The Barron River Challenge has an event for every paddler

Barron River Challenge paddlers enter the water at the start line


Any paddler, any craft!

Day one – Mareeba to Bilwon

Grade one rapids and moving water


Experienced and fit paddlers 

Day two – Bilwon to Kuranda

Grade two rapids and long pools


Experienced and fit paddlers

Day one and two – Mareeba to Kuranda

Overnight accommodation at Bilwon


Experienced and fit paddlers

Day one and two – Mareeba to Kuranda

Paddlers change craft on day two to suit river conditions

BRC20 winner Brett Mesner

BRC20 and ‘Teams of 4’ Relay

The friendly competition of the BRC20 takes paddlers from the John Doyle bridge in the heart of Mareeba, down a gently moving waterway that will carry any craft along – canoe, kayak, sit on top or stand up paddle board. Navigate natural obstacles, float along gravel races and hang on for grade one (low difficulty) rapids during a two to four hour paddle.

The finish line is at a lush green property in Bilwon, only 20 minutes drive north of Mareeba. Stay after the race for a BBQ, awards presentation and random prize draws. Accommodation is also available at Bilwon for paddlers and their supporters. 

Juniors over 14 years can compete solo while children aged 12 and over can paddle in a canoe when paired with a competent adult. Beginner paddlers will benefit from BRC training events scheduled in the months leading up to the challenge. 

Gather your colleagues, friends or family for the BRC20 ‘Teams of 4’ Relay. Teams of 4 paddlers can change combinations over the course, with three legs of 5km(Mareeba to High Rocks), 7km (High Rocks to Biboorah Bridge) and 9km (Biboorah to Bilwon). Children over 12 years can compete when paired with a competent adult.  Mixed teams encouraged. The T4 relay promises to be a logistical challenge as teams have to decide on craft (once started the craft can’t change- only the paddlers) and swap combinations. Yes, craft can be either a double or two single kayaks which must stick together (within 5 meters at the finish line). The emphasis is on ‘safe fun’ for all competitors

The Barron River is fed from the Tinaroo Dam which provides relatively good water levels at this time of year. In the event that the river levels are too low to allow safe competition, the BRC20 is held as a flat-water race on the Tinaroo Dam. Like our facebook page for updates.

Canadian canoes are a popular craft in the BRC20
Natural obstacles litter the water course
SUP on BRC20


BRC30 paddlers compete on day two of the challenge, making an early start at Bilwon and finishing in the rainforest town of Kuranda by lunch time. This section of the river widens into slow-moving pools punctuated by gravel races and rapids up to grade two. The distance and difficulty of the 30km challenge requires paddling experience and fitness/endurance. 

There are multiple checkpoints along the course which efficient land crews can access to cheer on paddlers – if the paddler is not too fast, that is! Covering the distance by road can take longer than paddling in some sections. 

Hot burgers are provided at the finish line and the presentations are completed soon after all paddlers complete the course. 

The BRC30 course features more submerged rocks than the milder BRC20 section, with many paddlers preferring plastic craft over fibreglass. 

The most technical element of this section of the Barron is Oak Forest rapid, a grade two series of drops, whorls and eddies with a major sting in the tail – a hidden boulder at the exit which has holed more than one craft over the years. Portage is on river left for those who prefer not to risk a broken craft and safety crews are on standby to assist all paddlers. 

The last drop on Oak Forest rapid
Long pools test the endurance of paddlers coming to the finish line in Kuranda


The BRC50 is the premier event of the challenge and attracts paddlers from all over Australia. While in previous years the 50km were paddled start to finish in one day, now the event is spread over two days, effectively combining the BRC20 and BRC30 in a two-stage marathon. 

Day two starts right where day one left off and many paddlers take advantage of the accommodation options available at the halfway point. BBQ dinner and a hot breakfast are supplied by generous volunteers and the enjoyable atmosphere is shared by visitors and locals alike.

BRC50 paddlers compete in the same craft over two days. For a change of mind option – consider the Hybrid race, described below…


The Hybrid 50km marathon is completed over the same course as the BRC50 with paddlers changing craft between day one and day two. Popular choices of craft are fibreglass or kevlar K1s for the first 20km and long plastic skis for the 30km finish.

Bracing in a long plastic ski at Oak Forest rapid

Classes and records

The three challenge distances – BRC20, BRC30 and BRC50 – award pole position to the paddler with the fastest time. In the BRC20, podium awards are presented to the first three males and females across the line regardless of craft. BRC50 and 50H paddlers are welcome at the presentations on day one but their race times are not recognised until completion of the entire course on day two.

At the final finish line in Kuranda the Barron and Barroness titles are bestowed on the fastest male and female respectively.

Race records are kept according to age groupings, craft and challenge event. The age records are as follows:

Junior – 12 to 18 years

Open – 18 to 35 years

Masters 1 – 36 to 45 years

Masters 2 – 46 to 55 years

Masters 3 – 56 to 65 years

Masters 4 – 66 years and above

See our race records page for detailed information.

… and yes, most years we see Masters 4 paddlers racing with the best of them!