The great outdoors
Canoeing Adventure on the Brisbane River
When we look around our local area seeking adventure for our family, our minds turn pretty quickly to the waterways. Disconnecting from the demands of life for an afternoon, there is nothing to clear the head quite like the primitive action of dipping a paddle in the water to propel us to our destination.
Ipswich has some great spots to go canoeing and kayaking and there are a few options for paddling day trips. We decided to set out from Colleges Crossing and paddle our canoes to Joseph Brady Park at the Bremer Junction, a distance of approximately 14 km which takes about 4 hours or so, when paddling with an outgoing tide.
The Brisbane River forms the northern boundary of the Ipswich Region and there are a number of parks and boat ramps along the river that serve as points to access the river. For this trip we had four boys with us – our 3 boys aged 9, 11 and 13 and a mate, 14. We hired canoes and a canoe trailer from Peter at Brisbane River Canoes in Ipswich and picked them up on our way to the river.
Take: Water, snacks.
Wear: PDFs (life jackets), shoes that can get wet (and won’t come off when walking in mud), sunscreen, hat
Colleges Crossing is really an amazing park with impressive facilities. There are excellent amenities: toilets, BBQ and picnicking areas, playgrounds, a café and there is drinking water available. It’s a great place to spend the day, and for families with smaller children, or who kids who aren’t proficient paddlers, Colleges Crossing is the perfect place to explore. There is a nice lake area with lots of birdlife. The river is tidal here, so it is best explored around high tide so you can paddle upstream and downstream a bit without worrying too much about hitting exposed rocks.
To get started on our journey, we unloaded the canoes at Colleges Crossing and then dropped our car and the canoe trailer at our destination, Joseph Brady Park – a drive of 9km. Then we used a second car to get back to Colleges Crossing. Last minute toilet stop, PDFs (life jackets) on and we pushed off, starting our paddle down the Brisbane River. We started close to high tide to make sure we could get through the section below Colleges Crossing without any trouble and so that we were paddling with the outgoing tide all the way.
The tide is definitely a huge factor so we wouldn’t have wanted to paddle against the tide, especially with kids. Tide info can be found here.
What to expect
As we paddled away from the boat ramp and all the picnickers enjoying their Saturday BBQ at Colleges Crossing, we did a quick assessment of paddling ability. Our boys have done a fair bit of sea-kayaking, but steering a canoe is another thing entirely. The “teenage canoe” being paddled by our son Zach and his friend, Turin seemed to be doing a fair bit of extra distance with all the turning and 360s that they did. Their paddling and steering ability improved, but we were very happy that we were going with the tide. Judging from the amount of laughter coming from their boat, they were having a fantastic time.
We were literally 5 minutes down the river when a small fish jumped into the “teenage canoe”. I kid you not, it jumped straight in and then wriggled itself up underneath the rear seat. We rafted up so Eli could grab the little fella and set him free. The river is home to a wide variety of wildlife and it wasn’t long before we had a Brahminy Kite circling overhead, saw Darter birds diving for fish and massive pelicans taking off for flight as we paddled past. A common site was black cormorants sitting on branches on the riverbank hanging out their large wet wings to dry.
Other birds that make their home around the river are Osprey, Pied Cormorants and White Bellied Sea Eagles. We even saw a kangaroo further down the river.
Continuing downstream, we paddled through Venus Pools before arriving at Kookaburra Park where we stopped to stretch our legs and have something to eat. Getting out of the canoes was fairly muddy but it’s a good spot to stop as there are toilets and water here. For families wanting to do a shorter paddle, this would be a good spot to finish. After we left Kookaburra Park, the river does a huge horseshoe around Taylor’s Nook and then on the left you can see the Kholo Creek junction. Apparently at high tide, you can explore up Kholo Creek a bit, but we just continued on the main river.
The river bank on the Brisbane side towers high above the river, keeping us in the cool shade. The river bank is lined by grand Spotted Gum Trees and Forest Red Gum (Queensland Blue Gum) that seem to stand like sentries with trunks that look silver or white in colour. By now, the light was softening as the sun prepared to set. The golden light transformed the river into a stunning canvas reflecting the gold, red and purple sky. We just had to stop paddling for a while to enjoy the quiet and take it all in. When I ask the boys what their favourite part of this trip was, this is what they talk about.
There’s nothing quite like sitting quietly in a canoe, drifting downstream and taking in a free light show, not only in the sky above, but in the river around us.
Then we saw the near-full moon that was rising and we could see it just above the river bank. Right about now, it couldn’t get much better. Scott and I both agree that the aspect of this trip that sticks with us is when the sun was setting and the golden light was hitting the large gum trees with their silvery trunks. They looked iridescent, like they were glowing silver, something that we have never seen before.
As the river had dropped quite a bit by now, getting out of the river was very muddy! There are 3 possible spots to take out at Joseph Brady, and we had been advised that best spot is right on the corner so that’s where we finished. Muddy shoes, muddy canoes and lots of teamwork to get the canoes up from the riverbank and safely back on the trailer. The gate at Joseph Brady Park gets locked at 6pm, so we had timed our finish perfectly, but we certainly didn’t have time to enjoy the park facilities which include toilets, BBQ areas and a playground. This would be a great spot for lunch when doing a morning paddle.
This trip was a special adventure for our family. It was long enough to be a bit challenging for the boys, and doing a one-way trip always adds to the sense of adventure. The birdlife, the gorgeous gum trees, the reflection of the sunset on the water … you can’t ask for much more for an afternoon adventure.
Other alternative options on the Brisbane River:
– Paddle around Colleges Crossing
– Colleges to Kookaburra Park
– Colleges to Riverside Park
– Start at Joseph Brady Park and paddle upstream if there is an incoming tide