Cooks River - Canterbury Rd and Beyond

Saturday, May 14, 2016
River or Location: 
Sea or Open Water Grade: 

Cooks River from the club house, past Canterbury Rd and Brighton Ave and beyond.

Paddlers: Kimberly, Sarah, Ellen, John, Deb, Robert, Cathryn, Elizabeth, Amelia, Gary, Nicole and Graham.

Photos by a friendly passer by: Jacqueline Yetzotis


Considering the club house is conveniently situated by a river, my experience paddling with River Canoe Club has been restricted to the odd Come and Try Day or Beginners Program and only as far as Marrickville Gold Course. This time I wanted to see how far we could get, what lies beyond the golf course.

We had a good turn out with a great mix of paddlers including some of the clubs experienced paddlers, John, Deb D, Gary and Graham. Nicole from the last beginners program as well as three new paddlers Kimberly, Sarah and Ellen. With Cathryn and I in a canoe with a couple of free loaders Elizabeth and Amelia. Deb C caught up with us on the return leg after a morning paddle on the harbour backed up with a blast up the cooks.

What a day for a paddle, Sydney autumn weather was at its best clear blue skies and light winds made for a pleasant day on the water. The tide was high just after 3pm so we set of just after 12pm to be as far up stream as we could on the high tide.

The Cooks River has a reputation as being heavily polluted, there was little sign of this as we paddled along the mangrove lined river past sporting fields and golf courses all busy with people on a Saturday afternoon. Considering the river is completely surrounded by suburbs and industry the river showed little to support its reputation. Just short of Canterbury Rd is the old Boat Harbour near the old sugar refinery in Hurlstone Park, that Gary explained used to be serviced by coastal shipping coming up the Cooks River . The Boat Harbour has a ramp at the down stream end which provides a convenient place to stretch your legs. At the upstream end of the Boat Harbour is a floating device installed in the river by Canterbury Council. It is a litter boom ( installed and managed by the combined effort of River Canoe Club's own Nell at Canterbury Council and Sydney Water. The effectiveness of this device was immediately apparent as we paddled upstream. The river so far had been almost litter free, beyond the litter boom under Canterbury Rd and past the Canterbury Race course was like paddling through an ice flow of plastic bottles. The volume of floating debris was confronting, shocking. To witness the impact of single use plastic packaging has had on a river system such as the Cooks River, one must question these conveniences we take for granted. The up side is once cash for containers kicks off the Cooks River will be a gold mine.

All is not lost, looking past the rubbish, the river has some interesting structures including the rail bridge at Canterbury made of masses of brick, the archways make for some strong acoustics. As well as lots of people enjoying the green corridor along the banks of the Cooks, there was also plenty of bird life on the river. A  white Egret watched our progress and we disturbed a large flock of cormorants when we approached the boat harbour. The surface of the water was regularly disturbed by fish startled by the presence of our boats. There is life in the river.

We finished up the paddle with a beers and nibbles at the club house, thanks to Dee for organising. We then rolled onto  dinner at the Concordia Club.