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One thing that makes the Herbert unique is the lack of a warm-up. Once you get on the river it is straight into the big stuff. Entering the river immediately below the un-runnable Herbert Falls is daunting.
Herbert Falls was the location for the US television show Survivor II. During filming in 2000, 250 people set up a makeshift village above the falls. After ferrying rafts, kayaks and food down to the river, we camped at the top of the falls, not far from where the Survivor mob had their tribal councils and voted each other off the program.
I had never thought much about where crocs slept until late that afternoon when we pulled into a scabby-looking beach for our last night. Did they sleep in the water? Or on the bank? Was I going to get up in the night and trip over one on the way to the loo? I could see the headline in the Cairns Post: “Fool in river sandals mauled after tripping on croc!”
When we made our way down to the river we discovered rats had been having a tribal council in one of our food bags. Then, to my horror, the rodents had gnawed through a 15-litre wine cask.
Rafts must be portaged and lined down a cliff into a narrow pool at the bottom of the first part. Then they are hauled back out onto a huge slab of rock and lowered a second time back into the river below the main falls and directly above another considerable drop.
The good thing about starting with the largest drop is that it makes the subsequent drops look more reasonable.
The first few days on the Herbert there are plenty to go around. We spent the rest of the day paddling some fantastic whitewater.
The scale of the Herbert sets it apart from other rivers in Australia. It flows down a wide valley strewn with boulders and rock shelves that form big, long rapids and large waterfalls.
Wicked Runs has everything a good rapid should. It is a long Class IV-V, which the International Scale of River Difficulty defines as long rapids…This is a very long way of saying it’s high on the shit-scared scale.
The Herbert tumbles off the Atherton Tableland in far north Queensland and meets the ocean 130km north of Townsville.
Home Australian Geographic Adventure Adventure Gallery: Paddling Queensland’s Herbert River
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