Since European settlement, the Cann River in East Gippsland, Victoria has experienced a 700% increase in channel capacity, a 150-fold increase in the rate of lateral channel migration, a 45-fold increase in bankfull discharge and a 860-fold increase in annual sediment load. Over the last century, and primarily the last 40 years, channel incision has removed the equivalent of around 1500 years of floodplain deposition. A numerical floodplain evolution model is presented which suggests that under a best case scenario, infilling the incised channel trench will take 31,000 years and this is predicated on the full recovery of the immediate riparian vegetation and the in-channel loading of woody debris. The asymmetry in the recovery time following rapid channel change, compared with the original deposition of the material, is explained by a combination of the sediment-starved character of the catchment and the altered hydraulic conditions within the channel, principally associated with the role of woody debris. These factors have major implications for geomorphic recovery potential, constraining what can be realistically achieved in river rehabilitation.