Class: II low water III+ high water (p)
Season: Winter / Spring or major rain event
Gradient: ~27m/km to ~10m/km
Time: 1 full day or overnight
Level: No direct gauge. Require high flows on Dargo & Mitchell Rivers
Shuttle: ~10km down Blue Rag Range Road to river from helipad / trig point
Character: Wilderness creeking along narrow'ish alpine stream
Suits: Creek boats
Alpine streams and rivers have that appeal to many a wilderness paddler & the Wongungarra is certainly one of those. Less common and more elusive than other alpine streams, the upper Wongungarra lends itself to a lengthy wilderness paddle all the way to Talbotville & Grant.
This upper section naturally has the most gradient drop, so we waited for spring and some local rain / snow melt. The walk in is doozie to say the least. Mid afternoon, we started walking north west down an old track from the Blue Rag range helipad / trig. It started easy but, as per many of these little missions, it soon turned into a very steep & thickly vegetated walk in....dropping ~900m in 3 km's. We were forced to camp on a steep slope that night. The next days last km or so required 3 further 'steady' hours lowering off / abseiling our kayaks down the steep slope & finally we reached the river after a final small waterfall abseil.
We were greeted with an alpine stream that, while not flowing great guns, was flowing enough to pick lines. A beautiful alpine stream not too dis-similar to the nearby Dargo & Wonnangatta with stunning alpine environment, steep river banks and beautiful clear water. After years of thinking about this river, we were pinching ourselves to be immersed in it. The river provided constant grade 2 rapids as it weaved its way down the valley. We thankfully only saw the same amount of strainers as we saw deer - just a handful.
We didn't make fast progress due to the low water & routine bum scraps and so we camped on a beautiful horse shoe bend, just past a curious orange marker - akin to McMillans track but this should be further south in the valley?
Next day dawned a rippa and so we continued our grade 2 alpine pinball until we reached the old Wongungarra Track. The gradient started to flatten out by now and while the water from mount Selwyn Creek added more flow, the river got wider and so our fun little pinball meander continued. Within a few hours we had reached Blue Rag Range Track & due to time restraints, we were forced to exit here.
Our estimations of gradient from this take out to the crooked river was from 10m/km down to 5m/km. While this minimal gradient drop suggests not great potential for high grade rapids, we suspect that it would still be an excellent wilderness paddle with the potential of the occasional higher grade rapid (which the Dargo does). While its on our agenda - please let us know what it's like if you jump on it.
Now - for a worthy foot note. While Blue Rag Range Track is famous for its stunning views along its razor edge spur, its also infamous for hefty four wheel driving. Back in the day it was as rough as guts but now it is certainly is in far better condition / has been worked on. Getting to the helipad / trig point is relatively simple but the track down to the river is not maintained as well and has quite steep and rutted sections that, well, when covered with snow had us digging for a day to get the old Betsy landcruiser out. Fun n'games.
Lastly, while this upper section of grade 2 river had no definitive large drops or high grade rapids, in higher water we imagine it would be a continuous grade 3 'roller coaster' run, once again very akin to the neighbouring Dargo river. That could be very tempting if you time it right - albeit with that scary strainer danger element. Having said that, the river wasn't super narrow & should offer some safety margin.....
Just keep a watch out for the rare & endangered spotted tree frog that inhabits this valley.....
Enjoy & catch you on the h20.....
Putting In: Blue Rag range track runs west off Dargo High Plains Road - not far from Hotham end. Turn down Blue Rag, continue along Blue Rag (turning right) past basalt knob junction, through the gate (seems to be always open now? eg. open well before November opening w/e). Once at trig point (G.R 046 942) walk down north west spur, choosing a line of least resistance as you reach the steep gradient until you hit the river.....enjoy!
Taking Out: Bottom of Blue Rag Range Track (G.R 019 877)
Map: Dargo Plains - Cobungra, Crooked River - Steve
Camping: Ocassional scrubby campsite along river
Entry Date: 14 October 2015
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