Monday the 26th of November I drove up to the Gloucester Caravan Park where I was to meet three other guys from the UNSW Outdoors Club who arrived on the previous day. I missed the first days paddling, but that wasn’t such a bad thing as most of the day was on flat water or really small short rapids anyway.
The second day we got an early start and headed out along Barrington East Road, onto Westley’s Road and followed that all the way to its end, where a short 4wd track drops down to an old wooden bridge. We dropped the kayaks and gear there, then took a car down river to where Barrington West Road crosses the river at Rocky Crossing. Driving back to the start we got in the boats and headed off downriver. The water level was perfect - enough water to cover everything but not so much water that it was too dangerous for us beginners.
As the only member of the party who could confidently eskimo roll, I found that having the skill was a slight advantage, but not so important. Very rarely was the water depth around the rapids actually greater than 20-30cm - not enough room to actually roll upside down no matter how badly you stuff up, and always easy enough to rescue your boat should you be forced to eject.
This section of the river is graded 1 to 2, which means that you basically face some fast moving water at grade one, and some small drops which may require some manoeuvring around rocks at grade two. Certainly nothing too daunting, and the sort of river anyone with some basic paddling skills could probably have a go on (of course, so long as they have the right gear!). The rapids came often, and made the paddling interesting all day. A couple of the guys had to eject from their boats on some tricky drops, but there were no real problems. We set a really relaxed pace the whole day, never really pushing ourselves, and managed to reach ‘The Steps’ by about 2pm.
The Steps are the most well known part of the Barrington River, with several successive small drops (like steps…duh) which make some really nice rapids. We all managed to make it down the steps without incident, than proceeded downstream for a couple more hours to get to where the car was parked at Rocky Crossing.
The third day he went further upstream, where the rapids are even more common and more frequently larger. We set up a car at ‘The Cove’ (a few hundred meters downstream from the Steps) and then launched the kayaks from up on the Cobark river just before it joins up with the Barrington. The first km or so was a little difficult because we were in quite shallow water, so there was a lot of bottoming out on the river bottom. Not long though and we were back into the real flowing water of the Barrington.
There was one really stand out rapid in this upstream section which would probably classify as a grade 3 drop, although that is really all it was, a single drop. But all of the water focussed into this narrow channel and then went over a drop off of a few feet. It stood out as much larger than all of the rapids encountered on the previous day and was quite exhilarating.
Anyway, the day was quite a long day. We set it up to overlap with the previous days paddling, and we ended just below the Steps, so we had another chance to go over them. Just to demonstrate how accessible the rapids are on Barrington, Ian, the group leader who had done this trip previously, actually went down the Steps backwards. (You’ll see it in the video which will follow this post…)
The two days total paddling all went really well - there were no injuries, things flowed smoothly, and we were lucky enough to have nice hot sunny days the whole time. A great trip for anyone who wants to have an interesting kayaking trip and has some basic skills and the right equipment. If you would like to do it yourself but lack the equipment or someone to take you down the river, then there are a few companies which specialise in kayaking or canoe trips down the river. Canoe Barrington is one of the major companies, while the Barrington Outdoor Adventure Centre takes groups down the river amongst other activities.