Cygnet River – A new black dot

Date: Saturday, 19 June 2021
River: Cygnet River.
Water level: 5000Ml/day.
Participants: 5.

The trip started like any other, but with Toby at the helm it started much earlier than usual. The plan of the day was to head down to the Esperance with the North Esk to be a backup. Unfortunately overnight the Esperance had dropped and was now only sitting at 10 cumecs, the north Esk on the other hand had risen to almost 2.3 m. With only 4 people at the shed and 1 meeting us in Launceston the hard decision had to be made as to whether the North Esk would be safe enough to paddle…

A quick deliberation between the guides, and with general uncertain surrounding the safety of the river, the call was made that the North Esk was not safe.

With four souls now facing the bleak reality of not having a river to raft, but packed trailer ready to roll, they turned to Luke to be their savior.

Up came the weather radar and although the south received too little, and the north a bit too much, with a huge eastley coming in overnight it appeared that the elusive East coast may be ready to be conquered.

But with the road to Orford blocked, we headed off north via Lake Leake. With many unknown and unrafted rivers to the east, the appeal to today's trip was that a new black dot may be added… With river levels having peaked approximately 9 hours prior it was now a race against the clock. It was also noted that a larger river would need to be chosen. While driving the now longer than ususal route, it was decided that the Cygnet would be the river of choice and the Little Swanport would be the backup.

We arrived at the get out 10:30 and met up with Lauren, the newest member of the raft club. Having done little planning prior to this river being chosen, a brief plan was made as to how we should access to get in point. With Google maps suggesting an old Forestry Road it seemed that would be an easy trip, little did we know that this was the start of the most challenging part of this trip… Within 10 minutes of departing we came across our first log jam, a huge dead brach hanging down onto the road. Tom made quick work of this branch, but not before being impaled by it. Back in the car, nerves we slowly creeping in as the track deteriorated and became steeper and more overgrown. With large amounts of water lingering over the place there was questions aired as to whether we’d make it out.

After plowing over five small trees we approached the second log jam, this one however, was never going to move. A tree trunk more than a metre wide layed across the track. As we were only 1.1 km away it was thought that we could carry the rafts at this point down to the river. Luke was confident that we could have gotten the rafts down to the water. Common sense prevailed from both Toby and Tom and we decided to scout prior to bringing the rafts down the hill. The energetic team made their way down to river (Brushy river) in hopes that we could float the rafts down to the Cygnet river. This waterway though could be described no more than a small creek.

With our hopes now dash the disappointed crew hike back up the hill, the only bonus being that the rafts were still in the trailer. Little did they know that they were soon to spend a lot of time out of the trailer.

Now came the challenge that no one at dead speak about, turning the car around (with a trailer attached) on not much more in a small four-wheel drive track. Before even starting the attempt there were doubts as whether the car could reverse up the muddy bank. The trailer was quickly decoupled and the rafts were unloaded. With sheer manpower alone the trailer hauled up the hill. Without extra weight, the X-Trail made a swift 50 point turn, only aided once with the crew pushing on the bonnet.

Quick retreat back to the get out was made and a new plan of attack formed. To risk it and attempt the little swanport Auto reattempt the Cygnet riveriver from another approach? With concerns of a weir on the little swanport, we attempted the Cygnet again. This time and old farming track was picked as the best approach and it live up to our expectations. This was until Tom mentioned how easy it was… Within a minute of him mentioning these dreaded words and opening up the fourth gate we were back to four-wheel driving.

Luckily this time we found the river and it was pumping! We quickly got prepared again and readyed rafts. At the risk of looking like a fool and getting his car stuck again Luke parked at the top of the hill resulting in another small hike (this time less than 200m). With the first rapid within metres of the get in, a rapid fire safety brief was given and the crew set off. Tom and Toby R2ing together and Luke, Harry and Lauren packed into the other the day finally commenced.

The first few rapids navigated cleanly, there was confidence within Luke’s boat. This confidence though led to them going sideways over a decent drop and Lauren was suddenly out swimming. A quick pickup by Harry though and we were back in action. The river split into 3 and a quick scout was done. Choice was for a small shingle rapid to the left, smooth flat current down the middle, order punch through some scrubs and smash down a lovely chain of narrow rapids. The choice was obvious millimetres to spare both boats made it through.

Paddling down the river it was evident how high the water it been the day before. Trees and branches push to the side of the river now nearly 2½ metres out of the water. I can only imagine that it would extreme to paddle this river at that level. The river continued and with more drops were navigated, we continued to make our way down. Reaching the bridge at 4:10 we had made it to the end without issue.

With knowledge that the winery across the road closed at 5pm, a quick pack up was performed. We excitedly headed into Milton Winery to celebrate our successful rafting trip. In a suprising turn, we found out that the owner had rafted the Franklin and loved rafting. He helpfully shared his knowledge of local rivers as we tasted his pinot and the sun set behind us.

Reaching the sheds at 7:20 we packed up and left, only before adding another black dot to the map.

This may have been the first decent by a raft on the Cygnet river.

Trip report written by Luke

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