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Canoe the Glenelg River

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by Steve H. (subscribe)
Inspired by Australia's natural, developing and fun environments. Join me. Get some inspiration.
Published April 10th 2017
Escape to a Real World
The phone vibrated. Probably another message with another request. Do this or do that. Amazing how busy we have become by engaging with these time saving devices. Reluctantly I bow to the pressure of the unknown and I open the phone. It is an email from Chris of Nelson Boat and Canoe Hire advising "your canoe is ready for this weekend, and just a reminder that mobile reception is patchy on the Glenelg River". The smile returns.

Canoe the Glenelg River, Lower Glenelg National Park, Things to do in National Parks, Moleside Landing, Bowds Campground, Princess Margaret Rose Cave, Nelson Boat and Canoe Hire, Donovans, Parks Victoria
Glenelg River - Steve Hudson


We are off for a long weekend escape on the Glenelg River and Chris primes us well. Leaving our car at Chris' farm in Nelson, he drives us upstream to Moleside Landing where we unload the canoe, the barrels and ourselves before saying farewell to Chris. With the canoe balanced properly, and the life jackets on, we depart Moleside for a 3 night 50km paddle through one of Victoria's iconic national parks.

Canoe the Glenelg River, Lower Glenelg National Park, Things to do in National Parks, Moleside Landing, Bowds Campground, Princess Margaret Rose Cave, Nelson Boat and Canoe Hire, Donovans, Parks Victoria
Departure from Moleside - Steve Hudson


It doesn't take long before we have mastered the art of fishtailing. A bit of communication and we set ourselves some rules to ensure that our trip remains within the expected length and timeframe. A wave to a fisherman trying his luck from the bank, and a glimpse of some koalas in the riverside gum trues while half of our coat of arms sits in a small clearing pondering what to do for the remainder of the afternoon.

Canoe the Glenelg River, Lower Glenelg National Park, Things to do in National Parks, Moleside Landing, Bowds Campground, Princess Margaret Rose Cave, Nelson Boat and Canoe Hire, Donovans, Parks Victoria
Koala Country - Steve Hudson


Our supreme athleticism comes to a halt after half an hour, so we pull the paddles aside and float, and just listen. We can hear nothing. We check our phones. Yep, we don't have any connection. The smile remains.

Canoe the Glenelg River, Lower Glenelg National Park, Things to do in National Parks, Moleside Landing, Bowds Campground, Princess Margaret Rose Cave, Nelson Boat and Canoe Hire, Donovans, Parks Victoria
Serene - Steve Hudson


Skipworth Springs is our destination for night one, and after a few hours on the water, the wooden landing appears. The canoe is pulled ashore, a level site sourced, the tent assembled, and the wine and a new book are rescued from the depths of the barrels. Our peace is momentarily broken when a couple more solitude-seeking groups arrive, and setup for a night in the wild and under the Southern Stars.

Canoe the Glenelg River, Lower Glenelg National Park, Things to do in National Parks, Moleside Landing, Bowds Campground, Princess Margaret Rose Cave, Nelson Boat and Canoe Hire, Donovans, Parks Victoria
Skipworth Springs - Steve Hudson


The whistle of the boiling kettle breaks the morning silence and stirs the campsite into action. Coffee and breakfast are followed by the packing of the canoe, and settling sail yet again, but this time with some newly acquired tired muscles which greatly appreciate the favourable current and slight tail wind.

Canoe the Glenelg River, Lower Glenelg National Park, Things to do in National Parks, Moleside Landing, Bowds Campground, Princess Margaret Rose Cave, Nelson Boat and Canoe Hire, Donovans, Parks Victoria
Just cruisin' - Steve Hudson


The pace on the second day is steady and we spend long periods of time admiring the beautiful limestone cliffs, the reedy banks and the gum tree lined river. We reach Bowds in the early afternoon and setup camp. A swim from the landing with our newly found solitude-seekers adds to the afternoon's relaxation before we succumb to an afternoon nap, a wine and an evening camp fire.

