OVERVIEW: The North Pine River is a true “eco paddling” experience, passing through picturesque native bushland and mangroves which support an array of bird and marine life. Being dammed in the 70’s to meet the demands of a growing population and local industry, the North Pine Dam created Lake Samsonvale. This did support and encourage new growth to the area, but also displaced traditional land owners and the local community. The damn & river still offer many opportunities to suit everyone’s paddling style.
The North Pine’s upper reaches (north east of the dam) are very shallow in some places, offering great scenery but are not suitable for paddling. You can paddle on Lake Samsonvale, launching from Forgan Cove, but access is limited to how far you can paddle. Making it more suitable for beginner’s or a casual morning paddle. The western run of the North Pine river is a fantastic place to explore. Running through 5 nature reserves it offers a different perspective into the river’s biodiversity. With optional start and finish locations along this stretch, you have the flexibility to paddle short or long distances, as well as point to point or return paddles.
Youngs Crossing Park is the first of many spots you can launch from with toilet facilities and limited parking available. Launching from the open shore line near the car park, a short and sweet 1km return paddle awaits. With thick bushland and the occasional rope swing along its banks. Alternatively you can launch from the other side of the road which can be tricky, but from here you can follow the river all the way to Bramble bay (Roughly 17km). However, starting from here is often tide dependant which can make it difficult to navigate or paddle a return trip. But with other locations for breaks and facilities about every 5km’s, it can make for a great day’s paddling point to point.
With the freedom of alternate finish or start locations, you can make the most of your day depending on what side of the river you live on and how far you would like to travel. These optional locations are Leis Park (Lawton), which has toilets, plenty of parking and the option to launch via shore or boat ramp. Acacia Park (Murrumba Downs), with toilets, limited Parking and shore launch only. Deep water bend or Tinchi Tamba Reserve (Bald Hills) has plenty of parking and toilets with a pontoon or boat ramp to launch from. Dohles Rocks (Griffin) has toilets and limited parking with the option to launch from shore (on high tide), pontoon or boat ramp. And finally at the river mouth Brighton Park (Brighton), which does not offer toilet facilities, has limited parking and only shore launch availability.
CONSIDERATIONS: Making sure you have a basic plan is always important to ensure you have an enjoyable and safe time on the water, especially if paddling alone. This way if you are injured or the weather suddenly changes you are aware of your options and can take the appropriate action. Inform family or friends of your paddle plans before you leave. I also recommend taking a phone or UHF radio with you for emergency situations or if plans change, which they sometimes do. A basic plan should include your start and finish location, proposed paddling distance, estimated start and finish time, tide and weather predictions and break locations/emergency exits. This way you can be recovered from an identifiable location if injured or a search can begin in the correct area if you go missing.
Although you may be further inland away from the mouth of the river, tidal factors still impact the upper reaches of the North Pine. The tide can be of great assistance, helping you to cover a long distance if paddling point to point, but can also create hazards towards the bottom of the tide. As the water level drops submerged hazards like fallen trees and sandbanks are quite common on the North Pine river. So always be vigilant of what’s in the water as well as what’s around you. Paddling against the tide is only advisable on a return trip, aiming to use the tidal assistance for an assisted trip back to your start location. This can also be an advantage if you have injured yourself and have limited paddling capacity, allowing you to return with minimal effort. If misjudged, the tide can make a return paddle into a hard slog to the finish, which is the same for the wind.
Wind can be predictable due to synoptic charts and advanced weather technology, but can still quickly change, which is no fun for any paddler especially Stand-up Paddlers. Your body acts like a sail, making it hard to paddle against the wind and to return to your start location. If the wind becomes too strong and unmanageable, I always recommend paddlers drop to their knees, catching less wind which enables you to have better control and power from your stroke. If you are fatigued from excess paddling, the last thing you want to do is fall in and have to use more energy recovering. Having a basic paddle plan can come in handy here, allowing you to change plans due to deteriorating weather conditions.
Water flow is another important consideration on the North Pine river as it is not just affected by tidal flow. Heavy rain fall can also have an effect, bringing faster than expected flow from upstream and raising the dam level. Although dam releases are not common from the North Pine Dam, it is a consideration that must not be forgotten about. Always check SEQ’s website after large rain falls to be on the safe side (www.seqwater.com.au/dam-release-update). Mixed currents are dangerous in any situation regardless of your experience level. Water flow can affect your rescue location in an emergency situation or worse cause you to become stuck under water. Even the most experienced paddles can experience difficulty so it always pay know your abilities and limitations.
Heavy rain not only affects water flow but also water quality, which is something to be mindful of when exploring the many creeks or inlets along the river. Stagnant, smelly and foamy water can often indicate that the water is polluted. This is usually caused by storm water and run off from the land, carrying land-based pollutants into the water. Always try to avoid paddling in this type of water where possible. It’s never a good idea to fall in near these spots and another reason to make sure you wash your equipment after use.
Bird life is another important factor to keep in mind. Their numbers and behaviour can change along with the seasons. I always encourage people to enjoy birdlife but still respect their space. The reserves the North Pine river pass through offer sanctuary to an array of native bird life with an abundance of food and prime nesting locations. Migratory birds also use the area near the mouth of the river which is why it has been listed as a Conservation Protection zone. Providing crucial feeding and resting grounds for these seasonal visitors.
