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Long Distance Paddling Events



If the 18.5 miles of the Des Plaines Marathon (May 22 this year) are not long enough for you – participate in one of these events to test your stamina – or at least, be astonished that some paddlers can do this.

Friday, April 22 – to Sunday, April 24 – CAMPUS TO COAST – www.msuoc.org/c2c/ 

Starting in Wonch Park, Okemos, MI and ending in Grand Haven on the edge of Lake Michigan.  Campus to Coast (C2C160) is a paddle sport adventure race put on by the Michigan State University Outdoors Club. The race starts on MSU’s campus at the Rock (central part of campus), following the Red Cedar River into the Grand River and out through Grand Haven, finishing at Grand Haven State Park. The race is approximately 160 miles, with estimations of the fastest times being anywhere from 26-40 hours, depending on the river conditions, and 57 hours being the cut-off time. This race also contains 7 portages, along with one section where racers must “canoe line” a small section of fall over dams.  This race can only be competed in using kayaks, canoes, or a vessel that is strictly “man powered.”  Participants are from all over the U.S., as well as other BIG 10 Universities.

Saturday, June 11 – Texas Water Safari – http://www.texaswatersafari.org/

Described as the World’s Toughest Canoe RaceThe Safari is an annual race via the San Marcos and Guadalupe rivers, from Aquarena Springs in the college town of San Marcos, to the shrimping village of Seadrift on the Texas coastline, a total distance of 260 miles. The first official race was held in 1963, and is run annually on the second Saturday of June.  It actually has a series of events – so be sure to check the calendar page for more details http://www.texaswatersafari.org/calendar/

Wednesday, June 29 – to Sunday, July 3 – Yukon River Quest – http://www.yukonriverquest.com/

Described as the “Race to the Midnight Sun,” this 444-mile wilderness adventure paddling race is held on the Yukon River, from Whitehorse to Dawson City, in Canada’s Yukon Territory. Held during the last week of June, the YRQ is the world’s longest annual canoe and kayak race. Paddlers race round-the-clock under a sky that never gets dark. There are just two mandatory rest stops – totaling 10 hours – over the course of the entire event. The Yukon River Quest draws participants from all over the world. In 2015, 57 teams from 12 countries started the race and 44 teams finished.

Saturday, July 30 – AuSable River Canoe Marathon – www.ausablecanoemarathon.org/

This is a non-stop canoe race that starts at night with a thrilling running-start to the river in Grayling, MI, and ends 120 miles later near the shores of Lake Huron in Oscoda, MI.  Contestants must navigate the narrow, winding upper stretch in total darkness, as well as stump-filled ponds and the blazing July sun in the lower stretch.  This race is not a recreational canoe float, but a professional, ultra-competitive race with the very best professional paddlers from around North and Central America. Before planning to participate, check the website for more details – this is not for beginners.

From one participant:

Throughout my life I have been a waterman. I have snorkeled, done scuba diving, fishing, rec. canoeing, surfing. When I started training for racing I had finally found a way that I could tie my love for the water in with mastering an artful craft. A race canoe is something that you can master. There is so much technique and skill involved you can always be improving. The AuSable Marathon is the ultimate proving ground for your hard work and dedication. You don’t have to be a top ten paddler to be a master of your boat. By L.j. Bourgeois      

For more AuSable Marathon pics, info, and videos:



Check each website for more information, pictures, and if you know of any other North American long distance paddling races, let us know and we’ll add them to the list.

Save the Date to Paddle The 59th Annual Des Plaines Canoe & Kayak Marathon And Minithon


dprm logoMay 22, 2016

More picnics are spoiled by weather reports than by the weather, wrote Don Mueggenborg (who has paddled every event but one since its starting) after last year’s event. Forecasts had everyone concerned – rain, high winds, lightning. Instead we had a great day. Overcast early with a slight mist and headwinds to cool the paddlers down.

