Macalister River

Licola to Cheyne's Bridge

Verified! Easy Touring Winter Spring Rain Run! CLASS II


Gippsland. 50 km north of Traralgon

Contributed by Tim Wallace


Class: II

Season: Winter to Spring

Time: One to two days

Length: 30km

Level: 1.6m very low, 1.8m average, 1.9 good level, anything above 2m quite high

Gauge: Licola

Shuttle: Easy sealed road, 20 mins return

Character: Pretty beginners river, fun rapids

Suits: Anything that floats

Once a classic, but now often overlooked.

This section of the Macalister consists of fun and straightforward rapids, an easy shuttle and whilst not short, can be done in a day. Inexperienced groups, rafting or for those who would like to just amble along, two days is best. With the exception of half a dozen larger bedrock rapids in the 'gorge', the rapids tend to consist of easy wave trains and gravel races. At levels of 1m or greater, the river tends to move along and the next rapid is never really that far away.

Watch out for willows.

NOTE: For larger groups, there is a divide in the river after Licola, the left dry at low levels. At the end of last year, there where many trees across the river on the right branch and it might be better to pull boats over left branch.

Rowen Privett - To add to Tim’s jottings, a little more detail if you’re interested...

As Tim already cautions, the Macalister was famous for its notorious strainers (there’s occasional evidence of boat mishaps) but the local shire stepped in a couple years ago and did some ‘major’ clearing. It certainly made life easier for us running school groups through. Although much safer, there are still naturally spots you have to be wary of but with common sense are easily avoidable.

Licola – Basin Flat
Mainly flat for ~ 13kms with a few small rapids through picturesque farm country. Good warm up day for the gorge section ahead.

Basin Flat – Cheynes Bridge
A solid days paddle (~17km) that has a fairly continuous stream of grade 1-2s with a couple grade 2.5s depending on water level ( above ~1.4 they would be solid grade 3). The first grade 2.5 is on a sharp right hander about ~ 1km after where the only track crosses (good lunch spot). It’s got 3 nice waves and then a dog leg. The next is about 0.5km later on a left hander with the left chute being the safer line to avoid a grabby hole on the right. The fun keeps rolling with plenty of nice little waves, features and grade 2s as you pass Wollangarra Outdoor Education center (a couple of flying foxes cross the river) and then push out to the bridge. Bear in mind, at Basin Flat, you need to ‘jump the fence’ to reach the river, the land owners don’t appear (?) to mind as its commonly done. The Macalister is an old classic, which is still worth a splash if you are looking for a beautiful grade 2 river.

Rowen Privett August 11, 2008 - This little wilderness run has also fallen victim to the Gippsland floods last year (the Barkly, Caledonia, Thomson, Mitchell and Avon also copped it). This gorge section of the Macalister was quite heavily strained with logs after a post flood reccy and has caught a few paddling groups out. It was runnable but only by proficient and wary paddlers paddling a full day in kayaks.

Bryce May 21 2012 - Completed in January 2012. Conditions were about 1m at Licola and 1m at the gorge. It was a good beginner trip and we were beginners! There were a few strainers only one that we had to get out for. We did it as a two day trip and both days were easy days. Overall worth the trip, the gorge section is a lot of fun, the flats are good to get used to the kayak. Licola does not have an easy put in point that we could find. Good beginner trip!

Ro Privett  November 17, 2013 - Howdy folks. This write up has the gauge as above 1m as the level to run but I don't think this was corrected since the 2007 & subsequent floods where the Licola gauge was replaced, as the relevant levels have changed. For our occasional Macaliser runs with school groups, 1.6m is very low, 1.8m is average levels, 1.9 is a good level & anything above 2m is getting quite high. Not sure what level a minor flood would be but 2.5 would be close. We call the section from Basin Flat to Cheynes the gorge section with a couple grade 3's & plenty of 2's. Roughly 18km from memory.....with one rough access point from Burgoynes Gap track.

Also - for our school groups we often do the 20 acre creek to Montana / Paradise Valley as a cruisey 1/2 day grade 2 section.

Wayne Gilmour May 16, 2016 - Thanks, Ro Privett, for the excellent update. Trip report 14 May 2016. Five hour trip in kayaks, including lunch stop and breaks, with a level of 1.83 metres at Licola Gauge. As highlighted by others, the Licola gauge was relocated in 2008 so levels prior to then are now irrelevant. At 1.83 m, it was a fun but occasionally scratchy trip, and we agree a better level would be 1.9 m. Took two hours to reach the first Grade 3 rapid in the gorge, with another G3 within 500 metres, then another two hours of fun Grade 2 to paddle out. Any willows or strainers were easily avoided. An alternative finish point is at Hickey's Creek, near the gate entry to Wollangarra.

Putting In: From Melbourne, head east on the Princess Hwy to Traralgon. Follow the signs to Heyfield and then to Licola. Approx 25km before Licola you cross the Macalister at Cheynes Bridge (This is the get out). Drive a further 12km along the road, over the mountain until you see the river right next to the road. The put in is at a Canoeing warning sign.

Taking Out: Cheynes Bridge - See above.

Map: 1:50000 Licola Wellington

Camping: Plenty all around, Cheynes Bridge.

Entry Date: 29th July 2004

Verified by: Michael Lyons


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