Fitzgerald’s Creek

Rickard Road Ford to Nepean River

Verified! Steep Creek Advanced Waterfalls Insane! Summer CLASS V


Sydney and Environs. 3km West of Penrith

Contributed by Lachie Milne


Class: V

Season: Summer – after heavy Rain

Gradient: Average 40m/km, Max 130m/km for 500m

Time: 3hrs to 5hrs

Length: 5km

Level: Approximately 10cumecs at the put in. Heavy rain required. Glenbrook Creek @ 2.2m should mean runnable. Get it while it’s still raining.

Gauge: 2 gauges: 1. At take out, if the water is up to the top of the concrete spillway, or within 10cm above or below, level is good.2. Just after the put in, Long Angle Creek joins on river left and there is a large boulder straight after on river left, and if 1.5m (1 paddle blade and the paddle shaft) is showing, then the level is good. A 10 cm above or below would be ok, but much more and you’ll be struggling in the tree sections and much less and it’ll be a little bony.

Shuttle: A short (10km) car shuttle, mainly on bitumen – watch out for slippery roads!!! There is a 25 minute walk in from Rickard’s Road National Park Entrance.

Character: Steep, overgrown creek with a mix of flat sandstone shelves and boulder gardens.

Suits: Creek boats definitely recommended.

3 words to describe a Fitzgerald’s Creek trip. Steep, Overgrown, Epic. Despite the mouth of this creek being within view of the café at the Penrith Whitewater Stadium, it took 3 years from the PWS opening until this creek had been conquered. Having scouted it while it had 0 flow in December 2001, it was debatable whether or not this would be a goer, but after 170mm rain in a couple of days, in its tiny 29km2 catchment, there was enough flow. In a small group of 3 (Aaron Hemmerle and Andre Hemmerle) we gave it a shot.

The river at the put in is definitely misleading; it begins as a meandering stream not more than 6m wide, and carrying only about 10 cumecs. However, after less than a kilometre, the trees close in and the river begins to steepen. The next kilometre is the most overgrown, and though the rapids are not hard, care must be taken to avoid the trees.

About 2km after the start, the bottom drops out, as the creek enters its steepest section (45 m drop in 300m) Everything is scoutable, and it is worth checking around the next corner and setting safety because there are a couple of good sized falls at the end of some steep technical sections.

Fitzgerald’s Creek, Rickard Road Ford to Nepean River. Copyright 2008. All Rights Reserved.

Fitzgerald’s Creek, Rickard Road Ford to Nepean River. Copyright 2008. All Rights Reserved.Fitzy’s falls, which is 5m to 6m in height has a good suckback and is undercut on river left, so nail the boof.

About 50m later, is ‘The Toaster, a 50m long rapid consisting of a 2m drop before a steep slide into a toaster slot that flushes out onto a big cushion wave.

The section climaxes with an as yet unrun, 10m fall (Cripple’s Falls) at the confluence with Cripple Creek. It can be scouted and portaged on river left.

The creek continues for another kilometre through steep boulder gardens and rock ledge chutes before it steepens again. At ‘Andre’s Accident’ a portage is required over a log across the whole river and a seal launch into a fast flowing flume that flows down into a big boulder creating a nasty weir-like hole. Run it, but be wary, it claimed every member of our group.

Directly after is Aaron’s Undoing, a long steep rapid that created more carnage than was expected. It can be scouted on river left. At the bottom of Aaron’s undoing is an as yet unrun drop where the river passes either side of a huge boulder and appears to seive. From the bottom of this rapid, the powerlines at the take out are visible, only a couple of hundred metres away. The comparatively tiny boulder gardens from here down are a nice cool down.

Fitzgerald’s Creek, Rickard Road Ford to Nepean River. Copyright 2008. All Rights Reserved.

Fitzgerald’s Creek, Rickard Road Ford to Nepean River. Copyright 2008. All Rights Reserved.Advice for the trip: Take a breakdown paddle, a first aid kit, a mobile phone (there is reception) and don’t expect a walk in the park. This is steep creeking. PS. Leuko Spray bandage and op-site are handy for the aftermath. (Elbow pads proved very handy)

Putting In: Leave Penrith on Old Bathurst Road, drive through Blaxland and turn right at the round about on to Wilson Way (when you reach the railway line) At the next round about, turn right again and continue along the railway line, heading west. Upon reaching Warrimoo, (approximately 2 km later) turn right on to Rickard Road. Drive to the end and park at the gate to the National Park. From here a 25 minute walk with your boat is required. Head into the national park and walk along the 4WD track, turning left down a steep hill. Continue around a couple of hair pin bends until you can see the river below you. Clamber down the steep slope and put in here.

Taking Out: Drive back down the Old Bathurst Road towards Penrith, and after descending the steep winding section, turn left at the first traffic lights on to Wedmore Road. Continue along Wedmore Road until it turns into Riverside Road. Riverside road appears to end in Strathdown St, but follow it down to the left (only 100m) before it turns right (towards the river) Follow it until it ends in a dirt road after a steep climb. Continue along the 4WD track until it reaches some High Tension Power Lines. Park here, and walk down the steep 4WD track to the put in (100m) to check the level.

Map: Springwood 9030-4S 3rd edition or Street Directory

Camping: There is a camping ground on the Nepean River in MacKellar St, Emu Plains. (Nepean Caravan Park – 02 4735 4425)From the take out, follow River Road to the northern end, turn left on to the Great Western Highway and then right at the second set of lights – under the railway bridge. Take the first right, then the first right again. Turn left at the end, on to MacKellar St and it is on the right about 500m down.

Entry Date: 12/02/02


Do YOU know MORE or BETTER than this?
Want to offer your own experiences / opinions on this paddle?