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  The Avon Descent


  • Buy a good map to get you around the little known backroads- or print out the maps on this page.
  • Wear all your winter woollies and take your rain gear. A thermos of hot drink is always welcome.
  • Don't try to stop at all these vantage points. Choose a few on Day 1.
  • Accessibility is a problem on Day 2. You should choose only one location between Cobbler Pool start line and Bell's.
  • When you get to the "flat", that is, the Swan Valley, stop as often as you like.

Day One

* Click on map for a larger version

Northam, The Start Line: 7 am Soak up the atmosphere with hundreds of participants and their support crews and well wishers milling around. Power boaters are off first, followed by the paddlers. Northam Weir is a popular place to catch some action. 
Katrine Bridge The bridge and river banks are good viewing points and parking is easy, though there's often a long walk from where you will have to leave the car. This bridge is a compulsory portage point in high water when it can be dangerous. Though the paddlers are still fresh, they appreciate encouragement.
Dumbarton Bridge A high perch above the river gives great viewing upstream and downstream. There is a small drop downstream but this does not cause trouble to the paddlers. Parking is easy as this spot is never crowded.
Extracts' Weir Very popular with onlookers owing to the action (this means paddlers getting stuck or falling in!) Be prepared for crowds and a long wait to get out of the parking lot again, particularly if it has rained recently and there's deep mud. Many paddlers choose to portage this obstacle. 2002 sees the addition of a chute made of rubber pipes which should make for some interesting viewing.
Toodyay and West Toodyay These are easily accessible vantage points, good for cheering on the paddlers, but don't expect any dramas at these easy sections of the river.
The Ti-trees You can stop at several places along this section, but you won't see any action as the most difficult places for the paddlers are thick with trees, but the paddlers appreciate a cheer at this end of a long day.
Cobbler Pool Finish Line Formerly this was the site of the overnight camp which for 2002 has been moved to Toodyay Race Club which has power, water, and phone available. Only support crews are allowed close to the finish line. If you're able, walk upstream along the bank to see the paddlers come in. Leatherhead Rapid is a short distance away and you may see some action.

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 Day Two

* Click on map for a larger version

Cobbler Pool Start Line The start time is sometimes delayed due to weather conditions, so be prepared. Again, there is great atmosphere as the paddlers set off, often with very little light and usually rain or fog. If you watch the start it is unlikely that you will make it in time to watch all the paddlers pass through Emu Falls.
Super Chute Turn right from Cobbler Pool parking and continue west along Cobbler Pool Road for 1.5 km after level crossing. (Rapid is near gate and cattle grid). This first major rapid is small but technical and always produces much drama. You will have to continue west afterwards owing to this one-way section of road.
Emu Falls

This is the best place for action on Day 2, but you need to get out of bed early! It is a long drive from Toodyay Road along Morangup Road, then Quarry Road to the airstrip. If leaving from Cobbler Pool you will join a one-way queue of traffic westward. Park at the airstrip and pay a small fee to travel three kilometres by shuttle bus. Then it is a brisk walk for about fifteen minutes to the rapid's vantage points along the river.

There is a weir downstream of Emu Falls, but for more drama keep walking east along the road. The river is quite narrow at the bottom of the rapid and you get a good view of the notorious "Washing Machine". Otherwise, stand on the hill to see paddlers negotiate the main middle section. Don't expect to see the front runners muck it up, though, as they are well practised in the art of surviving this major rapid. (Mostly). To see the fastest paddlers you need to be in place not long after the start time as they travel fast with the assistance of the moving water.

The Valley  This is not accessible unless you like to walk down the steep hill on the northern side of the Avon Valley National Park. Do your research on the roads of the National Park beforehand. You also need to know where the rapids are if you want to see dramas. Otherwise it's a great place to spend the day picnicing or bushwalking.
Lookout to Championships

Viewing from this section of the river involves a difficult walk down the steep hill at Lookout (follow the fenceline). Then you have to walk up the hill again, far worse! Also, there is not good viewing of Championships from this bank.

The western bank, just as the river turns south at the end of Championships' Rapid, provides excellent viewing. Again, you need to be an early riser as it is a long bushwalk along the river from Walyunga to get here.

Syd's Rapid

Walk up from Walyunga National Park to this crowded vantage point. You will only see the bottom part of Syd's from the western bank, but in lower water levels this is where all the action is. It is recommended to get there early.

If you are clever and fit enough to get yourself to the southern and eastern bank, there are fewer crowds and you can walk up and down and view the different small drops that make up Syd's, but it takes longer to get to and to walk out again. In high water all of Syd's is notoriously dramatic.

Walyunga National Park A popular place, but there is not much action as it is an easy stretch of rapids and well practised by all paddlers. Walyunga is a changeover point for teams. 
Bell's Rapid  After you have paid a small fortune for parking at Brigadoon and caught the shuttle bus to Bell's, take your pick of viewing spots. You will compete with vast crowds, but Bell's is a long rapid and there's room for everyone to catch some action. Of course the bridge is the best spot, but get there hours before the first paddlers are due to arrive, as this vantage point is highly sought after. All of Bell's is interesting viewing in high or low water.
The Swan Valley Now the paddlers have the long haul of more than thirty kilometres of flatwater paddling to the finish line. They appreciate all the encouragement you can give them! The river is accessible at all the bridges as well as Fish Market Reserve and King's Meadow (both banks), Guildford. Then there are many other picnic spots along the river bank. Consult your Perth street directory.
Garrett Road Bridge Finish Line There's a wonderful atmosphere, lots to eat and drink available and plenty of parking. You will see all the small human dramas that accompany the achievement of a very difficult physical and mental goal: the pain of exhaustion, tears of relief, victorious smiles and lots of hoopla!

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The contents of this site are copyright© 2000-02, Robyn Khorshid.
All Rights Reserved.