Backyard Australia – The Genoa

BACKYARD RUN // The Genoa River, Victoria

Victoria – Cann Valley Highway – Wangarabell (The Genoa Gorge)
The GenoaWhat did you say the guide book said?

“A three to five day trip in canoes, grade 2-3, numerous three metre drops, which might be runnable with enough water. Usually run at the tail end of floods”.

I heave a deep sigh. Déjà vu all over again. Too many epics based on “well I think I heard that so-and-so thought that somebody had”…

As usual, testosterone (what’s left of it), ego, and the thrill of potential adventure combine into an irresistible potion. Not to mention that I didn’t want to look like a sissy.

Two kilometres downstream from our put-in we see the first cliffs bordering the river; a clean horizon line, mist rising into the air, and that classic rock-echoed roar.

We get out on the left bank to view our destiny. A four metre drop (plus or minus) with two possible lines. Either go hard right where the water sweeps along the cliff in a lovely arc, or along the diagonal in the middle. The trouble with the right side was that all the water went into a backwater that was clearly sucking back underneath the base of the falls.

Waterfalls are like women. It’s what’s underneath the surface that’ll get you.

Julien had a beautiful run over the falls, whooping as he hit the bottom. Relaxing too early he was quickly sucked back into the falls, his entire boat disappearing, along with our hero.

The nose poked back out of the water for a while, the rest of the boat well under. Finally we spot Julien’s helmet, thankfully still attached to Julien as he swims to the right shore. We were all unable to assist as we were still above the falls with our boats. When the boat finally floated free, Julien dived back in and completed a self rescue in the long slow-moving stretch below. Half our group was now mid-portage. Paul and I discuss the possibilities.

“If I don’t go now, I ain’t gonna go. I’ll take the middle diagonal, since that was where both Julien and his boat seemed to float out at the bottom.” I say.

My run is clean, followed by Paul, who boofed off a ledge in the middle onto the diagonal wave. I nod to Paul, safely below the falls and floating in the eddy next to me. We decide to name the drop “Spank Me Falls” in honour of Julien. We were all thinking to ourselves that this was only the first of the ‘numerous three to four metre drops’.
The GenoaAll around us there was a sense of true Australian wilderness; no willows, no blackberries, and no roads on the map. We were in Border country; thick, impenetrable bushland.

Water cascading from every notch, down every gully, joining our flood every few hundred metres. One particularly spectacular cascade fell over a vertical hundred metre cliff. We named this one “Anniversary Falls”; more on that later.

At the bottom of one drop, the ever present foam from the floodwater was so thick and high that it buried us. All you could see was the tops of our helmets floating in foam.

At the top of another drop, Julien got out of his boat and onto a rock, peering over the lip. He turned back to us after what seemed a bit too long and gives the okay signal, Chris is first to disappear over the lip, raising his paddle high over his head and letting out a nice loud whoop which was echoed by Julien who was still standing on his rock perch.

Five seconds, then ten seconds go by and still nothing. Julien then lets out another great big whoop. We’re wondering what took so long, was Chris stuck in a hole? Was he plastered on a rock? Paul takes off, same results. Then Simon, Tanya and finally me.

Like life, it clarifies just at the brink. There is maybe a hundred millimeters of water cascading over a fifty meter wide slab of exquisitely glistening rock, angled steeply like a slide for maybe thirty metres down to a calm eddy below. I slide down the rock like an orange toboggan and gently hit the water at the bottom. None of us can stop grinning. I keep looking back, and up, at ‘Slide Rock’ as we paddle towards the next rapid, trying to engrave it in my memory.

In brief:
Class: 3-4 (4+)
Level: 1.2m – 1.7m
Length: Estimated 50km
Time: One long day or Two comfortable days.
More information on the Genoa is available in the Paddle Australia Online Guide book just search for “Genoa”.
Words by Jeffe Aronson
This article was originally published (in part) in CUMEC Magazine Issue #4, March 2008