The hardest thing about writing a guide for this place is doing it justice. There’s something very special about Shoalhaven Gorge; a communion with nature that rejuvenates your spirit and makes your heart sing.
|START||Tallowa Dam, Tallowa Dam Road, Morton National Park|
|GPS||DMS: 34° 46′ 11.1″ S, 150° 18′ 57.1″ E
DD: -34.769750, 150.315861
|FINISH||Return to start|
|PARKING||Large car park|
|CONDITIONS||Open areas, reservoir, light traffic, shallow areas|
|FISHING||Bass, carp, Macquarie perch, rainbow trout|
The feeling of anticipation starts building before you even see the water. Driving down Tallowa Dam Road from Kangaroo Valley you catch glimpses of the magnificent escarpment that lines Shoalhaven Gorge and you know it is going to be an awesome adventure.
Fossickers Flat is 15 kilometres upstream and the furthest point of this trip. Due to its distance from Tallowa Dam, most people stay there overnight and return the next day. There are four or five great campsites. One has a toilet and there is plenty of room to pitch a tent and boil a billy. If you plan on staying, make sure to take some extra warm gear as the sun disappears over the top of the gorge pretty early on.
Not long after getting on the water, the sheer majesty of the surroundings washes over you and leaves you sitting entranced in your boat. Even speaking seems almost sacrilegious.
The experience of paddling through Shoalhaven Gorge is enhanced by the fact that the only other people are paddlers and there usually aren’t many of them either. The steep walls of the gorge mean it is impossible to get in by car and extremely difficult on foot. Also, this is a water supply managed by the Sydney Catchment Authority and motorboats are not allowed.
The “Boulevarde of Broken Trees” begins just past the entrance to Cumburmurra Creek (see map). This is an area where the land that existed on the edge of the Shoalhaven River prior to the introduction of the dam has now been fully submerged. Only the trunks of former great trees remain, standing tall from beneath the water’s surface as eerily beautiful reminders of a past era.
Around 7 kilometres into the trip, the river sweeps to the right and the landscape is visibly more open on the left. This is a natural amphitheatre in which the acoustics are perfect for listening to bird calls. Bellbirds seem to be everywhere. If you notice a number of different sounds coming from the one place it is more than likely that you are being entertained by a Lyrebird which has the amazing ability to mimic anything it hears. There is a comfortable grassy area on the left bank that is the perfect spot to relax quietly and listen to the amazing concert. Day trippers often pause here for a while before turning around and heading back.
Some of the other wildlife is more seen than heard. A family of goats forages for food on the southern shore, their presence in this seemingly inaccessible area a clear mark of their superior climbing ability. Groups of playful sparrows dart around, sometimes coming right up to your boat.
Towards the end of the outward leg, campsites appear on both the left and the right, each with its own sandy landing area. The temptation is to try and make it all the way to Fossickers Flat, but water levels will determine whether that is possible without having to negotiate an oncoming rapid. Settle in by mid-afternoon and you can enjoy watching the last rays of sunshine cut across the peaceful valley.
“The more you lose yourself in something bigger than yourself, the more energy you will have.” Norman Vincent Peale
|EAT||Hampden Deli Dining, 160 Moss Vale Rd, Kangaroo Valley, 477 002 102|
|DRINK||Friendly Inn Hotel, Moss Vale Rd, Kangaroo Valley, (02) 4465 1355|
|SLEEP||KV Tourist Park, Moss Vale Rd, Kangaroo Valley, 1300 559 977|