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 Marathon took place on June 6, 1976. Eighteen paddlers started the race. Dave Ferguson was the 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.


Race Fact #2

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


On Labour 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 the 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, Livistona Rigida 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

Due to the pre-race congestion at the start of the race it is advised that competitors allow at least one hour 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 8.00 am SHARP.


To successfully complete the marathon, paddlers are required to complete 42 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, Long Plastic, 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 Canoe Marathon is a great spectator race with up to 2000 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 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.


Race Fact #3

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

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