-Small Palmtree Right

The Gregory Down River
Canoe Race

Small Palmtree Left

Next Race is No.41 - Sunday, May 1, 2016

NOTE: It is now mandatory to wear Type 2 or 3 PFD's and canoeing helmets (bicycle helmets are not suitable).

Few sporting events manage to attract more than their most loyal followers to travel out of town. Fewer still manage to coax people to travel hundreds of kilometres to participate in a sport that ordinarily, they would never consider trying. The Gregory River Canoe Marathon does just that.

The major TC2 event will be the Canadian Challenge, which has replaced the  Corporate Cup. Companies, Sporting, Social or otherwise associated groups of people are encouraged to enter this team event. Craft used must comply with Canadian Canoe Specifications and the rules for teams will apply ie a maximum of 8 paddlers and team changes at any point along the river.

Money Bag

While the majority of paddlers are novices who are entering the race purely for fun, the serious competitors are also catered for with the opportunity to win $$$. 

The overall race record stands at 2 hours 43 minutes and 23 seconds set by Matt Flower and Chad Meek in 2001. $2000 is offered to anyone who can beat this time. 

Other prize money includes:

First boat across the line, regardless of category $500 
K1 - male/female - $400; $200; $100
TK1 - male/female - $400; $200; $100
TK2 - $400; $200; $100
Plastic long - $400; $200; $100
TC2 Challenge - $800; $400; $200
Short race $200.00


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The 3 hour barrier for the race was first broken in 1991, by Jeff Wilkinson and John Van Ryt in a K2, in a time of 2 Hours, 51 Minutes, and 23 Seconds!

The Royal Flying Doctor Service helps make this weekend as enjoyable as possible and in return, receives part of the entry fee. Not only will competitors be enjoying a great race, they will also be helping a very worthwhile cause.

So at 8am on the Sunday of the May Day weekend the starter's gun will fire again, and over two hundred paddlers will be pitting themselves against the Gregory River and each other, in some of the most picturesque scenery you will see anywhere in Australia.

The North West Canoe Club welcomes you and hopes you have a memorable weekend.


The North West Canoe Club was formed by a handful of enthusiasts on January 14, 1975. In early 1976, four club members paddled the Gregory River from the Knobbies to the pub. The trip was such a success that it was decided to organise it into a canoe race.

The inaugural Gregory River Canoe Race took place on June 6, 1976. Eighteen paddlers started the race. Dave Ferguson was first across the line in a time of 4 hours and 9 minutes. He was closely followed by the legendary Ron Snow, two minutes behind.

The race has since gone from strength to strength, and has grown to be one of the largest and most isolated canoe races in Australia, regularly attracting over 150 competitors.

The smallest field to ever contest the Gregory Canoe Race was 18 paddlers in the inaugural race in 1976 . The largest number of competitors was in 1991 when 250 paddlers competed .

On May day weekend of each year thousands of people from all over Australia are attracted to the idyllic tropical setting of the banks of the Gregory River to enjoy a weekend of canoeing, swimming, camping, fishing and partying.

The beauty of the river itself is the main attraction. It is a popular getaway for Mount Isans most of the year thanks to good fishing, swimming, camping and canoeing. The Gregory is fed by underground springs which are situated close to the Northern Territory border, and are part of the Georgina basin. The crystal clear water is fringed with pandanus palms, Livingstona palms, paperbark trees, fig trees, and a variety of other flora. The river consists of both shallow and deep waterholes which are linked by small rapids. Some snags, logs and overhanging pandanus palms are encountered when paddling downstream.

Below Checkpoint 3
Below checkpoint 3


Due to the pre race congestion at the start of the race it is advised that competitors allow at least an hours travelling time from the hotel to the start of the race . A pre race briefing will be held at the start at 7.30 am . The race will commence at 8 am SHARP.

