The Avon Descent is Western Australia’s own unique sporting event that attracts competitors and spectators from throughout Australia and overseas. Competitors challenge the Avon and Swan rivers in a variety of paddle and power craft in an exciting two-day time trial over 124 gruelling kilometres.
The Avon Descent was first held in 1973 with just 49 competitors, no rules, no officials, no checkpoints and very few spectators. In the years since, over 35,000 people have competed in the Avon Descent, from novices and families, to World and Olympic Champions.
Preparation, planning and management for the Avon Descent is undertaken throughout the year by members of Northam’s Avon Descent Association. The race itself is supported by over 1000 Western Australian volunteers. Communities and community groups benefit directly and indirectly from the Avon Descent and it is estimated that more than $5M was injected into the local economy in 2001 as a result of the event and the additional visitors attracted to the regions. (2002 Summit Homes Avon Descent Social and Economic Impact Study)
The Avon Descent has all of the ingredients of a highly visual, interactive and spectacular event.
General Geographic Background
The Avon River drains the Great Southern and Upper Great Southern regions, actually starting as a river near Wickepin. The Avon River is 240 kilometres in length and the basin covers an area of 120,000 square kilometres, extending from Northam in the west to Southern Cross in the east, north to Dalwallinu and south to Pingrup. From its confluence with Wooroloo Brook in Walyunga National Park the Avon becomes the Swan River. Approximately 60% of the Swan River’s flow is from the Avon River.
The main Northam Pool on the Avon River (start point for the Avon Descent) is the only permanent stretch of natural inland water along the entire Great Eastern Highway between Perth and Adelaide.
The Avon Descent passes through some of Western Australia’s most picturesque country. You will travel through the farming regions of historic Northam and Toodyay, forested national parks, steep gorges, the Swan Valley vineyard region and, eventually, into the tidal waters of the upper Swan River.
The Avon Descent offers competitors conditions ranging from long stretches of flat water that can test the endurance of the fittest athlete through to rapids, sure to test the skills of all who attempt to navigate their unknown contours.
A formal agreement to invite the winners of similar white water paddling races in other regions of the world has been instigated since October 2001. This has raised the profile of the event on the National Sporting Events Calendar resulting in an annual exchange of competitors between the Fish River Marathon in South Africa and the Avon Descent.
What Craft Can Compete
The Avon Descent is open to a range of power dinghies and paddle craft. This combination of craft makes the event unique around the world. Power dinghies are the only power craft racing in white water of this type. The 10hp limit ensures environmental responsibility but still allows for speeds up to 70kph. The power craft provide much of the exciting viewing action of the Avon Descent.
The paddle section includes a combination of standard and invented craft including single and double kayaks, and single and double surf skis. The event has seen the massive growth and popularity of craft manufactured from polyethylene plastic, relay teams of two and four can also compete. Age restrictions apply.
Basic Course Details
Day 1 is a 52 kilometre stretch beginning at the Town of Northam, 100 kilometres east of Perth. The course proceeds downriver through the town of Toodyay into the upper reaches of the Darling Range escarpment. The half-way point and overnight stop is the Boral Campsite located at Cobbler Pool 20 kilometres west of Toodyay.
Day 2 is 72 kilometres long and sees competitors tackle the valley containing the major white water obstacles and challenges of the event including Supershoot, Emu Falls, Championship Rapids and Bells Rapids. The rush of the valley leaves competitors with the marathon 30 kilometre, flat water stretch to Bayswater. While the victorious burst their way over the Finish Line the achievers are happy just to finish.