Marine life is quite abundant in the North Pine river, with a variety of fish available throughout the year. Supporting not only bird life, but other marine life like stingrays and bull sharks. Bull sharks use the river to pup and breed from late Summer to early Autumn. I have included this information purely to inform and not for shock value. Please keep in mind sharks do not actively seek out people or paddlers to attack or eat. They will only defend their young if they feel threatened. They are present but they always have been. All these videos you see of people catching sharks is because they are actively hunting (fishing) for sharks. If you throw a huge chunk of meat in the water it’s quite obvious you will attract them. Needless to say, as long as you are not paddling along with a huge chuck of fish behind your SUP, I’m sure you will be fine.
January to May is prawning season which will see an increase in not only bird and marine activity but also boating traffic on the river. Although this increase is mainly concentrated to the straight stretch between Oxley’s inlet and Dohles Rocks. It is always a consideration that must not be forgotten because of their sporadic movements up and down the river chasing them. Crowded boat ramps during this time also are something to think about, as parks may not be readily available and you may have to carry your board some distance to launch.
Last but not least, jet skis. Although you will obviously see an increase in numbers during the warmer months, they still use stretch between Dohles rocks and Oxley’s inlet. Normally choosing to launch from Dohles rocks or bald hills boat ramp on the South Pine River. Although the water is for everyone and I have no issue with them, in my experience they always seem to see passive craft as a target, Paddle Boarders especially. Personally, I have never had a positive experience with these type of craft because of the riders disregard for marine safety. Unfortunately it only takes one person to ruin it for everyone but so not all riders can be tared with the same brush.
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: The North Pine River has been always been used by paddlers and there is an abundance of knowledge out there. But in my opinion, it’s always best to ask a local about any concerns or questions you may have. And if you plan your paddle around good weather and tides you are sure to have no shortage of locals around to ask either on the water or at your start location. I was lucky enough to meet another local paddle boarder named mick who was an ex-surfer. He had taken up the sport after moving from the coast to city, not being able to make the hours’ drive everyday he decided to find something he could do locally. Not only did he provide me with some great company but also a great knowledge of the river. It was great to exchange notes and see what circuits and other sections of the river other people use.
Andrew from Ability paddle is also a very experienced paddler who is familiar with the Pine Rivers area. Providing a truly unique experience and personalised Kayak coaching service, alongside community support for people recovering from injury, mental health, weight loss or living with a disability. His skills and abilities are very broad, not only enjoying Paddle Boarding but also out-rigging, kayaking and dragon boating. “if it’s on the water and uses a paddle, I love it.” As Andrew has a knowledge of all types of paddle craft, he can choose the right kind of craft to suit the weather conditions and location you want to paddle, this way your options are rarely limited.
SUP MAN’S CHOICE: I enjoy paddling every stretch of the north pine river as there are so many options to launch from. On this occasion I chose to paddle downstream towards the mouth, which is the same stretch of the river that I will be offering guided tours (Explore North Pine’s Last Leg). For me it is the quietest stretch and allows you to just tune out and go with the flow taking in the natural surrounds. Even better there is always something to see, whether it is fish jumping, schools of prawns or even birds on the hunt for food. You also have the option to paddle up stream towards Youngs crossing, offering a similar experience but with more houses along the banks as well as bushland.
I launched from Leis Park, Lawton (Lawton boat ramp), which is on the southern side of the river. It can be reached by turning off onto Leis Pde, just before the A J Wyllie Bridge heading north on Gympie Rd. Once you have turned off the boat ramp is accessed by taking the first right turn and following this road to the river. It is clearly marked with giant yellow letters. You will pass a block of toilets on the left as you head to the river so it is always a good idea to stop here to save yourself a walk back from the car park if you feel the need. At the end of the road there is ample parking right next to the ramp, but it can become quite full with other water users from time to time.
I was in luck this morning as the car park was empty, apart from one other paddle boarder Mick, which I mentioned earlier. As I planned to paddle by myself it was a great bonus, I always enjoy sharing a morning paddle with others and meeting fellow Paddle Boarders. Meeting him was no surprise really as I had planned to paddle at the bottom of the outgoing tide. Making it ideal conditions for paddling either return or point to point. Being a 6km paddle to Acacia Park, Murrumba Downs (point to point) or a rough 10km paddle (return) if you choose to follow the left fork of the river where it splits and widens (around the 4km). This leads to an inlet which connects back to the main river via a small yet fun passage on the right. This return paddle is great if you have the time, you time as you can cover the large distance with ease using the bottom of the tide to assist you in both directions.
It was a great morning on the water sharing stories about our different experiences and watching the fish do acrobatics along the way. Even managing to see a few of the local Egrets and a Brahminy Kite on the final stretch as I parted ways with mick. I had chosen the point-to-point option while he was doing the return paddle. When I retuned back to my car however, I noticed his car was still in the carpark so I decided to wait around to ensure he had returned safely. I knew I didn’t have to wait long as an hour or so had passed so I figured he should have returned by now. I stuck around as more of a common courtesy and from a safety aspect for another fellow paddler. You never know what can happen especially when paddling alone regardless of conditions. Soon enough I could see him making his way back to the boat ramp and I knew all was well.
All in all, it was a great morning on the water, watching the sun rise and seeing the usual wildlife in their natural surroundings. Best of all I got to meet another like-minded Paddle Boarder and Andrew from Ability Paddle, making the morning worthwhile from every aspect. I hope this blog will inspire you to discover the North Pine River yourself or even better come and experience it with other like-minded people on one of my tours along this untouched stretch of the river.