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 Canoeing in Western Australia

 by Peter Dear

© 2001, Peter Dear

 During 1966 Bevan Dashwood and Peter Dear from Swan Canoe Club paddled down the Avon River from Northam. Shortly before, access to the Avon River had been established with a track to the construction site of the Woorooloo Standard Gauge Rail Bridge from the Great Northern Highway (now the access road into Walyunga National Park).

Two kilometres upstream of the access track the river ran through a complex and unnamed rapid which terminated in a "rock garden", blocked in the centre by a large boulder. The fifty metre portage at the end of the rapid was inconvenient and ego destroying.

Also on the railway side of the river and at the foot of the rapid was a flat area of meadow with a clear and fresh stream running through. This area was ideal for three or four tents and the whole looked suitable as a training and competition site. (The stream is now salty).

Duriing the following summer when the riverbed was dry, a team from Swan Canoe Club met one weekend at the "rock garden" and broke up the boulder with wedges and sledge hammers, removed the debris and moved other rocks to make the "chute" or 'rock garden' canoeable. Later that day they decided to name the rapid after the first person to paddle its length without portage.

This honour fell to Syd Ambler who, being a young teenager at the time, got off to an early start at the very beginning of winter when the rapid consisted of wet rocks. The older, conservative paddlers, not suffering the same degree of insanity, were definitely caught out. Syd bumped and scraped down with a severe loss of jellcoat, making sure not to put a foot on the ground and so became written into legend. He can still be seen occasionally at reunions.

Photo: Summer view of bottom chute of Syd's Rapid, Avon River (photo: R. Khorshid)

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