Last Sunday six of us escaped the road closures etc associated with the annual Ironman event in Port & headed north to Macksville for the day. We enjoyed a peaceful and relaxing paddle on the Upper Nambucca River in the traditional lands of the GUMBAYNGGIRR people. Our paddle was followed by fish ‘n chips & birthday cake sitting in the sunshine by the river in Macksville, watching the world drift by. It was Bill Vassallo’s birthday & our’ Billie’ wanted to help blow out the candles!! The paddle (approx.. 11 kms return) took us from Devil’s Elbow at Congarinni North upstream towards Bowraville. Grassy Park at Bowraville is the Nambucca River’s western tidal limit, but a huge fallen gum tree prevented us from getting to that point. Despite the flood discoloured water ( which is still everywhere) this is a lovely paddle; quiet with a feeling of remoteness. The river starts to narrow & is flanked by tall, towering trees with glimpses of grazing land (very lush at present) & watchful cattle relaxing in the shade of the trees. In some sections it becomes quite shallow with coarse river sand/gravel shoals.
According to information provided by the Nambucca Headland Museum, the name/term Devil’s Elbow appears to be a generic name used in many rivers to indicate a shallow area caused by gravel at a tight bend. A few kms upstream towards Bowraville there used to be a wharf called Devirs Wharf. It was only constant dredging that allowed the river past Devirs to be navigated by anything more than a drogher ( a basic cargo vessel; a blunt-ended, flat bottomed river boat with plenty of deck space & shallow draught allowing them access to otherwise inaccessible areas). Another ‘devil’s elbow’ apparently exists on Warrell Creek ( upstream from GUMMA) near where the weir was at the junction of Scott’s Head Rd. township & Gumma Rd. Downstream 4 kms from Devil’s Elbow is Wirrimbi Island which was at one time the site of an Aboriginal mission/reserve. It is a place of great cultural significance to the GUMBAYNGGIRR people of this region.
Since our last paddle up here the heavy rains have wreaked their havoc. Huge trees have been uprooted & lie where they fell. There has been considerable erosion to the river banks & more large trees are just hanging on, their root systems exposed. The land is saturated & at one point water was rushing off a paddock in a small waterfall. We could hear plenty of birdlife in the trees and the general feeling was one of calm. It was great that three of our group (Di, Stephen & Pieternella) had not done this paddle before thereby making it ‘new territory’ for them.