcely able to
retain a footing, they heaved with all their strength to
get her once more into the current, and then to reload
and float down to a place where they could land and
effect repairs. In the meantime, I perched on a rock
with swift deep water between me and the shore, and
waited to be rescued. The strength and force in the
frightened me. Repairs took some time to effect, but we
were able to reach the Junction by four that afternoon.
Apparently there had been rain on the Clarence as the
river was muddy and higher than when we had come down it
two years previously.
We pulled the canoe well up and tied her to a tree and
left her there, as we wererfo spend the week-end with
the Cruickshanks at Dumbudgerry Creek Station, three
miles up the Clarence. We arrived there at tea-time in a
storm of rain.
The Rivers Rise
This was on Saturday, and all that night and the next
day and night it rained, as it can rain on the North
Coast, so that we were not surprised to find on the
Monday morning when we returned to the Junction, that
both rivers were up and were still rising. The Nymboida
had risen about ten feet and the Clarence five.
Fortunately someone had moved our canoe farther up the
bank, and so we set out on what was to be the most
exciting part of the trip, negotiating the gorge in a
flood. About a mile below the junction all the water
from both rivers cascades over a series of falls, which
are anything up to fifty feet high. All the water meets
and runs through a narrow rock-filled channel between
high granite banks which imprison it for about a mile
and a half.
We had to portage round the falls, and the difficulty
was to find a place where a descent could be made down
the steep rocky banks to the river. We were running just
behind schedule, so to avoid a long and weary portage
the boys put the canoe in the river at one of the few
spots where it was possible to do so, with more than
half the gorge still to negotiate, but below the last
It was then just on dusk. The river was ugly, the water
being about twenty-five feet above normal level and
rising as we watched it. A rising river is more
dangerous than the same level of water when the river is
dropping. The boys lashed everything well in and pushed
off, while I scrambled along the bank to view their
progress at a spot where the river took a slight bend
which created large waves and eddies.
As was expected, they filled up at this corner, and went
overboard, each clinging to an end of the canoe, and
were compelled to let the current take them where it
Wreck of the "Trailblozer"
Then disaster! The bow caught in a crevice, and Frank
sprang on to a ledge intending to pull up and bail out,
but the force of the water caught the stern and the
forward bulkhead started to give. Bill let go while
Frank pushed the boat out into the stream to prevent
There we were, Bill and the canoe in the river, Frank on
one bank and I on the other. With darkness coming on I
stumbled downstream after them. Bill had a bad time,
being caught in strong surges and whirlpools, travelling
the best part of the gorge under water and very nearly
drowning. Frank made good time over the two miles of
rough country that brought him opposite the Winters'
homestead. There he yelled for half an hour before they
heard him and one of the lads came over to him in a flat
bottomed boat which only held one. Frank had to swim the
river behind the boat.
Bill and I fared better. We lit a fire and got warm and
dry and then set off downstream for the homestead. Our
goods now consisted of camera, money, matches, shirts
and shorts—and we were very hungry. We met Frank and
Ralph Winters who had come looking for us on horses, and
soon we were sitting down to an enormous meal in a large
warm kitchen. Although the Winters, who had lived on the
river for years, assured us that we would never find the
canoe again, in the morning we set off upstream to look
for it. We found it too, caught in a back eddy inshore
near the foot of the gorge. The ropes, with which the
paddles were tied in, had caught round a submerged tree
and held it there. Not much damage had been done.
Nothing was lost. Our food was dry and some of our
clothes, and the rest dried while Frank and Bill mended
the canoe. About four we were ready to set off again.
A fierce rapid below the Winters' caused us to lose a
lot of time. The flood waters ran so strongly that each
narrow place in the river was just a series of big
waves. Our only course was to keep close to shore on the
shallow side. In doing that we were generally among
trees, which, at the pace the river was running, gave us
some anxious moments.
Gordonbrook Falls was another nasty place, and so we
halted before the next falls on Sir Earle Page's
property, Heifer Station. We reached these just on dusk
and we had had enough of flooded rivers in the dark.
In the morning I went on to Grafton in the cream lorry
to pick up the car and bring it back to Copmanhurst. The
boys finished the trip as planned, doing the thirty odd
miles from Heifer Station to Copmanhurst in three and a
half hours. Bill was swept off by a low hanging tree but
^wam after the canoe and caught up while Frank was doing
his best to keep it from broadsiding. Then, at Lilydale
low-level bridge which was under water, they had an
exciting moment crossing the trough between the two
submerged railings at a speed, according to the
watchers, of fifty miles per hour.