Avon Descent

Avon Descent, Northam, Western Australia The Avon Descent is a 133 km, two day boat racing event that takes place on Western Australia’s Avon River in August, each year.

The event was established in 1972, when a group of Northam residents tested the feasibility of a power boat and canoe river race from Northam to Bayswater by taking a dinghy down the Avon River. Though the boat became wedged between rocks 35km downstream, the following year the first official running of the Avon Descent began at Northam.

The event attracted 49 entries of which only 23 finished. Word soon spread about the exciting and difficult water course and the next year saw 139 teams enter of which only 63 finished.

Avon Descent, Northam, Western AustraliaToday the Avon Descent is Australia's biggest whitewater classic event and attracts over 800 contestants each year from around the world. It is considered to be one of the toughest river races in the world. In the early years of the event there were no rules or safety regulations and people went down the river in anything that could float, including homemade rafts and rubber inner tubes.

Today, however, there are strict safety rules and regulations which include a compulsory swimming test. There has only been one fatality in the history of the event. The first leg of the race begins at a concrete chute at the weir at Northam.Historically this starting line has claimed many victims, however a concrete chute was built in 2003 to make the start less hazardous. Avon Descent, Northam, Western Australia

As the race proceeds entrants must face hazards which include tea trees, rapids, meter drops and rocks. In some years fog has reduced visibility to less than 10 meters making the descent even more hazardous. Day one ends at Cobblers Pool where all entrants camp overnight in a paddock along the river bank. The second day sees the contestants shoot the rapids at Bells Falls and wind their way through the rocks to the finishing line at Guildford on the Swan River. The event sees all types of craft from speed boats to Kayaks to rubber dinghies.

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