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  • Writer's pictureRiver Rambler

Ord River 3 day paddle, The Kimberley, Western Australia

Updated: Jan 5, 2022

This trip was organised through Macca at 'Go Wild Adventure Tours - Eco-noeing'. I can't recommend this trip more highly, you can contact Macca through his website at

We met Macca in Kununurra who showed us to his Maxwell Camp. The campsite is heavily shaded by Neem Trees, a tree native to India, introduced for its medicinal uses but now a major weed in the area. Macca is putting in a huge effort to clear and control this weed around his camp.

Maxwell Camp is on the banks of the Ord River and has lots of Macca’s cleverly fashioned facilities, a floating jetty (great for evening G&T’s) and adventure rope course.

Day 1

- Macca collected us from the camp bright and early and we headed off in the Hulk (the big green Troupy) with boat trailer up to Lake Argyle. We were shown the Lake from a lookout before driving down to our entry point below the dam wall.

- Following a safety and navigation briefing, we were instructed on the gear loading and padding techniques. Eco-noeing provide the boat safety gear, esky with ice, crockery/cutlery, mattress and mozzie dome. Waterproof barrels are provided to hold your food, sleeping bag, clothing and personal gear. The campsites along the way include toilets, showers, tent platforms, tables, shelters and gas stove/BBQ.

- There were six of us paddling in 3 canoes. Jamie & Jane, and Peter & Virginia from Wangaratta Victoria, and Steve & Genelle from Wentworth, NSW.

- After a few tips and quick competency check by Macca, we paddled off from just below the Lake Argyle dam wall at about 11am. The volume and clarity of the water coming out of the hydro at the dam wall is quite amazing, running fast and crystal clear!

- Macca’s two-person canoes are comfortable and relatively stable. Macca will advise what canoe paddling experience is required to undertake this trip. There are a couple of bends on the first day that have a bit of fast water and potential snags, but Macca has them clearly marked on maps and give advice on the best lines to avoid difficulty.

- There are large power boats taking sightseers up and down the river so you do need to keep an ear out for them. It also pays to nose into their boat wash to avoid getting swamped or tipped out. The boats were very courteous and slowed right down if they saw us on the water. I reckon we became a bit of a novelty to the tourist too, lots of waving and photo’s being taken!!

- The first day from Lake Argyle to Cooliman Camp is relatively long at 24km but bear in mind the river is flowing pretty quickly. You do have to keep moving, but we arrived at camp by about 6pm and quickly set up our mozzie domes and bedding on the platforms (tin covered timber decks). Such easy camping with everything provided, all you need is your sleeping bag, food, drinks and clothes. It never rains in the dry so camping with only a fly screen above you allows perfect connection to the surrounds and the stars.

- An evening fish up Cooliman Creek, exploration of the surrounds and before you know it, it’s time for dinner, a cup of wine then hit the sack and delight in the night sky.

Day 2

- Day 2 is a ripper, only 9km to travel to Stonewall Camp, but a number of creekline gullies to explore and water holes to swim in.

- We had to find and explore two creeklines that led to the most amazing waterholes. The entrances to these gems took a bit of finding often hidden amongst the pandanus.

- The river broadens considerably after the Cooliman Creek confluence and the water flows slower the further you go and the closer you get to Kununurra.

- The rocky cliffs are truly spectacular through this reach to Stonewall Creek. Big water, big cliffs, big country.

Day 3

- Day 3 begins with a beautiful paddle through the old course of Stonewall Creek and then on to find and explore Rainforest Creek. This is an absolute gem, the paddleable creek ends, then you hoof it up to an amazing pool with massive Melaleuca’s a big sheer rock face at the back, floating lilies and friendly water monitor.

- After this highlight, it was gentle paddle back to Maxwells Camp. Do make sure you paddle the smaller anabranch channel on your way back to camp, it is beautiful - full of lilies, interesting aquatic plants, birds and crocs.

- Once back at camp, do take the opportunity for a G&T on the jetty before you leave, it is a great little spot Macca has there.

Click this Video link to see another view of the Ord River, its tributaries and the surrounding landscape

The stats were:

- Day 1 - Lake Argyle to Cooliman Camp, 24km, 11am to 6pm (7 hours)

- Day 2 - Cooliman Camp to Stonewall Camp, 9km, 9:30am - 4pm (6.5 hrs)

- Day 3 - Stonewall Camp to Mackenzie's Camp, 12.5km, 9am - 2pm (5 hrs)

- Total distance on the Ord River 45.5km

- 6 paddlers (Jane & Jamie, Gin & Pete, Genelle & Steve), 3 canoes

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