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 a 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.
Race Fact #4
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 the 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.
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.
Race Fact #5
1991 was the first year 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 far bank and still provides plenty of upsets.
CHECKPOINT TWO is an easy twenty minutes paddle from Wipeout. A long, shallow waterhole separates checkpoint 2 from checkpoint 3.
CHECKPOINT THREE, about one hour’s 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.
Race Fact #6
The oldest paddler to compete in the Gregory River Canoe Marathon was Dick Jenje, who was 75 when he completed the full race distance in 2005, and 79 when he completed the recreational short race in 2009. (Age is no barrier).
CHECKPOINT FOUR consists of half an hour of narrow, winding river. This probably the most interesting stretch of the river to paddle. After this, there is a long interesting rocky chute (known as Galloping Jacks or Deliverance) then one long waterhole is between you and the finish line, which is about another thirty minutes away.