Backyard Australia – The Russell

BACKYARD RUN // The Russell River, North Queensland

The Russell river is an absolute classic river in Far North Queensland surrounded by World Heritage Rainforest and located just 83km South of Cairns. A great river for those who are looking for something a little more adventurous than the Barron River. The Russell provides paddlers with good class 3-4 white water and spectacular rainforest scenery that is always associated with the rivers around Cairns.

The bottom section of the Russell is the usual choice for paddlers, as the Upper section has several portages including a 60ft waterfall.

Access is via the Golden Hole Picnic Area which is also the take out. An upriver hike to the put in is via a narrow rainforest track. Having someone familiar with the route is necessary as the track becomes difficult to follow as it passes over several creeks. It it advisable to take something to tow your boat with, as your shoulder is bound to get sore. The track is slippery and wet, but of greater concern are the plants. Far North Queensland is an area where the hike in can be more dangerous than the river itself. Plants such as the ‘Gimpie Gimpie ‘ where brushing against the glass like hairs can cause pain that last for months.

The first few warm up rapids are called ‘Kiss your ass corner’, ‘Basalt Gap’, and ‘Pinball Run’ and are all smaller class 3 rapids at normal levels. After ‘Blind Treat’ a rapid that you run to the right of a large rock you come across the first of three significant sections.

‘Three Ways’ is a cool rapid which has three distinct lines however run centre for a sweet boof.

‘Waterfall’ is exactly that, a clean 4 metre waterfall. The final rapid of any significance is ‘Rollercoaster’, get out on river right to inspect. Take the time to scout this rapid as it has seen an unfortunate foot entrapment on river right. Afew different lines are available the most fun being the right line close to the wall. The trip ends with three rapids in a row also known as the ‘Three Stooges’.

Depending on your paddling ability you can knock off the entire run in about three hours including the hike in. However allow for longer if you’re new to the river.

Tip: Remember to take water, your camera and let people know where you will be, many people have got lost in this area.

Foaming Fury runs river trips on the Russell, you can raft the river one day and then use that knowledge to kayak it the next. I found that most rafting guides are more than happy to talk about the lines, even following the raft trips down can be a great way to have that local knowledge right there when you need it.

* In the last month Aboriginal Elders have cut a new track down the mountain which allows for access further up the river than ever before.

While paddling on the Russell you will usually find yourself alone in Queensland’s spectacular tropical rainforest, paddling on a river that is just as magnificent.

In brief:
Class: IV
Level: Look for the big concrete block in the river at Glory Hole. If the water is touching the bottom or higher then it’s good to go. The higher the water level on the block, the more epic the run.
Length: 2-3 km
Time: 3+ hours

Backyard Run by Jez Blanchard (Team Jackson Kayak) with input from Rob Jamieson.

This article was originally published in CUMEC Magazine Issue #3, October 2007