I've just returned after spending nine days being involved with our volunteers in the Adventurous Paddling Program, which is helping to improve fish habitat in the Murrumbidgee River near Scottsdale Reserve, as part of the Upper Murrumbidgee Demonstration Reach (UMDR).
The UMDR is a partnership between Australian River Restoration Centre, Bush Heritage Australia, NSW DPI Fisheries, NSW Recreational Fishing Trust and Waterwatch (among other groups), with the aim of improving native fish habitat and the general health of the river.
I was joined by four other bush heritage volunteers, Antia the UMDR coordinator, and Ian from Paddle NSW as we spent two days learning the art of safely paddling in moving water.
We leant terms like 'ferry gliding', 'eddies', 'rooster tail', 'stopper', 'strainer' and how to deal with them. There were many different types of paddle strokes to learn.
Then we had to capsize and recover and we learnt the art of throwing rescue ropes to someone stranded in moving water.
Using Scottsdale as our base for the next five days Antia, Mark, Jim and John joined me as we paddled to different sections of the Murrumbidgee downstream from the Scottsdale boat ramp.
Our days started with pumping our rafts full of air, attaching our dry bags with tools and lunches in the rafts, followed by our safety briefing. With the sun warming the air we launched at around 9.30am to begin our day with about a 2km paddle to our work site on the banks of the river.
The water levels were low due to the drought, dropping 4cm during the week we were there, which meant some walking beside the rafts when the water was too shallow to paddle.
Most of our time was spent stem injecting Willows (crack and other seeding hybrids ) and Box Elders (Acer Negundo) and removing smaller seedlings. Using a hand auger, we also planted long-stem tube stock to aid bank stabilisation.
On the last two days there was a change of volunteers as Dave and YiQing (two previous paddlers) joined Antia and myself as well as Jeff and Fred from Willow Warriors. Jeff introduced us to using battery drills for stem injection, which allowed us to do larger trees much more quickly. We also spent time removing stems of Willows that had roots in the water.
Through our efforts and those of other paddlers in the program the health of the Murrumbidgee is sure to improve. Thanks to Anita from UMDR and Michelle from Bush Heritage for organizing a great program.