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Upper Mersey Information

Wildwater racing on the Mersey

Wildwater Racing – Carol Hurst


The Upper Mersey river is part of the Mersey White Water Regional Reserve, managed by Parks and Wildlife service.  It is the section from Rowallan Dam to Parangana Dam.  The river is used for recreational canoeing and rafting, canoeing and rafting courses, swift water rescue courses, canoe slalom and wildwater racing.

Wildwater Race Course

Distance: 4.5 km
Average Gradient: 5m/km,
Peak Gradient: 10m/km
Difficulty: Grade 2-3.
Paddling Time: 1 hour OR as short as 13 mins at race pace.
Entry Point: Mersey Forest Road Bridge (C171), from the car park on the left side of the road. Grid ref. DP 434950E 5380400N.
Exit Point: There is a track leading down to the river 100m. upstream of the Arm River Bridge, on the Mersey Forest Road. Grid ref. DP 434750E 5383900N.
Water Level:  Water is provided via the Rowallan Power Station, operated by Hydro Tasmania. Over 1100 cusecs (2700 ML/day) is high, 800 cusecs is typical (2000 ML/Day), 600 cusecs (1500 ML/Day) is low.  See Hydro Tasmania web page: http://www.hydro.com.au/water/water-flow-and-levels and click on the Mersey River – Upper link.  Hydro Tasmania does its best to provide water releases for official Canoe Tasmania or Club events by prior arrangement where operating requirements allow.  All requests should go via Canoe Tasmania’s Hydro Liaison officer.
Tasmap: 1:100,000 Mersey (Land Tenure Index Series).

Upper Mersey River

Mersey Wildwater rapid sprint course and slalom course

Shuttle: 10 mins along a good quality gravel road.
General Description: The river is flat but fast flowing to begin with, then building up to grade 2 until a sharp right hand corner. This first drop consists of two stoppers, both a reasonable size but presenting no real problem. The river then consists of waves and small boulders for about 1 km until ‘Wentworth Street’, the former site of a slalom course. Take the right channel, either side of the rock at the top. Caution must be taken a little further down not to get washed sideways into the wall on the right. Another 500m to the ‘Berlin Wall’ which, despite its name presents no real difficulty. Start at the centre of the right hand channel and head left. The next rapid of note is the slalom course about 1 km down, the initial drop being a rodeo hole known as the ‘Washing Machine’. The rapid ends with two large boulders (Gemini Rocks), take the left channel or paddle between the boulders. The rocky lower slalom course follows immediately. A rapid on a sharp right turn, at the end of a long straight, brings the finish into view. Another 200m leads to a finish line (normal ‘Classic’ event) level at the downstream end of a large eddy on river left.

Slalom Course

Car Park:  Approximately 800 metres south of the Arm River Road turn off on the Mersey Forest Road.  Grid Ref. DP 434757E 5382083N.  The Car park has a small public shelter, picnic tables and a quality bush toilet.
Entry Point: To paddle the upper course (includes the washing machine), walk up the river on the track starting from the car park picnic shelter.  The track will lead to steps down to a platform by the river.  To paddle just the lower course, follow the track from the picnic shelter down river and the steps will take you to the river where you can enter at the base of the steps – above the Gemini rocks – or continue down the track to the lower course.

Upper Mersey Slalom Course

Lower Slalom course

Exit Point:  The lower slalom finish is at the last slalom wire where there is an exit platform.  There are stairs opposite the platform to the road, or follow the track up the course to the stairs and onto the shelter.
General Description: Overall, there is 500m section of grade 2-3 whitewater with gates.  The top course is technical and rocky with the major features being the washing machine – a wide stopper on the river left near the top – and the Gemini rocks toward the bottom.  The Gemini rocks section is typically used in both the upper and lower courses, is fast with waves and culminates with two large boulders making three channels.  It is generally best negotiated in the middle channel close to either rock. The lower course has continuous moving water with small waves, many boulders and numerous eddies.
Slalom Gates:  Most gates have return lines on the river left bank accessible from the track – care is required to not tangle or drop these into the river.    Return lines also should be tensioned to ensure they are sufficiently clear of the water to not pose a hazard to paddlers and rafters. Gates need to remain well off the main channel when wildwater racing training or competition is in progress.  Gates should be pulled as far off to the edge of the river before leaving the venue and return lines high off the water.  Please report fallen wires or ropes to Canoe Tasmania.