THE sense of nature, in its most ancient form, is palpable in the rugged cliffs and deep caverns of the Upper Clarence as four rivers flow downwards through the valleys of the Devil’s Fault Line mountains to converge on a place locals call The Junction.
Having spent two weeks kayaking and bushwalking the wondrous turns of our mighty river, I was left inspired by the sheer majesty of what we have on our doorstep – just one hour’s drive west of Grafton.
The Nymboida and Mann rivers from the south, Coombadjha from the west and the Clarence River from the north combine their journey with their land cousins, the mammoth granite boulders and forests, to lie on the fringe of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia.
The Clarence Gorge, both the top and bottom sections, offers an extraordinary and diverse range of water and visual experiences.
Depending on the rainfall, the river flow can vary within hours while the scenery that envelopes this watery trail offers up a spectacular range of vistas.
The original custodians call their land Gumbainggin Country, while two long-time farming families, the Ibbotts and Winters, whose properties adjoin the Clarence at the Gorge, have working cattle stations with more than 5260 hectares between them.
Both have a huge responsibility of ensuring the legacy of Mother Nature is there for future generations to enjoy and value.
The Austen property (some 2023 hectares) overlooks The Junction from the west, as does the family’s namesake mountain, Mount Austen.
Like most things rural, time moves slowly for these families as their farms have been handed down through generations.
Kayaking in and around the Gorge is a gentle way in which to truly experience and feel the magic of this very special place.
Paddling with the flow of the river enables the kayaker to enjoy the majestic walls of granite, some of which tower up to 15 metres, and boulders that have seemingly been strategically placed as nature’s mixed media artworks
The river depth varies anywhere from one metre to nine metres on a normal flow.
There are a number of areas to camp, bushwalk, and if roughing it isn’t your preferred style, there are some more contemporary places to stay.
A new art gallery (Coombadjha Art) opened its doors to the public last year and there is horse riding to entertain and give a taste of the outback.
The natural health of the river is preserved as the Clarence floods give rise to the opportunity for the river system to flush and clean itself to maintain its quality for the life it supports both above and below its confines.