Murray River Beaches Pre-trip Report

[cetsEmbedGmap src= width=350 height=425 marginwidth=0 marginheight=0 frameborder=0 scrolling=no]Jan Martin reports:
After the wettest spring and summer for many years, the Murray River was flooded along all of the Victorian and New South Wales border. The worst of the floods were downstream of the Goulburn and Loddon Rivers. Some areas near Swan Hill are still under water. The area where we usually go for the Club’s annual Murray River beach camp is further upstream, between Barooga and Mulwala.
In October, we had a first hand report from Greg and Noelene Moore about Backhouse Beach, our favourite camping spot. They reported that the river had completely covered our camping area and the water over the access track was more than two metres deep. Greg said the water would have been over the top of his Landcruiser, if he had tried to get through. And that was before the summer rains!
On 9th April, we went on a pre-trip drive to see what was left of the beautiful beaches along the Barooga-Mulwala stretch of the river and, more importantly, whether they still had access tracks through the forests. We started with the access track through the Cottadidda State Forest to Backhouse Beach.
At first it looked pretty good. A grader had been through and fixed the worst parts. A deep bog hole had been graded and improved with a topping of crushed rock. At the lagoon, which had been dry for many years, there was plenty of water. Some three metre high young red gums growing in the lagoon bed had fallen sideways, pushed over by the strong water flow. There were some deep ruts in places, where people had forced their way through boggy areas, but nothing really bad. By the time we arrived at the Thong Tree above the levee bank, we were quite optimistic.
The track down the levee had also been graded and we drove down to the river level easily. But about twenty metres along the low level track, the grading ran out abruptly. A large river gum had fallen straight across the track. Not just the limb of a tree, but the whole tree had been uprooted.
On one side of the track was the river, with the tree partly submerged in it. On the other side, just beyond the tree roots, there was a deep, impassable swamp. No way to cut a side track around the tree. The tree was too big for a conventional chain saw to tackle – it needed something of industrial size to cut it up and a winch to shift it off the track.
We scrambled over the trunk and walked into Backhouse Beach. Another big red gum had fallen over at the end closest to the access track. A bit too close to the camping area for comfort.
The beach area had obviously been flooded, but had recovered well. It would still have been a good, safe camping spot, if not for that fallen tree across the access track. Given the widespread nature of the flooding in the NSW forests along the Murray, we thought there was little point in contacting the authorities and asking when the tree would be moved from the track. It’s a big job. No doubt they will get around to it eventually. Maybe, it might even happen before Easter, which is a popular time for camping on the Murray River beaches, but we have no guarantee on that.
So we managed to turn the Jackaroo around on the narrow track with use of 4WD and headed upstream to check out some other beaches.
The next two beaches on the NSW side were no good – a combination of access tracks in bad condition and beaches too small for more than three or four camp sites. One of them also had a large fallen red gum right across what might have seemed like a good camp site. After wandering around the forest tracks for a while, sometimes temporarily unsure of our position, we picked up a follower – a family in a Holden sedan.
As we were using 4WD on the worst parts of the track, we were a bit concerned about them following us. After we backed out of one bog, they finally got the message and retreated. We eventually found our way back to Stock Route Road, a graded, gravel road which runs a little inland, but roughly parallel to the river. We decided what we needed was a big beach, not too far into the forest and consulted our “Murray River Beach Access” map. One, near the end of the road we were on, looked like a possibility.
We turned off the graded road towards the river into the Boomanoomana State Forest (and you thought Cottadidda was hard to pronounce). A short, repaired access track, suitable for caravans, led to a large, sandy beach. Most of the trees behind the beach were young red gums, with no danger of falling limbs. There was plenty of sand to dig trenches for camp oven cooking and flat areas for a larger group of campers. Just back on the access track was an excellent supply of firewood.
The school holidays had started, but no-one was camping there. We had it to ourselves.
This place is called One Tree Beach. It had one large deciduous tree, in full autumn colour, right in the middle of a wide sandy beach. It is roughly halfway between Mulwala and Barooga, easy to find and quicker to get into than Backhouse Beach. The fastest way to get there would probably be to travel on the Hume to Benalla, then take the Yarrawonga road and cross into NSW at Mulwala. It would probably take about the same driving time from Melbourne as Backhouse Beach. But going back to the nearest town for bread or milk would take a little longer. 14.5 kms from Backhouse to Cobram; 19.5kms from One Tree to Mulwala. However, it seems very suited to our purposes, so we have decided to use it for the May trip this year and will send details of how to get there to everyone who is coming. Hope to see you there.
Final note: In July 2010, the previous N.S.W. government proclaimed large areas of forest along the Murray as part of a new Murray Valley National Park.
This was mainly to protect the degraded river red gum forests from commercial logging, but has future implications for the unstructured free camping we have been able to enjoy. At present, nothing seems to have changed, but it may not be too long before the Murray River beaches have designated camp spots with pine poles around them and sky high camping fees.
Enjoy it now before it changes!

Boomanoomana State Forest – One Tree Beach

  • Starting from the Yarrawonga Mulwala Visitor Information Centre, cross the main traffic bridge into Mulwala and drive through Mulwala (on Melbourne Street) until you cross the Mulwala Canal Bridge (approx. 3½km from Visitor Information Centre).
  • Turn left immediately after Canal Bridge – there is a sign post on right “Industrial Estate and one on the left “Tocumwal, Berrigan, Savernake”.
  • Stay on bitumen road until come to cross-roads (1.4km) with sign post in centre of road, one points to Tocumwal to the left. Turn left.
  • Travel about 10km along this road. You come to a cross-road. On the left is a road sign “Yarrawonga 17km” (pointing back in the direction from which you came), “Barooga 23” (pointing straight ahead), “Berrigan 36” (pointing to the right). KEEP GOING STRAIGHT AHEAD for approx. 5km until you get to “Ruwolts Road” on the right. TURN LEFT.

  • View Larger Map

  • On the left is the third entrance to the forest. Enter the gates and there is a sign “One Tree Beach 3.5km”.
  • Follow the green arrows on trees. “One Tree Beach” is aptly named – there is a large “elm-like” tree in the middle of the beach!