More than seven hundred paddlers participated in 2015, including 37 in the shorter Minithon, with several SUPs finishing the whole course. Most paddlers came from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin, but also from as far as Arizona, Florida, Nebraska and Texas. Everyone who finished the course received the coveted embroidered patch. New in 2015 was also the inclusion of the Des Plaines River map on the back of the t- shirts that brought many congratulatory comments, and will be on this year’s t-shirts as well.

The Des Plaines River Canoe and Kayak Marathon, founded in 1958 by Ralph Frese, is the second oldest continually held paddling competition in the United States. The course is 18½ miles on the beautiful and historic Des Plaines River in Northern Illinois. Numerous classes accommodate people of all ages, crafts, and skill levels, and a 5.25 mile, non-competitive Minithon offers a shorter option. First time participants, repeat paddlers, and serious competitors can all enjoy the excitement, challenge, and wonderful scenery that this historic event provides. Great music, good food, and camaraderie await everyone at the finish line.

Registration opens March 1 – early bird discount until April 15

For more details check out www.canoemarathon.com



Des Plaines River Marathon - at the put in
Photo by Rich Hodgkins

Calling All Women Paddlers!

Interested in a Women’s Outrigger Canoe Crew? Here are the details:

  • Looking to start a Women’s Outrigger Canoe crew for 2016. There are two goals in my plan:
    • Develop an outrigger canoe paddling program at Outrigger Chicago for beginners and advanced paddlers alike.
    • Field a crew of 6-9 women interested in competing at the Liberty Challenge OC race in NYC June 2016.
  • If you are interested in hearing more about either, please let me know. Or feel free to forward this message to any lady you know who might be. I’m going to try to hold some informational meetings soon so we can hit the ground running for the 2016 season!


Kristin Flentye



We already have dates for some races; we’ll keep you updated on those still tentative

May 1 Current Buster* – Started in 1974 and hosted by the St. Charles Canoe Club on the Fox River, distance 10 miles. www.stcharlescanoeclub.com

May 22Des Plaines Canoe & Kayak Marathon* – Started in 1957 by Ralph Frese, Mr. Canoe – second oldest one day paddling event in the nation. 18.5 mile marathon, and 5.25 minithon, from Libertyville, it ends 18.5 miles south at Dam #2 in Mt. Prospect. Sponsored by the Des Plaines River Association. www.canoemarathon.com

Des Plaines Canoe & Kayak Marathon

May 28Abe’s River Race – Started in 2014 on the historic Lincoln Heritage Water Trail in Central Illinois and hosted by the Lincoln Heritage Water Trail Association. Point-to-point on the Sangamon River, from Irwin Bridge to Lincoln’s Riverside Park in Petersburg. www.lincolnheritagewatertrail.org/race.html

June 5Mid American Race – Began in 1960 on the Fox river, from St. Mary’s Park in St. Charles to McCullough Park in Aurora – about 11 miles. Sponsored by the Fox Valley Park District.   www.foxvalleyparkdistrict.org

LATE JUNE Voyageur Landing Race* – First event held in 2001, organized by Kevin Bradley and Larry Steffens. Held on the Fox River north of Elgin in the Voyageurs Landing Forest Preserve, distance 8 miles. kaab610@aol.com

MID JULYThe Five State Challenge – Spring Green to Muscoda, the Big Five Challenge comprises all the race classes in the 21- and 15-mile courses, wherein paddlers earn points for their state by placing in their class. www.wicanoeracing.com

July 16Illinois Whitewater Festival & Buttercup Slalom Series – Buttercup Series Slalom Event. Held at the Marge Cline WW Course in Yorkville. Plus Yorkville Rib Fest featuring great food, spirits, and live music. Chicago Whitewater Association.  www.facebook.com/WhitewaterFestival