Canoe the Glenelg River, Lower Glenelg National Park, Things to do in National Parks, Moleside Landing, Bowds Campground, Princess Margaret Rose Cave, Nelson Boat and Canoe Hire, Donovans, Parks Victoria
Bowds - Steve Hudson


Aware now of the tricks that boiling kettles play, I awake early on day three and am greeted by a majestic mirror-like mist-laden river about to be broken by yet another gorgeous sunrise. I think about the phone. The smile widens.

Canoe the Glenelg River, Lower Glenelg National Park, Things to do in National Parks, Moleside Landing, Bowds Campground, Princess Margaret Rose Cave, Nelson Boat and Canoe Hire, Donovans, Parks Victoria
Misty Morning - Steve Hudson
Canoe the Glenelg River, Lower Glenelg National Park, Things to do in National Parks, Moleside Landing, Bowds Campground, Princess Margaret Rose Cave, Nelson Boat and Canoe Hire, Donovans, Parks Victoria
Sunrise - Steve Hudson


Our third day on the water is a shorter day to Lasletts where we arrive just before lunch. After setting up camp, we start the 2.5km walk along the clifftops to the Princess Margaret Rose Caves, where we join a tour of this interesting complex of limestone caves and marvel at the thousands of years it takes for those stalagmites and stalactites to form, and in some cases to eventually meet.

Canoe the Glenelg River, Lower Glenelg National Park, Things to do in National Parks, Moleside Landing, Bowds Campground, Princess Margaret Rose Cave, Nelson Boat and Canoe Hire, Donovans, Parks Victoria
Princess Margaret Rose Cave - Steve Hudson


Our final morning approaches with apprehension. The now customary morning mist starts to lift, and another rendition of "I can see clearly now" accompanies the first strokes of the day. The current continues to drag us downstream into the disputed territory of South Australia where we momentarily gain and then lose time.

Canoe the Glenelg River, Lower Glenelg National Park, Things to do in National Parks, Moleside Landing, Bowds Campground, Princess Margaret Rose Cave, Nelson Boat and Canoe Hire, Donovans, Parks Victoria
Cliffs and Reeds abound - Steve Hudson


The limestone cliffs, reeds and river gums become a memory with shacks, people and the occasional speed boat accompanying us as we cruise into our final destination at Nelson. And the solitude of the weekend is well and truly broken as the phone vibrates its disgust at being texted, tweeted, poked, snapped, pinged and mailed. As we leave behind the serenity and the millions of years of history associated with this river and return to our 180 year old created cities, it doesn't take us long to realise which of the 'real worlds' we prefer.

Canoe the Glenelg River, Lower Glenelg National Park, Things to do in National Parks, Moleside Landing, Bowds Campground, Princess Margaret Rose Cave, Nelson Boat and Canoe Hire, Donovans, Parks Victoria
A touch of paradise - Steve Hudson


Nelson is approximately 4.5 hours from Melbourne and Adelaide. Nelson Boat and Canoe Hire provide canoes, transport and advice from Spring through to Autumn each year. Further details are available from their website or their facebook page.
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Why? See the real world
When: Any time
Where: Nelson, Victoria
Cost: Park fees as per website
Your Comment
Congratulations on winning third place.
by Bryony Harrison (score: 4|11206) 15 hours ago
What a wonderful trip, Steve - as usual your photos are amazing! Love your writing too, I felt like I was canoeing with you!
by Elaine (score: 3|3377) 14 days ago
How fantastic! Have never been to the Glenelg River, but it's on my wish list now! Great photos
by Paula McManus (score: 3|2363) 12 days ago
Canoeing is not my cup of tea but I have had the oppotunity to admire the cliffs from the river's edge and to visit the Princess Margaret Rose Caves. Both are spectacular.
by Gayle Beveridge (score: 3|5486) 8 days ago
Well done on your Competition win, Steve!
by Elaine (score: 3|3377) 23 hours ago
Congratulations on your competition prize.
by Gayle Beveridge (score: 3|5486) 11 hours ago
wow, sounds and looks delightful! Ideal to have a break from the devices ...
by Kate Blake (score: 2|570) 21 hours ago
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