punkah island loop trail

This trail is a 2-day loop paddle around Punkah Island in the Chowilla Game Reserve starting and finishing at the Border Cliffs campground’s canoe launch site.



Paringa (265km from Adelaide)

Approx 29km return

Approx 29km return

Paddle Time Allow at least 2 days



Easy – Moderate

Paddling five checks BOM
Paddle SA is the governing body of paddle sport and recreation in South Australia. It leads and supports paddling in South Australia and encourages the safe exploration of our waterways. Paddling Trail South Australia has a range of Paddling Trails to suit different abilities. Know your ability.
Canoe the RiverlandCanoe the Riverland hire and deliver kayaks in this area. 835 Murtho Rd, Murtho, SA 5340 Link to waterproof Chowilla map available for purchase online

Paddling Trails South Australia Avenza mapsIf you have a smartphone or tablet you can download the free Avenza PDF Map app and have interactive paddling trail maps on hand when you need them. The app uses your device’s built-in GPS to plot your real-time location within the park onto a map. The app can be used without a network connection and without roaming charges. You can also measure area and distance, plot photos, and drop Placemark pins.

Trail Information

Canoe Launch in Chowilla Game Reserve Border Cliffs campground GPS: 33.9727 S; 140.9575 E

Paddle downstream to Suders Creek and enter the “Shute” (approximately 150m long). This is a fast-flowing, narrow creek (entered by leaving the main river on the right-hand side). The Shute connects the Murray River and Hypurna Creek.

(NOTE: If the “Shute” is considered too hazardous for the skills of the group the alternative is to paddle upstream for approximately 1.5 kms to a portage point (watch for a small “portage” sign nailed to a tree) just before the 638 Km marker (Point W:  GPS: 33.9828 S; 140.9686 E).

Portage into Hypurna Creek (approximately 75m) and then paddle back down to the junction of the “Shute”. This alternative route has an approximate distance of 2.2 kms in addition to the 75m portage.)

When you reach Hypurna Creek from the “shute” turn left and continue to the junction with Salt Creek (approximately 200m) at Point H (GPS:33.9711 S 140.9683 E). The stumps of an old footbridge can be seen in the water near this junction when the water is low.

Veer right into Salt Creek and continue to paddle along this waterway. You will notice that there are two branches of Punkah Creek that appear on the LHS approximately 4 kms and then again 750m later at Point J (GPS 33.9636 S 141.0016 E).

Turn into either of these and head north about 3km to Point K (GPS 33.9427 S 140.9961 E). You will pass the old “scab inspectors” hut and nearby graves on the RHS but will not see them from the water (about 500m walk).

Camping is available nearby in the Littra campground.

The “Todd Obelisk” on the South Australian/ NSW border and the old coach road are located a 1.5km walk just north of Lake Littra.

From this point it is a 15km paddle to the next intersection which is with Slaney Creek at Point F GPS 33.9410 S 140.9326 E.

Turn left into Slaney Creek and travel 3.1km to the next junction at Point G GPS 33.9555 S 140.9531 E. Take the left-hand stream into Salt creek.

If you decide to go up the right-hand stream, fallen trees are blocking the stream and there is a difficult portage at the weir, so it is best avoided.

Go along Salt Creek for about 2.9km and you will reach the junction with Hypurna Creek at Point H (GPS 33.9717 S; 140.9680 E). Turn right into this creek and paddle approximately 1.3km.  The portage point is marked by a rusted tin marker on your RHS at Point W (GPS 33.9828; S 140.9686 E).

This portage of 75m takes you back to the Murray River. Turn right and you will pass the Border Cliffs Boat ramp to reach the canoe launch.

Shady trees and toilet in the Border Cliffs reserve.
Kiosk at Customs House.
Grassy area, picnic table, BBQ at Customs House (ask permission for access)

Trail 24

Points of Interest

Murray River National Park
Murray River National Park is divided into six separate areas: Katarapko, Lyrup Flats, Kingston-on-Murray, Paringa Paddock, Gurra Gurra, and Bulyong Island.

Katarapko Creek and Eckerts Creek are significant waterways that flow through the park and provide great canoe adventuring and are very important habitats for native fish. The Ngak Indau Wetland trail is ideal for viewing wetland birdlife, with a bird hide for the avid birdwatchers. Rilli Island, Media Island, and Kapunda Island Conservation Parks are also part of Katarapko.

Katarapko has three entrances: Lock 4 entrance (Draper Road, via Berri), Eckert’s Creek entrance (via Lower Winkie Road), and Katarapko Creek entrance (via Katarapko Crescent). Visitors may access any area of the Park from these entrances. 

There are also a total of 55 campsites within this section of the Park. Contact National Parks to book a camping site prior to departure.


Read this safety information page
before your paddling trip.


How to use maps and contact
Paddling Trails South Australia.

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Paddling Trail South Australia has a range of Paddling Trails to suit different abilities.

Know your ability

These are easy to access kayak and canoe trails through the Adelaide, Fleurieu Peninsula, Riverland, Murray River, and the Coorong.