Donnelly River


Donnelly River

Donnelly RiverDonnelly River covers a fair size area, a former timber-mill town it is now a heritage holiday destination in the South West region of Western Australia. The access point to the Donnelly River boat ramp is about 300 kms from Perth and 50kms beyond Nannup, towards Pemberton in the D’Entrecasteaux National Park. The Donnelly River flows into the Southern Ocean.

So it’s the lead up to Easter 2015 and I’m wondering what exciting adventure can be had with minimal planning and short lead time. I built a fibreglass kayak 40 years ago in my teen years and remembered how wonderful it was to paddle about the Queanbeyan River in NSW and Cooma area. I’d also bought on a whim a Canadian canoe to paddle flood waters running through Leonora, WA during heavy rains that joined lake systems in the late 1970s.

Donnelly RiverLooking around on GumTree I saw a kayak for sale, less than 12 months old for a very reasonable price, in fact about 1/3 of cost price. So I began looking for rivers in the South West that I could go for a ‘paddle’. The Donnelly River looked like a perfect match, a 24 kilometre round trip from the boat landing at Carey Brook to the Southern Ocean.

So I purchased the kayak, which was all ready to go with carbon fibre paddle, deluxe padded seat and waterproof stowage ports. Having bought a few supplies I packed up the yak ready for an overnight trip. Keeping things to bare minimum, 3 x 1.5 litres of bottled water, sleeping bag, light weight single tent, propane bushwalking stove, headlamp, waterproofs, light fishing rod and tackle box, food and of course a small bottle of Scotch.

coolwater kayakI’m certainly not the fittest specimen these days and as I headed off from the landing I wondered about paddling 12 kms, and the return trip. From the boat landing the river is quite narrow and many trees have fallen into the river (I suspect bank erosion from power craft contribute to this).

There are very few places along the river you can pull into as the bush and trees crowd the river edge. A small sandy bank a few kilometres down is one spot (stopped there on the way back) but otherwise the paddle is all the way!

Donnelly river breamI camped on the mouth and had the whole place to myself. How often can you do that on an Easter weekend! One small bream was all I caught but did watch guys pull in several salmon from the beach. I’ll be back.



16ft Fraser runaboutWell I did return a few weeks later, this time in my 16foot run-about. Camped on the beach again but his time had my surf rod and caught two good sized salmon. I filleted them on the beach and packed them in ice ready for the trip home. A good few kilos of meat out of two fish and the biggest thrill I’ve ever had beach fishing. On arriving home I made a fish curry and it was fantastic. Looking forward to catching and eating some more.


SalmonA couple of other interesting things to do, if you are not up to the paddling challenge:

Donnelly River Cruises

Donnelly River Accommodation



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