30th August 2020: Avon River

Date:    30/08/2020
Avon River, Christchurch, NZ
River Conditions:   
1.656 cumecs at Gloucester Street bridge. River very low, water mostly clear. Grade 1.
Weather Conditions:   
Sunny and warm, nor-west winds.
Number on Trip:    
2 person.
Time on River:  
1 hour (3.3km).
Comments:  Sunday was such a lovely day, especially for one of the last days of winter, a warm nor-westerly was blowing, everywhere was starting to become green again, daffodils were flowering and blossoms had started to appear. After a delicious lunch of soondubu jjigae cooked by Lauri, we decided a paddle on the Avon would be a great way to spend a glorious winter afternoon. We dug out our kayaking gear and I set about getting the boats out. It was a little easier to do this time as I didn’t have to ease them out through the front door, with no scooter parked in front of the garage door (it got stolen during the level 4 lockdown and its’ replacement lives around the side of the house now), I could take them straight out. After we got Lauri’s fly on her little trolley, we trundled off to the river. The chickens, in their new enclosure in the community garden area, followed us excitedly as we went past, hoping for some food I guess.

Apparently seal launching into a shallow river from a steep bank isn’t necessarily advisable.

Once we reached the river, it looked low, in fact I can’t remember seeing it quite so low before. The tide was out and the water level was 3 or 4 inches below the deck on the jetty across the river. Our usual launch spot had quite a drop down to the river, with not much water above the mud. Our other spot had quite a drop too, but the rock filled gabion baskets form a bit of a jetty so we put the Fly in and I held it while Lauri eased herself in and fitted her deck. She paddled off while I climbed into my Blitz and secured the deck in preparation for a seal launch off the bank. A black swan came over and expressed some interest in proceedings (or at least an expectation of some food) and I waited until they moved off before launching. I slid off the bank, leaning back to keep the nose up and the boats’ angle as oblique as possible but the nose still dug into the muddy bottom of the river, scooping up a large lump that covered the bow. Lauri was amused by this and I gave her the camera so she could record my attempts to wash it off.

Native vegetation lines the banks of the Avon in places, harking back to what it might have once looked like.

Once I’d cleaned the mud off my deck, we headed off downstream with a tail wind to assist our travels, Lauri suggested that she needed a flat paddle to use as a sail. It was wonderful to be on the river with Lauri gliding along in her Fly, truly a great was to spend an afternoon. We considered ourselves very lucky to live so close to this stretch of the Avon, as having paddled the almost all of the navigable sections of the river, the section between the Swanns Road bridge down Dudley Creek is probably one of the best. The river is fairly wide and deep for this section, and it has red zoned land on either side for most of it, so there is little traffic noise, or cars and houses visible. The banks have a lot of native plantings and the surrounding Red Zone lands are pleasant with plenty of trees and there are even some good views of the Port Hills.

The Eels at Riverbend Refuge

There were a few race boaters training on the river and the occasional whitebaiter on the banks. We paddled down to Dudley Creek and then turned back upstream, as to go further would have meant going all the way to the Gayhurst Street bridges, the next “section” marker, and that would have been a bit more exercise than would have been fun. As it was the nor-westerly winds that had driven us downstream, was now blowing in our faces and made progress a little more difficult. We paused at the “Eels” to check out the reverse side and then carried on back to the jetty.

A new nest for the black swans.

Lauri still had some energy so we paddled past the jetty and said “hello” to the swan who had built a new nest just upstream. Passing Greta the Paradise Shelduck’s island was a little sad since her death due to a car strike earlier in the year. We buried her near the bridge, overlooking one of her favourite roosting spots, and hope her spirit has found happiness, while her memory still lives on in our hearts.

As we passed under the Swanns Road bridge, we noted the central pylons’ foundations exposed by the low water, seemed a little worse for the wear, seeming offset with cracks and quake damage exposing some of the steel reinforcing rods. I guess it will be repaired in the future, but is still serviceable now and doesn’t get too much traffic. We paddled back to the jetty and I helped Lauri out of her kayak, her legs a little wobbly after being crammed into the Fly. We loaded her kayak on the trolley and we wandered home feeling just a little tired. I packed away the gear before getting to relax with a nice cup of tea and a piece of fruit toast.