A new series of canoe trails will help guide visitors and locals alike to explore the natural beauty and history of the Loddon Shire’s waterways.
Three canoe trails have been created for the Loddon River - at Laanecoorie, Serpentine and Bridgewater - and one on the Serpentine Creek at Durham Ox.
Students from Bendigo’s La Trobe University have worked to develop the self-guided trails, which will have signage installed along the route and an interactive guide users can download to their phones or print out.
Chris Townsend, an associate lecturer in La Trobe’s outdoor and environmental education department, has guided the process and mentored the students along the way.
“One of my roles as a subject coordinator of the river environment subjects has been to mentor some of our students who are particularly looking at interpretation and how you interpret the natural and cultural landscape,” he said. “And how we might go about investing that information in a canoe trail through signage, through online resources, so that there’s a story being told as we go down the river.”
Mr Townsend said the trails were developed in response to the massive increase in canoe and kayak ownership in the past decade.
“There’s been three school group visits here in the last three weeks and it just wasn’t on their radar before because it’s a less obvious place to come,” he said of the Serpentine Creek trail.
“You tend to get visitor hotspots like the Murray or Barmah or down at Bridgewater on the Loddon. Yet up here it is an amazing resource and amazing experience for all ages to come and explore.”
Each trail offers people a unique insight into points of interest along the waterways, allowing paddlers to take a self-guided tour on their own.
Signage for the trails is being installed this week and the project is expected to be complete by May.
“[Users] won’t need to know how to navigate, they just need to know if they can get the boat to go in a straight direction and are sensible, they can have a safe experience and have enough points of interest to enrich their day.”
Local historian Paul Haw also worked on the project, offering historical and environmental knowledge of the area.
“It is magic - a lot of Victoria's history is right here,” he said.
Kerrie Jennings, one of the students who worked on the project, said it had been great to see it come together.
“There’s the indigenous history, there’s the wildlife, the natural history and then there’s the settlement and the farming community these days that rely on the water,” she said. “And it’s local and that makes it all the more special.”
The trails have been created in a joint project by La Trobe University, the Loddon Shire, Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation and the state government.
Loddon Shire community support manager Allan Stobaus said the project would encourage more people to visit the area.
“It’s going to have a really big impact on nature tourism,” he said. “It will bring more school groups and tourists to the area.”