Missouri River Spawns Another Paddling Race – by: Jim Low

By Guest Contributor

First posted on 06-22-2007

The latest entry on the Big Muddy racing scene has categories for extreme and pleasure paddlers

Missouri now has a second paddle-sports race on its namesake river. Unlike the original, this contest has a category for those not looking for an aquatic marathon.

The Race for the Rivers is a 68-mile challenge for highly competitive kayakers and canoeists. Paddlers will start Aug. 25 at Washington. Paddlers will take an overnight break at Frontier Park in St. Charles before completing the race with a 20-mile sprint to the confluence with the Mississippi River at Columbia Bottom Conservation Area Aug. 26.

The Clean Water Challenge is for experienced paddlers who want to learn more about the rivers and how to care for them. It will start at the same time as the Race for the Rivers on Aug. 25, but 20 miles farther downstream, at the Weldon Spring Access. Participants in this race will finish the same day at Frontier Park. Along the way they will compete for both speed and accuracy in tasks related to water quality monitoring.

Both races have men’s solo and double, women’s solo and double and mixed double classes. The races are sponsored by the St. Louis-based Greenway Network in cooperation with the Missouri Department of Conservation.

A Race for the Rivers Festival will be held at Frontier Park Aug. 25, with commercial and educational displays of outdoor equipment vendors, stream conservation groups, environmental art and music.

For more information about the Race for the Rivers, visit http://www.racefortherivers.org/, or call 636/498-0772.

The original Missouri River race, the Missouri River 340, is scheduled for July 24 through 28. As its name implies, this race spans a distance of 340 miles, from Kansas City to St. Charles. Contestants have just 100 hours to complete the grueling course, which leaves little time for sleep or anything else besides paddling.

Last year’s winner accomplished the feat in just 53 hours and 40 minutes, a record that will be difficult to beat. Lots of people are signing up to try, though. As of June 1, more than 60 people had signed up to compete in the men’s and women’s solo and tandem and mixed tandem categories. Nearly half the registered contestants were from outside Missouri, coming from as far away as Washington, Georgia and Ontario, Canada.

The 2007 Missouri River 340 will start at 8 a.m. July 24 and end at noon July 28 – sooner if the last boat reaches the finish line in less than 100 hours. Participants use paddles only. No motors, rowing devices or sails allowed. Full race rules, entry forms and other information about the race are available at http://www.rivermiles.com. The site also has online forums where you can discuss equipment, race strategy, training tips, camping and sleeping arrangements and other practical matters pertaining to the race.

Organizers also are offering a training race on June 30 to help contestants prepare. The “Gritty Fitty” will give participants a chance to paddle 50 miles on the Kansas River. This race is a scaled-down version of the main event. Information is available at the Missouri River 340 Web site.

Contestants must check in at checkpoints in nine communities along the way. The checkpoints also will give the public an opportunity to share the excitement. Brad Hargrave, another Missouri River 340 organizer, said a similar event on the Guadalupe River in Texas draws tens of thousands of spectators each year.

Missourians are encouraged to organize a race team or sponsor an existing team. Racers need ground support teams to bring water, food and other supplies to them at checkpoints.

To get involved in preparations for the Missouri River 340, contact:

*The Missouri River Communities Network, (573) 256-2602;

*Scott Mansker (913) 244-4666, or;

*Brad Hargrave, (913) 530-3643, .

-Jim Low-