August 7Pecatonica River Water Trail Canoe/Kayak Race* – First held in 2008, the 18.2 mile race starts at Browntown, Wi. The 6.7 mile recreational race starts at Brewster’s Landing. Both races start at 10am and end at McConnell Bobtown Landing. www.pecriver.org

August 11 – 14 USCA National Canoe & Kayak Championships, Northfield, MA – www.uscanoe.com

SEPT Joe Kowsky Memorial Race (I &M and DuPage)* – Started in 1999 and sponsored by the Morris Marathon Canoe Club, held in Channahon on the DuPage River where the I&M Canal cuts diagonally across it – about 7 miles. buckley.david@gmail.com

September 17 – 5th Annual Quincy 5 Miler – This is an open water race that includes portions near the main channel of the Mississippi River and “The Cut” from the main river back to Quincy Bay. The race takes paddlers from the start located in an approximate line even with the Knapheide Landing Boat Ramp, then past the south end of Hogback Island, over four wing dams. Then, to the north end of “The Cut” channel that leads into Quincy Bay. After paddling thru the Quincy Bay, the course will once again be in the main river, goes under the Quincy Bayview Bridge and the Quincy Memorial Bridge. The race will then conclude at the historic South Side Boat Club. http://quincy5miler.com/

Quincy 5 Miler & Bear Creek Grunt Race Flyer

September 18Vic Hopp Memorial Race* – Began in 1975 on the Fox River, then moved to the Des Plaines River in Wheeling, held in memory of Vic Hopp with proceeds donated to cancer research. Total 9 miles: 4 ½ miles upstream to Deerfield Road and 4 ½ downstream to finish. Jim Peterson akpcpa@yahoo.com

Sept 25 – tentative – Fox River Fall Classic* – Began in 2008 and hosted by the St. Charles Canoe Club. On the Fox River, it starts and finishes at the Ferson Creek Park (off RT31) north of St. Charles. Nine miles – www.stcharlescanoeclub.com

*Denotes an IPC Points Race to qualify for awards at the annual banquet

Please send any announcements about competitive events to be included in our events calendar to


The Wonderful Variety of Paddlesport

paddlesport 3By Sigrid Pilgrim

No other sport offers so many varieties on the same theme as paddlesport. Paddling, for many people, is CANOEING – you sit in a canoe, look straight ahead, paddle from point A to B. If you are a novice, your arms will feel like a ton in 20 minutes. Or, for the more adventuresome, there is WHITEWATER in which a bunch of crazy lunatics risk their life hanging upside down in kayaks in rapids no sane person would want to be in!

There is truth in both statements, but there is so much more! No other sport offers so many different options of craft, places to take it and activities. But there is even more – namely, the realization that paddlesport offers a unique opportunity towards educational enrichment.

CANOEING – You can take a canoe on a local river for a leisurely trip, to go fishing, or to just enjoy the natural environment. Of course, you can also use the same canoe to help clean up the trash along a river bank, or to give a youngster a first taste of outdoor “adventure.” You can use your canoe as a means of transportation to get to places otherwise inaccessible and take it CANOE TRIPPING into the wilderness for a week or more of camping along the shores of lakes or rivers.

Change the dimensions of the canoe; make it narrower and longer, put some power drink in a backpack and you can start competing in MARATHON races, from 10 to 100 and more miles, depending on your stamina. Or change the dimensions even more, until the canoe looks more like an arrow, and you’re ready to SPRINT – an Olympic discipline for many decades.

paddlesport 2If you don’t like to paddle by yourself, make the canoe bigger and put more seats into it, and you’ve got a long boat. There is power in numbers – and 15 to 20 or more people paddling in unison can make even a 30 foot boat fly! You can now recreate history in a VOYAGEUR CANOE or experience culture from faraway places in a CHINESE DRAGON BOAT. The voyageurs played a very important role in the development of the North American Continent, and various RENDEZVOUS throughout the region annually recreate these historical moments. Garbed in traditional voyageur clothing, singing French-inspired songs, paddlesport is a way to honor the past.

