Ord River - Roughing it with a Swag

The Ord River is one of the most famous tourist attractions of Western Australia. It is found in the region of Kimberley and is over 300 kilometres long. The stretch of the whole river is filled with various sights (including salt water crocs and flying foxes) that will surely give every canoe enthusiast and those looking for a great swag camping experience a blast.

Canoeing the Ord River

Canoeing the Ord River is bound to be an amazing experience. The river water is generally calm, so even those without much experience in canoeing can easily paddle their way over the river.

Along the way you'll come across and variety of reptilian wildlife like goannas and crocodiles, but mostly you'll see different bird species perched on the trees, river banks, or flying overhead. Some of these magnificent creatures include jacanas, egrets, ospreys, and sea eagles to name a few.

Summer Love. Image from Joel Bedford on Flickr. Some Rights Reserved.

The Ord River is bounded by red rocky cliffs on the sides, some towering at over 50 feet in height, which wonderfully reflect on the clear emerald waters of the river.

The river banks are almost always peppered by trees and mangroves as well as some lily patches and reeds which are home to the wildlife that reside in the area.

There are also small islands that rise out of the river with sandy beaches where you can land, pop-up beach shelter tents, this will give you quick shelter and stretch your arms and legs or enjoy your lunch and snacks. Take note though that you shouldn't land on every island you see, especially the really small and sandy ones.

In the shallower parts of the river, you can catch a glimpse of Ord River Catfish swimming.

In addition, aside from the big river, there are several creeks like the Pelican Creek, where there is a small waterfall which is ideal for a swim. You can also drop by Herbies Creek and admire the silky cascades of Herbie's Hideaway.

Here is a video of the Ord River that gives you a visual tour of the Ord River, as well as the things that you can expect to see.

From Tine Hemeryck on YouTube.

Camping in the Ord River

There are several campsites along the banks of the Ord River where you can setup your beach shelter tents that will serve as your shelter.

If you are planning on a canoe trip that will last for several days, then there are both marked and unmarked campsites where you can unroll your comfy tents or bedrolls and sleep under a blanket of stars.

One of such campsite is the Stonewall. This is one of those dedicated campsites and is the most commonly used by those who canoe the Ord River, so don't be surprised if you find other adventurers there.

All in all, the amenities are truly rustic and thus very much appropriate for the rugged and remote camper.

There is a small covered kitchen where you can prepare your food and pits where you can make your campfire. You'll find wooden sleeping pads for your camping tents where you can spend the night under the shade of trees.

Who Can Take You There

Most people who plan a canoe trip on the Ord River go on a self-guided canoe trip, while some join group tours. If you're still having difficulty making your plans and itinerary, here are some companies that can help you out:

  • Gecko Canoeing and Trekking - They offer a 5 day tour of the Ord River. You can view the itinerary by clicking on the company name.
  • Go Wild Adventure Tours - While they offer group tours and canoeing expeditions, they also provide self-guided tours for those who want to try taking on the Ord River on their own. They are one of the best touring companies in the area with several exposures and awards.
  • Kununurra Backpackers - Has various tours starting from the Kununurra and Kimberley like the 3 day self guided canoe safari. Visit their website to learn more about the trip as well.
Group of people enjoying a canoe tour. Image from Hillebrand Steve, U.S Fish and Wildlife Service (commons.wikimedia.org). Transferred by . Public Domain.

What to Bring

As you'll be travelling by canoe, it is recommended that you try to minimise your baggage to the bare minimum as you'll be fitting them in a small waterproof barrel in the canoe. Some of the basic necessities and equipments to bring would be:

  • Compact Yet Comfortable Swag - You can't bring large tents as they won't fit in the canoe.
  • Food - Bring enough to last you for several days, depending on how long to plan the trip to be. Food in small containers is better since they will save you some space. As for drinking water, you can bring your own bottles or drink the river water, it's pretty clean and pure they say.
  • Life Vests - An absolute necessity.
  • Hats - Bring wide-brimmed ones like Australian outback hats in order to give you better protection from the sun as opposed to baseball caps.
  • Extra Clothes - Depending on how many days you plan to be on the trip. You can wash your clothes on the river and hang them out to dry while you swim - the hot sun will dry them quickly.
  • Shades or Tinted Glasses - The high sun can be pretty blinding.
  • Suntans Lotion - The hot Australian sun shining on the Ord River can give you sunburn, especially on your face and shoulder.
  • Insect Repelling Lotions - Even if you're sleeping under mosquito nets.
  • Matches - To light the campfire (unless you're capable of making fire without the use of one).
  • Cameras - To take memorable photos of the trip.

Satellite Phones with trackers for emergencies and pick-ups are provided by touring companies for those who are not going to be travelling with a guide. These are very important because they are your only means of communication with people outside of the river should any untoward incident like snake bites or extreme allergic reactions to plants.

Additional Sources

If you want to know more about canoeing and camping on the Ord River, here are some websites and blogs that are worth taking notice of.

You can gain a handful of insights from these bloggers who were more than happy to share with the world their happy experiences in their Ord River adventures.

  • The Amazing Kimberley Canoe Experience Part I and Part 2 is found in Fractions of the World and narrates the canoeing and overnight swag camping experience of Tine Hemeryck.
  • Canoeing the Ord is another great summary of what you can expect when you glide by the calm waters of the Ord River. It has great photos of the different sights of the river as well as some hidden treasures therein.
  • Bickleys Go Bush n' Beach share some great photos of their canoeing and swag camping experience in the Ord River.