To successfully complete the marathon, paddlers are required to complete 43 kilometres in one day, starting at the Knobbies and finishing at the bridge. There are many classes which take account of the type of craft eg. Canoe, Kayak, touring or racing class, plus male, female and mixed categories and Teams events. Crew members of teams may change at any point between start and finish, although this is usually limited by access to the 4 checkpoints along the river plus Mellish Park (Wipeout Bend). If a competitor withdraws from the race he or she must notify an official at the nearest checkpoint.

The Gregory River Marathon is a great spectator race with up to 2,000 people lining the river. Spectators cram for a top vantage point at all the good spill areas, where they are entertained by the good manoeuvres of the experienced paddlers who can get through the tight bends, rapids and overhanging pandanus branches .

They cheer with great delight when others come down rapids backwards, get knocked out of their canoe by overhanging branches or just fall out due to the twisting fast flow of the river.


The most paddlers to NOT finish the race was in 1987 when, out of 154 starters, only 134 finished the race.


The section of the Gregory river on which the marathon is held consists predominantly of long deep water holes separated by sets of rapids and fast flowing bends 

Pre-Gregory practice races are held at Lake Moondarra in the weeks leading up to the race.

For best results on race day, it is advisable to paddle the course beforehand.

THE START is in a wide, shallow waterhole, which narrows to single file width within 100 metres, followed by this tricky section. (Really gets the adrenalin pumping quickly!)  The next few hundred metres is a winding tight flow which then opens into what is possibly the deepest waterhole in the race.

The shortest time anyone has lasted in the race was in 1991, when the Playtime Team destroyed their boat at the first rapid, within a minute of starting the race .

CHECKPOINT ONE is about twenty to thirty minutes paddling time downstream from the start (about 4 kilometres). Between checkpoint one and Kamarga is another long, deep waterhole, about 3 kilometres long.

KAMARGA FALLS are situated 7 kilometres from the start, and consist of two drops separated by a 100m pool of quieter water. They are the biggest set of rapids on the course, and can cause problems even for experienced paddlers. Some large rocks have to be negotiated here so make sure you have your wits about you.

Unfortunately for spectators the falls are not readily accessible by road.

(Top section shown above)

(Bottom section shown below)

Kamarga 2 has a long left hand sweep ending in a steep chute with a large rock at the bottom. You can portage both top and bottom sections of Kamarga and this is done on the left hand side of the river. It is best to leave the river bank by approximately 10 metres so you can run (walk?) along the sand and not over the rocks close to the bank.


1991 was the first year that a K4 (four man racing Kayak) successfully completed the race. This was despite the fact that it was once thought that a K2(two man racing Kayak) would be too long to manoeuvre down the river.

WIPEOUT, about a half hour paddle from Kamarga,  is another tricky spot on the river. This rapid looks deceptively simple, but always manages to claim numerous victims. The river narrows, therefore the velocity of the water increases . The bend has straightened out quite a bit over the years, but still pushes you into the the far bank and still provides plenty of upsets.

This spot is easily accessible by road and is a great vantage point for spectators watching the spills and applauding everyone who stays in their canoe.

CHECKPOINT TWO  is an easy twenty minute paddle from Wipeout. A long, shallow waterhole separates checkpoint 2 from checkpoint 3.


The youngest person to paddle the 43 kilometre course was Adrian Taylor , aged 10 . He competed in the 1993 Open Men’s TC2 paddling with his father . Their time was 5 hours 41 minutes 40 seconds

Checkpoint 3

CHECKPOINT THREE, about one hours paddle from checkpoint 2, marks the beginning of an interesting one kilometre section that depending on your skill, can take anywhere between five to twenty minutes to negotiate. This is followed by another long, deep waterhole.


The oldest paddler to compete in the Gregory River Canoe Race was Dick Jenje , who was 75 when he completed the full race distance in 2005, and  79 when he completed the short race in 2009.
Age is no barrier .


CHECKPOINT FOUR consists of half an hour of narrow, winding river. This is probably the most interesting stretch of the river to paddle. After this, there is a long interesting rocky chute (known as either Galloping Jacks or Deliverance) then one long waterhole is between you and the finish line, which is about another thirty minutes away.