Winter isn't considered to be a great time to pursue watersports in South Australia. 'It's cold and windy!', I hear you say. Well it is in Adelaide, but often you'll find the weather calm and clear on the Murray River around Murray Bridge. Beautiful sunrises and sunsets over calm waters means you just have to rug up a little more, and go canoeing on the river. The river is always quieter in winter, with almost no ski boat activity and fewer houseboats to dodge.
Get out into the outdoors and try the canoe trails at Murray Bridge for some fun on the water. The canoe trails were devised by the Murraylands Regional Tourist Association during the millennium drought which ended in 2010. Since then the river has been refreshed, and it's simply stunning.
Launch from the sandy beaches and gentle banks of Sturt Reserve and paddle upstream towards the iconic twin bridges of Murray Bridge. Taking in a different view of the wharf precinct means you may need to give the wharf a wide berth. It's home to the Captain Proud Paddle Wheeler which cruises for lunches daily (they do excellent weekend dinner cruises as well), and the Proud Mary which takes longer multi-day cruises upriver.
Freight train thundering over the bridge and the historic wharf and railyard below.
The road bridge was the first bridge to span the Murray River in 1879, and the railway bridge followed in 1925. As you paddle underneath the bridge you'll see flood markers noting just how high the river went in 1956, it's incredible to imagine that volume of water! If the Murray River Queen is in town, then you won't miss it! Not far after this is the Moritz slipway historic moorings. Barges and boats from years gone by are preserved carefully here awaiting restoration to glory. Spot the giant barge 'Ukee', one of the largest ever on the river afloat at moorings once again.
Moritz Slipway and the barge 'Ukee', wrapped in tarpaulin.
Here you will begin to turn with the bend in the river, but not before you go by the ski beach. Once known as Edwards Crossing where cattle herds were once guided across the river, Hume Reserve is now a ski beach from which many professional ski careers have been staged.
Thiele Reserve. Source - Rural City of Murray Bridge
The next stop is Thiele Reserve, a couple of k's further upriver. There are BBQ's, toilets, sheltered tables, a boat ramp and a playground here. Once again, winter is the best time to paddle here, as summer days (especially holiday season) are incredibly busy with ski boats.
Head off across the river and head upstream to find the pumping station that sucks water from the Murray for Adelaide's water supply. Get close enough and you can hear the rushing water!
This is where the current intermediate paddler trail ends.
Head back to Sturt Reserve along the beautiful willow lined banks of the river and paddle lazily with the flow of the river. If you have transport that can meet you where you land, I'd suggest taking the canoe further upriver to Avoca Dell Reserve and the stunning Riverglades wetlands, a haven of birdlife and tranquility, brought back to spectacular life following last year's high river flows.
Adelaideians often overlook the Murray River as a destination. For many, the river is closer than some of our favourite Adelaide winter spots. Next weekend, head east, and check out the Murray River in winter.