KAYAKING – Do you want to give the double-blade a try? There are many choices, too – touring or sea kayaks, white water or sprint boats, and too often, the short and wide rec boats – it’s all a matter of personal preference. SEA or TOURING KAYAKS can hold a great deal of gear. They are designed to track well in wind and thus are ideal for open bodies of water, for exploring sea caves in Lake Superior, or, as many members of local sea kayak clubs prove regularly, just to get out on Lake Michigan and paddle for a few hours! Your choice in sea kayaks is as large as in canoes – from traditional Eskimo style skin and frame boats, to the high tech Kevlar and carbon fiber lay-ups – each offers features not found in the other – so try as many as you can until you find the one that’s right for you and your budget.

paddlesport 4

You say, the sea kayak didn’t turn fast enough! Try a WHITEWATER KAYAK instead which is designed to pivot on a dime for the quick maneuvers necessary in rapids. You say they don’t go fast enough! Then challenge yourself in either a downriver racing or flat-water sprint kayak, either will surely increase your sense of balance if you give the boats a chance!

KAYAKS too are versatile: for the top athletes, Olympic participation is the ultimate reward. For the adventurer, there may be a first descent in spectacular surroundings; or for the nature lover, a weekend get-away in Wisconsin. Several times I have seen a bald eagle swoop just 10-15 feet ahead of me. But equally important, there is also the camaraderie with friends who enjoy all with equal intensity.

And if you don’t like sitting in a canoe or kayak – try the latest iteration of paddling – the STAND-UP-PADDLEBOARD; whether to get a good core workout, or to develop your balance in SUP Yoga, it is one more variety on the paddling theme.

If you think we have covered it all – here is more. Paddlesport is not only for the able bodied person, but for PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES as well. Just think about it: once in a boat, you really do not need your legs very much – so a person with a lower limb disability can enjoy the same freedom of movement as you and I. There are ALSO paddling clubs whose members are breast cancer survivors and found that paddling together provides not only physical but emotional benefits as well.

Is paddling only for the young? Of course not – it’s a LIFETIME ACTIVITY – I’ve seen kids as young as five in a solo kayak, or infants with parents in a canoe (be sure you have good paddling skills if you bring the baby!). I also know plenty of paddler grandparents, this author included.

But there is one more aspect of paddlesport which I believe has not been exploited as much as it should: paddling as a catalyst for a more integrated approach towards OUTDOOR EDUCATION with a focus on our natural environment. I fear we are raising a generation of very computer-literate youngsters, to whom nature is a virtual reality, on-screen/DVD experience and playgrounds are carefully controlled aseptic indoor environments!

A paddling trip is unlike any other outdoor activity: it is not a setting prescribed by humans like a playground. There is no paved hiking path leading from parking lot to picnic site. There could be a natural obstacle, like a downed tree, or icky stuff like mud, worms or mosquitoes. Maybe the youngsters will see death, a fish floating belly up or a bird tangled in a fishing line whose lure still hangs glittering from a branch. Or they’ll see shopping carts, tires, and picnic tables in the water.

But chances are they can also see a deer, muskrat, beaver dams, and herons, catch their own first fish and learn to appreciate the beauty of nature, and hopefully, will want to protect this environment. As I used to tell my students – you won’t protect what you don’t love, and you cannot love what you don’t know – so get to know the beauty of nature through paddling.

For more information on paddlesport, clubs, where to get paddling instruction, and links to other paddling related resources, go to www.illinoispaddling.org



Recovery on Water

Recovery on Water

This is the third article in a series of how paddlesport – in this case rowing – is helping people with special needs.


Recovery on Water (ROW) is a rowing team that gives survivors of breast cancer the unique opportunity to interact, become active in their recovery, and gain support from fellow survivors. ROW provides exercise programs for survivors six days a week in rowing shells on the Chicago River during the spring, summer and fall, and on indoor rowing machines during the winter months. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce cancer recurrence in patients treated for breast cancer by up to 50%. ROW was started in 2008 and currently has over 60 members.

