The Great Anabranch of the Darling River
The Great Anabranch of the Darling River is the ancient bed of the Darling River until it changed its course around 11,000 years ago. It is commonly referred to as the Great Darling Anabranch or simply the Darling Anabranch.
Darling Anabranch is an ephemeral system and is usually dry. As such, you simply can not turn up and expect to be able to paddle the system. Water still naturally flows into the anabranch when the Darling River is high (at 6 m / 10,000 ML/day) or in minor floods (20,000 ML/day plus) via Tandou Creek, however regulated flows now account for the main source of water in the anabranch that come from the Menindee Lakes via the channel at Lake Cawndilla.
The river can sometimes have a confused nature and knowing the history helps to explain why.
The Darling Anabranch was originally an ephemeral system, although many of the larger pools were semi-permanent. With the completion of the Menindee Lakes in the 1960s, an annual stock and domestic allocation of water was sent down the system from Lake Cawndilla (50,000 ML). Seventeen weir pools, 17 bywashes and 10 block banks, most with regulators on the inlets to lakes, fragmented the Darling Anabranch channel.
In 2007, a water pipeline was constructed for landowners and many of the weirs, block banks and other structures were removed to try and return the system to a more "natural state". As of 2022, some structures flagged for removal in 2008 still seemed to be present albeit all dams appeared to be either removed or had their control gates fully open.
Guides, Resources and References
General Overview and Location Guide
The Darling Anabranch can be paddled using two main routes. The first is to enter the anabranch directly from the Darling River. The second is a more intrepid journey through the Menindee Lakes, down the Cawndilla Channel before paddling Tandou and Redbank creeks joining the anabranch 30 km from the offtake on the Darling River.
The entire length of the Darling Anabranch is 444 km and trips started from Menindee via the Cawndilla Channel or Darling River are both about 565 km, both traversing the lower 413 km of the Darling Anabranch. Paddling up to Wentworth adds another 24 km or down to Camp Courage 3.1 km.
Refer to the Murray River Gear Section for a discussion about kayaking and camping gear.
If you are not supported, you will need to take provisions for long distances where there are no supply points. As such I would look at a narrow canoe or sea kayak. It is generally hazard-free flat water paddling but there are snaggy sections along with some thick thickets of gum saplings in the main watercourse. It is inevitable that you will run into some snags and fences along the way, so I wouldn't trust using an inflatable.
Information to ensure an enjoyable and successful trip.
My Personal Journey
Short blog and trip table from my 2022 Darling Double trip where I paddled down the Darling River before heading straight onto the Great Darling Anabranch that was flowing for the first time in nearly a decade.