new paddlers wivenhoe dam
Wivenhoe Dam – Billies Bay

Five great spots for new paddlers

IT remains a mystery to me why more people in southeast Queensland aren’t paddlers.

We are after all blessed with great weather, beautiful scenery and a plethora of places to dip a paddle. In fact, ask any experienced paddler and I’ll bet they can rattle off at least 20 great spots to get on the water without raising a sweat! I’m the same.

Give me an audience and I will cheerfully expound the virtues of the many and varied places around our region where I like to paddle. However, quantity or indeed quality, are not the problems we sometimes face. The real challenge can be providing a location for first-timers on the water in an environment that allows them to gain confidence and truly enjoy the experience.

With this in mind, I present the top five places I’d take new paddlers.

Brisbane River – Twin Bridges

This place is number one for some very good reasons. It’s easy to access, picturesque and has a 3km-long stretch of water with very little current. Access is gained by driving down beside the low bridge on Wivenhoe Pocket Rd and launching from the gravelly beach on the river’s edge.

The water is shallow and the ground underfoot is gravel or sand and not mud. With no tide, the water level is fairly constant throughout the year and the low current flow means it’s perfect for doing a return trip (no need to do a car shuttle). A

new paddlers twin bridges
Brisbane River – Twin Bridges
Wyaralong Dam
Lota Creek
bundant wildlife along the stretch of water between Twin Bridges and Lowood Bend make the trip interesting. The return trip is about 8km, and last month’s article on Canoe Go Paddling featured an easy 6km return trip suitable for families.

Lake Kurwongbah

On Brisbane’s north, Lake Kurwongbah is one of two water supply dams in the area.
With new changes to Seqwater recreation policy, motorised watercraft are now banned from the lake, making it a great paddling destination.

Access to the lake is gained from Mick Hanfling Park on the southern bank and it’s only a short walk to the grassy edge to launch. Toilet facilities are available on site, as is plenty of parking. This is one of the easier spots to launch from in the region.The grassy banks make getting into a kayak or canoe feel comfortable and safe for new paddlers and the adjacent stretch of water is ideal for gaining confidence in a new craft.

Lake Kurwongbah is a long, narrow lake with plenty of sheltered coves to explore. It offers good sheltered paddling on windy days and is great for return trips to and from Mick Hanfling Park. From the launch site to the end of the dam and back is about 6km.

Wyaralong Dam

Heading south, you will find my third paddling destination, Wyaralong Dam. Located between Beaudesert and Boonah, it is Seqwater’s newest dam, being completed in 2011. It’s famous for filling up completely within 25 days of being built. Wyaralong, like Kurwongbah, is a non-motorised watercraft dam, though you will share it with rowers from time to time.

It is also one of my favourite spots to canoe camp, offering an amazing bush campsite on the slopes of Mount Joyce. Access to the dam is very easy, with a boat ramp and adjacent grassy banks making unloading and launching a breeze. The launch area has toilet facilities and excellent barbecue/picnic shelters for after-paddling refreshments.

Wyaralong is a large T-shaped dam with many coves and islands to explore. It’s a great destination for new paddlers, though it can be challenging in the open sections during high wind. It’s a good idea to check the wind forecast prior to setting off on this dam, but once across the section closest to the wall the dam becomes very sheltered. Return trips can range from 6km up to 30km, with a lot of options on this dam.

Wivenhoe Dam – Billies Bay

If you want options, then Wivenhoe Dam is for you. Wivenhoe Dam offers a range of paddling options from long open water trips to sheltered bays overlooked by wooded hills. My pick of launch sites is Billies Bay for its water access. Like the previous two dams, access is from a grassy bank beside a boat ramp a short walk from the carpark.

The water is shallow and clear at the launch site and makes it easy to comfortably enter or exit your craft. Wivenhoe is a large dam and as such can suffer from wind chop (wind blowing up waves on the water), so it’s always a good idea to choose a site that has options to allow for this.

From Billies Bay, paddlers can follow the dam north or south and explore the inlets on the eastern bank, head west and visit the camping areas on the western bank or paddle east into the sheltered and very scenic Billies Bay/Kipper Creek area of the dam. Billies Bay is on my list because it’s not as frequented by visitors as the other sites and has a sheltered area for inexperienced paddlers on very windy days. The wildlife in this area is plentiful and with fewer visitors the animals are more frequently seen.

Tingalpa and Lota creeks

Just to show there are no favourites, my last paddling destination is on the coast and has salt water! Tingalpa Creek is the boundary between the Brisbane City and Redlands councils. It is a tidal estuary that flows from Leslie Harrison Dam into Waterloo Bay between Manly and Thorneside.

By far the best launch site is on the southern bank at the boat ramp beside Wynnum Redlands Canoe Club. It’s located directly across from the confluence with Lota Creek and offers a great paddling trip at high tide. Tingalpa and Lota creeks are very tidal and best enjoyed two hours either side of high tide.

At this stage of the tide, a great time can be had paddling between the grey mangroves at the confluence of the two creeks. It is quite common to see the local brahminy kites in this creek as well as other bird and marine life. Be aware that the tidal pull can be quite strong in these creeks, so plan trips that work with the tides wherever possible.

I have taken novice paddlers up Lota Creek on an incoming tide and then back again once it turned on quite a few occasions with great success. It’s a good way to extend the distance of a paddle and see one of the prettier spots in suburban Brisbane. From the Tingalpa Creek canoe ramp to as far up Lota Creek as possible is about a 6km return trip. With tide assist, it’s an easy 1.5-hour journey.

Honourable mention: Enoggera Reservoir

I would have loved to include Enoggera Reservoir in my top five but it has a couple of problems that make it less than ideal. First, the access track is in excess of 400m and a bit of a hike. If you don’t have a trolley for your canoe or kayak, it’s quite a chore to get to the water. Second, the launch area is crammed in beside the swimming reserve and on busy days it can be a challenge getting in and away.

It’s also a nuisance if you want to remain close to shore while familiarising yourself with a new craft. It’s a shame because Enoggera is very picturesque and really accessible from central Brisbane. Hopefully plans are afoot to improve access for paddlers to this fantastic little dam.

If you’d like to know more about paddling destinations in southeast Queensland, jump onto one of the many free online guidebooks such as upstreampaddle.com or call Natureline Australia on 07 3390 4106 and one of our friendly staff will give you free advice on where to go and what equipment you will need.

Happy paddling!

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About Dan Owbridge

Dan Owbridge

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