With a large group keen to head out rafting and no other senior guides available I decided I’d better make a trip happen! That said I was determined to paddle a different river so we hit the road heading northwest for the Tarkine. It’s a long drive and I played some heavy metal music to pass the time – not sure that the exchange students in our vehicle were too impressed but that’s alright, we’ll call it a cultural experience…
Soon enough we made it to camp, which is the site of the old and long destroyed bridge over the Hellyer river on Blackwell road. The roads to get there were pretty terrible. We got through with our two wheel drives and the trailer but it was a little hectic in places and we managed to rip the light connector off the trailer on a branch… We launched in to setting up tarps, inflating rafts and lighting a fire. As soon as the rest of the team made it (after organising a car shuttle) we had a massive barbecue dinner finishing with marshmallows toasted over the fire. I had a quick chat with everyone about the plan of action for the morning and we all got some sleep.
Soon enough daylight was upon us and I got a big breakfast of baked potatoes organised and everyone got geared up. It was pretty cold so it was a little tricky to get everyone moving but a warm fire and hot breakfast soon solved that. I conducted a safety briefing and after Luke arrived (another one of the guides) we set off down the river.
The Hellyer river was pretty easy, all simple class 2 whitewater. You wouldn’t want water levels to be any lower than what we were dealing with (winter flow level without much recent rain). It was possible to get the rafts down without needing to stop and carry them, but only just.
As soon as the Hellyer joined the Arthur the river levels improved although the rapids didn’t get any more interesting. Based on the trip notes I knew that there had to be some more hectic rapids somewhere but soon we only had 2km of river left to paddle and I began to doubt the accuracy of the information I had received.
Thankfully I should’t have been worried, in the last couple of kilometres we paddled two nice fun class 3 rapids, which was a good conclusion to the trip, before arriving at Farquhars Bridge, the finishing point to the trip. Overall it’s a nice section of river with some fun rapids at the end, but not really worth the drive out unless you already happen to be in the area. That said, there is lots of potential for paddling pretty exciting sections of river above this one, and that will be a mission for another day!