Chowilla Game Reserve

UPDATE

I recently visited Chowilla Game Reserve and am not entirely sure what is happening there - in regards to camping.  When logging on to National Parks South Australia's website, http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/, and looking up information regarding Chowilla Game Reserve, the site now mentions only the camping sites on the other side of the river near the old Customs House.  There is no mention of the 25 sites situated along the creeks accessed via the Old Wentworth Road.  Nowhere do they state camping is no longer allowed along these creeks.

When I arrived at the entrance to the Chowilla Reserve, I noticed that the self registration station has been all but dismantled.  The information boards relating to the locations of the campsites etc are gone.  There is another separate sign, authorised by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, informing visitors that this section of the Chowilla Flood Plains is now the location of a "major environmental regulator" which will "allow flows to be managed to enable flooding across the floodplain under relatively low river flow conditions".  It goes on to say "  (the regulator) - will enable inundation of 30–50% of the floodplain depending on flow conditions. It will be operational for only three to four months, on average one year in three".  The construction process is happening now.  

I don't know if this means camping will be disallowed altogether in this area (I can't find any information suggesting this), but, regardless, camping will be difficult with most of the sites underwater.

Information for campers needs to be clear and concise and put on the ParksSA website and on an information board at the entrance to the Reserve.  I know that this area is still popular with canoeists and fisherman alike and they need to know the details.  

I would suggest contacting National Parks here in South Australia if you plan to visit this area in the near future.  It doesn't appear that camping or visiting is disallowed, but it wouldn't hurt to check.  (Don't know where you pay for your campsite now either - no self registration station).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgHbRsUiDB0

The photo above shows the uninformative and useless self registration station and the info board from the Murray-Darling Basin Authority in the background.

Chowilla Game Reserve is about 280 kilometres from Adelaide.  Travel to Renmark and then it's about 32 kilometres north east off the Renmark to Wentworth Road.

There are about 30 campsites to choose from but rarely are they all open.  You will still have plenty of options though, as the sites are well spaced and there are always plenty still accessible.  The sites aren't actually on the Murray River themselves, but they are all situated along numerous creeks that flow into the Murray.  These creeks always hold water and are quite large as far as creeks go.  Fishing, yabbying and canoeing are all popular pastimes at Chowilla.

There is a self-registration station just as you enter the park and it will cost you $11 a night to camp.  All of the sites are the same price.  The road is sealed all the way to Renmark and a little beyond, but once you turn onto the Renmark to Wentworth Road, is soon turns to a gravel road.  It's not too bad, but it can be quite rough in places and the corrugations are terrible in isolated sections.  Take care in whatever vehicle you have, but especially in a 2wd vehicle.  Once you enter the park, the road is OK and passable in all vehicles right up to the turn off to the campsites.  The only variable here is the weather.  If there has been any amount of rain then seriously consider avoiding the reserve altogether.  The Renmark to Wentworth  Road can be nasty in spots if wet, along with the road leading into the Reserve, however the tracks leading to the campsites are the grey, clay like substance that is incredibly slippery when wet.  It's a typical Riverland Park, so you'll slip off the grey stuff right into the deep, boggy mud at the edge of the track.  It's a nightmare to get out of and sometimes the only option is to wait until it dries out; which could take a couple of days (if it stops raining).

The track has dried out, but you can tell what a nightmare it is when wet.

The campsites are well numbered and there are a few different tracks leading to a set of numbered sites.  All sites are set on the banks of a creek and they all offer privacy and at least some shade.  Depending on water levels, the banks can be fairly steep.  The water is not overly deep, but it can still be dangerous for kids.  There are heaps of snags in most areas and the water sometimes is flowing quite strongly; not at all sites, but some creeks seem to flow more than others.

The fishing is quite good with callop (yellowbelly), carp and even small Murray Cod being caught.  Yabbies can be prolific in ideal conditions.

If you have a canoe or kayak, the exploring options are almost endless.  Making your way along the creeks to the main river is great fun.

Most sites have plenty of room.  Sites 11 to 15 are suitable for caravans or camper trailers and are easily accessible.  In good, dry conditions, most sites can be accessed by any vehicle and a caravan or camper could be manoeuvred into place.  If it's wet forget it.  Other sites are smaller and suit 1 or 2 cars with a tent or swags. 


The above two photos show the sign posts indicating the numbered sites.  There is a numbered post in front of each camp site.  Take note of the track and, once again, think what it would be like when wet. 

It's an isolated spot, but Renmark is only 32 k's away.  There are no facilities so you must be self sufficient.  It's not a bad spot to visit all year round.  Be aware of the heat in the Summer, along with the ever present flies and mosquitoes.  As I mentioned though, there is usually plenty of shade.  It does get hot though, usually 3 or 4 degrees above that of Adelaide.  It is also an area that can be hit by sudden summer thunderstorms which can dump a lot of rain in a short period of time, so keep that in mind.  In the summer though, the tracks dry out quickly so you won't be stuck for too long.  Autumn and spring have much milder weather, although spring can be quite windy and cold at night.  Autumn probably has the most stable weather, but days can still be quite warm.  Winter nights can drop below zero, so be prepared. 

Campfires are allowed outside of Fire Danger Season, but please bring your own firewood.  Dogs are also allowed but must be kept on a lead at all times.

Typical creek at Chowilla Game Reserve.

It's a great spot to camp and is worth that little bit of extra driving to get to.  There are rarely crowds.  Take the time to visit all the sites and then pick one.  They are quite different depending on which section of creek they border.  Kangaroos are quite common, along with emus and many other bird species.  In the warmer months, particularly early and late in the day, goannas are quite often seen.  These reptiles were common right through the Riverland and can still be seen at some of the other Riverland parks, but they seem to be common at Chowilla.  This is probably due to the isolation of the Park and relatively low number of visitors.

Consider this park on your next trip.  It's not right on the Murray itself, but it offers excellent camping and fishing, along with peace and quiet.  At $11  a night you can't go wrong.