It’s a great feeling setting off on a ‘Sunday drive’ on a Saturday in the cool of the morning with the promise of a lovely paddle awaiting you at journey’s end. Last Saturday was one of those mornings with a pleasant drive down to Johns River complete with George Thorogood & the Destroyers pumping out their classic blues/rock on the CD while the early sunlight was rolling out gently, gradually enveloping the passing rural landscape in a soft light ( I passed Bad Billy around Kew; he biked it down also enjoying the cool early morning ). Turning into Wharf Rd. at Johns River you get off the beaten track & a lovely avenue of pine trees ushers you to the banks of the Stewarts River. The air was cool, the light subdued amongst the trees & the water looked secretive & inviting through the vegetation. Stewarts River feels hidden as you have to be on it or alongside it to know it is there. While access is awkard it is well worth the effort as the river is a secluded stretch of water which meanders gently for approx. 5 kms through rural land before flowing into Watson Taylor Lake which opens up before you in all its panoramic splendour.
At the start of the paddle we headed up towards the railway bridge, a more narrow section with trees leaning across the water & azure kingfishers darting through the bushes. David spotted several together which is unusual as we are lucky to see just one or two individually on most paddles. Dappled sunlight created pools of light on the surface & enhanced the Impressionist like reflections of the trees. Due to the lower level of water up here there was a bit of a swampy smell, but this disappeared once we moved off downstream. There were plenty of fish jumping around & birdsong up in the tree tops. Along the way, nestled amongst trees right on the riverfront was a house that looked like the perfect artist/writers retreat, complete with verandah for morning coffee & an evening wine. It is a visually relaxing & soul cleansing paddle. Beautiful stands of tall timber are all around, corridor like in some parts, & the occasional fallen tree limbs & graceful tall white trunks added to the overall landscaping effect. It was easy to fall into a steady rhythm which felt in tune with the surrounds. All things considered it is a classic paddle that ticks all the boxes.
Before long Watson Taylor Lake opened up before us with North Brother in the distance. It was absolutely breath taking with water like glass stretching back towards Dunbogan. We all took a moment to just take in the vista ( & a photo opportunity!! ) before drifting out onto the lake itself. We paddled around to our right past Washtub Bay, which was too shallow to navigate, on to Bensons Inlet, where I spotted a huge Osprey up in the trees, & on to a little sandy beach where we stretched our legs & enjoyed views back across the lake. We then paddled across to & around a small island before heading back up the river & enjoying the river views in reverse. After loading up we had lunch at the little park in Johns River.
Thanks Greg for leading this paddle & to David, Stephen & Bill V for joining us.
The Stewarts River is described as a perennial stream which rises on the northern slopes of Big Nellie within the Coorabakh NP west of Hannam Vale, flowing east by south & then east being joined by the Camden Haven River before reaching its mouth at Watson Taylor Lake. It descends 132m over its 62kms course.