Where is it?
(Edit May 2019 – info re temporary change to conditions at Katarapko)
Katarapko is a great spot on the Murray to explore by canoe and kayak in the Riverland of South Australia, less than 250km from Adelaide, between Berri and Loxton. Katarapko can refer to the Murray River National Park – Katarapko Section, or simply to Katarapko Creek itself. Katarapko Section includes a number of different paddling options and entry and exit points, including the Murray River, Katarapko Creek, the Splash, Eckert Creek and the Bookpurnong Cliffs. These can be pieced together in different combinations to allow paddling from short 1-2 hour outings, half-day trips and overnight canoe camping with options to suit a variety of different abilities, fitness levels and time spans.
What will we see?
Depending on which section of Katarapko National Park you are visiting, scenery ranges through
- narrow creeks, to wetland lakes, to the full width of the river,
- shady banks lined with red gums, grey clay banks and towering cliffs of red and yellow limestone
- explorations range from travelling through a lock, to the solitude of camping kilometers from the nearest town.
The creek averages around 30 metres wide on the upper stretches, widening nearer the end. It is a pleasant winding route, usually with low flows. The scenery along Katarapko creek varies – the upstream end has a lot of steep grey banks with magnificent shady redgums along the top. Further down are areas with sandy banks. There are patches of emerging young redgum forests. Kangaroos, Pelicans, Parrots, Ibis, Cormorants, Spoonbills, Darters and Whistling Kites are a common sight. Here is one of our short videos of Katarapko.
A National Parks brochure is available at their website.
Round trip or one way?
It is always more fun if you don’t have to retrace your path to return home, so we would recommend arranging a car shuffle – dropping one car off at your intended destination and leaving one where you start your paddle, to be collected at the end of the day. Canoe Adventures can help with this, if you are hiring your craft from us.
Where can I paddle?
Eckert Creek, The Splash, and Katarapko Creek are enjoyable spots. Detailed information about these is available at the Canoe South Australia website We recommend that you ensure your information is up-to-date and takes into account current conditions, river levels etc.
Where to camp along the way
Most of the campsites are marked so that the campsite number is visible from the water. The campsites have fire rings, and some of the sites are near to a long drop toilet. If you’re not near a toilet please make sure you observe proper camping toilet etiquette – walk 100 metres from watercourses, camp sites or tracks and dig a hole at least 15 cm deep to bury toilet waste including toilet paper, and fill in the hole when you’re finished. None of us enjoy having our view decorated with white toilet paper streamers.
Park fees – Camping sites can be booked online or booked by phoning the DEWNR office in Wade St, Berri. The number is 08 8580 1800. Currently (November, 2017) $12 per site.
A word of warning – The section naming is confusing It’s a bit tricky to explain – but be aware that the Murray River National Park has 3 sections – The Katarapko Section, The Lyrup Flats Section and the Bulyong Island Section. And then the Katarapko Section itself is sub-divided into 2 (or sometimes 3) sections, called the Katarapko CREEK Section, and the Eckert’s Creek and Lock 4 Section.
Alsoh, the campsite numbering was reviewed in Jan of 2017, so it pays to ensure you have an updated map, or you may not end up at the campsite you think you have booked.
Is there anything I need to be careful about?
River levels affect the accessibility of to some of the creeks and campsites.
Tracks on the grey clay of the floodplains can become inaccessible after heavy rain.
Snakes – if you see one, chances are it is poisonous! It will be more scared of you than you are of it, so leave it alone and it will slide away. Know your snake bite first aid and come prepared with compression bandaging.
Although the area is quite isolated, phone coverage exists along most of the length of the creek – if you find yourself in a patchy area, exiting the canoe and climbing to the nearest hill is generally sufficient to regain phone network coverage.
Navigating Katarapko is not difficult; however it is important to take with a good map, and to know how to read it. “River Murray Canoe Guide – Katarapko 1:50000” is a good choice, which we have available for sale. We loan laminated maps to all our customers.
Fire restrictions should be observed – usually 1 November to 30 April. Check with the CFS hotline on 1300 362 361. As with any National Park, firewood cannot be gathered from within the park – you’ll need to bring your own. Please adhere to this – we’re told that it takes 150 years for a tree to form a hollow sufficient to be a home for a bird. Please don’t blow it for one evening’s campfire.
Make sure to bring your own drinking water.
- Lock 4 is difficult to portage around – it’s best to go through the lock. Operating hours are 8:00 am – 11:30 am and 1:00 pm – 4:30 pm, 7 days a week.
- The Stone Weir on Katarapko Creek cannot usually be paddled over. Portage is required and is best on the right hand side when going downstream.
- On Eckerts Creek / The Splash there are patches which can become too shallow to paddle through, depending on river levels – it’s best to get local advice before setting out.
Have you kayaked on Katarapko? What did you think of it? What’s your favourite campsite?