Feature location: North Esk
The North Esk, 10 minutes out of Launceston has long been a favourite Grade 3, 4 river with a pub only 5 minutes down the road. For me – 20 minutes as I live on the other side of town. What a shame.
I have been paddling the standard sections, White Hills to Corra Lynn and Big Bend since the 1980s which pretty well dates me. I have paddled in fibreglass, Kevlar, Dancers, Outbursts, Honcho and now a Mamba. Gone are the days of trip, repair, trip!
Over the years therefore, the river has become something of an automatic exercise and indeed in our local club, “Do not follow Dicker” is a standard comment to any new paddler. I have had my fair share of stuffups, rolls, bailouts and pins but so far have survived with the worst injury, two black eyes. (I got pinned on the bottom under a near invisible downed tree in mid river.) I have watched generations of paddlers line up and dare to do “First Drop”, a 3.5m vertical waterfall with an interesting lead up. Easily portaged though.
I have paddled it high (very high) with a much better paddler than myself and extremely low
Recently though we have had the wettest winter in history and N Esk became for a while unpaddlable, about 1 week. Both it and Launceston’s other river, South Esk, Cataract Gorge churned and Launceston was in risk of being flooded. Flood levees were closed and a number of houses went under water.
What of N Esk? I finally got back to it and was staggered at the changes to the rapids. The familiar lines were destroyed, huge boulders had entered the river or moved. Play features simply no longer existed. First Drop was a huge surprise, the “Guarding Rock had moved 6m downstream, two 200 hundred tonne boulders had entered the stream on the North and it was a whole new paddle game.
Deacon’s Beacon, an innocuous Grade 3 drop suddenly had “noc”, the worst scrubby rapid, Gelcoat hadn’t changed in the slightest! Damn. And Shylock’s (“always gets its pound of flesh”) was sooo different, the chicken chute was now hideous and one had to make the cube run. Last corner was also modified.
Perhaps the greatest shock was the Corra Lynn Reserve where
swimming was normal, an island existed in the middle and lots of trees and a toilet were available. Well the island, toilet, parts of the carpark were gone irrevocably. The house requires complete refurbishing and every thing was simply different.
I am reliably informed that the top section also has altered and a crucial side chute is no longer available. Portage is now common.
Nature beats paddlers, be aware if paddling a trip after severe weather, that rivers change and this can beat you. Check the river until you are confident you know it again.