Darling River System
Personal blog and guide to paddling the Darling River System
The Condamine River is the most diverse section of the entire waterway. From a gentle stream in highland farmland surrounded by rainforests, it is channeled into a forested gorge before entering the wide farming plains of the Darling Downs.
The Condamine River is also the most technical of the rivers that make up the Darling River system. Grade II rapids, highly variable river levels and notoriously bad log jams make for a challenging trip.
Detour up South East Queensland's highest peak that towers over the source.
A steep and hard Grade 4 walk up the ridgeline to the viewless summit that would get very slippy if wet. Some navigation required, especially if you head to the second cairn. Interesting detour to the Lincoln Wreckage or the lookout at Lizard Point and The Steamers.
Additional information about the walk can be found here.
Spring near the Main Range.
There is a seep in the paddock beside Spring Creek Rd, but there is a spring within the cliffs that is usually considered to be the true source of the South Branch of the Condamine River. The source and the first kilometer traverses private property before the first pipe culvert on Spring Creek Rd.
Cambanoora Gorge runs between the source of the Condamine River and Killarney, QLD. It is also known as the Condamine Gorge.
Put in at or just above the first 4wd crossing of the river. I started near the gate as you leave the farmland for forest about 4.5 km upstream of the first crossing.
Levels under 2.1 m at The Head are likely to become difficult to paddle the bouldery sections of the gorge. You should expect about a dozen or more fences across the creek. Most farmers used barbed wire so be careful!
1.9 m at the Head represents almost zero flow and levels drop quickly after heavy rain. On an average year, there are 55 days at or above the recommended flow at Killarney (Brosnans Barn), but only 4.5 days at or above 1 Cumecs (~2 m) at the Head.
From what would best be described as a narrow deep drainage ditch surrounded by River She-oaks (Casuarina cunninghamiana) below Killarney, the river started to open up around Murrays Bridge (~halfway to Warwick) where farmland dominated with sections lined with River Red-gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) as well as willow trees.
Road crossings and weirs become common and the majority of these are unmarked. Stay alert!
River felt like it had dropped to a more "normal" level with a healthy rainfall at 0.91 m, as opposed to no rain for years. Crossings and weirs made for mostly flatwater paddling and minimal assistance from the flow around Warwick.
The next section downstream is mostly unregulated until you reach Talgai Weir. You really need to be ready to go quickly after heavy rains to use the current. A flow higher than 1.5 m above normal should allow you to paddle over many of the fences across the river.
Warwick is the last major supply pickup before Chinchilla, which is 426 km downstream. The small country store at Cecil Plains can be used for basic supplies. Dalby is a fairly long detour off the river. Benz Auto Dismantlers in Warwick may be able to offer long term car storage.
Tiny general store and a pub in the town.
Other possible towns on the way to Cecil Plains seem very limited and off the track:
19 km E along Clifton Leyburn Rd
13.2 km SW along Gore Hwy from the bridge
Condamine River (North Branch)
The north branch rarely flows outside of flood events. The inlet was dry on both my trips even though the gauges suggested some flow. The north branch does not go past Cecil Plains and it is a 7.3 km walk west to the store from Pampas Bridge.
The weir is 9 km from town. I stopped beside the rifle range and walked to town (6.5 km) for supplies to get me to the next major town that was St George (475 km), even Surat is 296 km away.
The first true rapids since the gorge were a few kms from the weir. This was the first of about four or five rocky sections before Surat. With an OK flow these are mostly about Grade I with a couple of easy Grade II rapids. Portage required on a poor flow and will wash out on higher flows.
Balonne River starts where the Condamine and Dogwood rivers join.
This is approximately halfway between the small towns of Condamine Township and Surat (~200 km); and halfway between Chinchilla and St George (475 km).