ROW, along with other south side rowing clubs, trains on the south branch of the Chicago River. Recently we broke ground on the Eleanor St. Boathouse, which will be completed in 2016. ROW participates in a variety of races year round. To learn more about Recovery on Water, please visit recoveryonwater.org

Recovery on Water (ROW) is a rowing team that gives survivors of breast cancer the unique opportunity to interact, become active in their recovery, and gain support from fellow survivors. ROW provides exercise programs for survivors six days a week in rowing shells on the Chicago River during the spring, summer and fall, and on indoor rowing machines during the winter months. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce cancer recurrence in patients treated for breast cancer by up to 50%. ROW was started in 2008 and currently has over 60 members.

Jenn Gibbons




The Windy City Dragon Boat Club

Worlds 2014July 2015

As dragon boating slowly continues to gain popularity throughout the US, a local Illinois team is taking the world by storm. The Windy City Dragon Boat Club (WCDBC), based in Arlington Heights, IL (a NW suburb of Chicago), recently competed at the Dragon Boat Club Crew World Championships in Ravenna, Italy. After earning the berth to compete by winning the 2013 Club Crew Nationals in New Jersey, the team traveled to Italy in October of 2014 to go up against some of the toughest teams in the World (the competition drew over 130 club crews from 27 countries)! The Windy City Dragons competed in three (3) distances (200m, 500m and 2k), in three (3) different divisions. In the end, they took home two (2) GOLD medals in the Senior A Mens division, a bronze in Senior A Mixed, and a bronze in Premier Mixed. Needless to say, the team was extremely proud of their accolades and even prouder to represent the USA on a world stage.

Since that time, they have been working hard in preparation for the next major competition, the 2015 Nationals, to be held on their home lake – Lake Arlington – July 25-26. If they do well (as expected), they will earn a berth to compete at next year’s World Championships in Australia! The Windy City Dragons practice 2-3 times per week as a team. (This is in addition to individual paddling sessions on outrigger canoes as well as strength and endurance training in the gym.) The WCDBC also competes in various festivals throughout the summer (e.g., St. Charles, Toronto, Madison, Chinatown and Milwaukee) to ensure that they are race-ready for Nationals and beyond.

The club’s origins date back to 2009, when a group of individual paddlers from the Lincoln Park Boat Club, most with a long history of competitive paddling experience, came together as a team to compete at a local festival in St. Charles. When they won that competition, it was clear that this was not going to be a one-time thing, and the first competitive Chicago-based dragon boat team was formed. Without a boat of their own, the team traveled to WI on a regular basis to practice with the Racine-based club, Arashi. In 2010, they joined forces with Arashi to compete in the Club Crew Nationals in Chatanooga, TN. After winning that competition, team members pooled their own money to buy their first dragon boat, and the Windy City Dragon Boat Club (WCDBC) was born.

Over the past few years, the team has grown and developed its roster to become a consistent threat – not only at local festivals, but in national and international competitions across the country and around the globe! In 2011, they competed in the Club Crew Nationals in Fort Dodge, Iowa (that year, the Nationals were switched to odd-numbered years) and won the bid to compete at the 2012 Club Crew Worlds in Hong Kong. In 2013, the WCDBC joined forces with the Iowa-based team, Solid Steel, to compete at Nationals in New Jersey as well as Worlds in Italy (2014). Today, the club has three full-fledged teams: The Windy City Dragons (elite competitive crew), the Windy City Black Dragons, and the Windy City Lady Dragons. They also work with local corporations (such as Grainger and United Airlines) and non-profits (such as Wounded Warriors) to help coach and ready their teams for festival competitions.

Believe it or not, there’s more to the WCDBC than just winning races and collecting medals. Team members paddle for a variety of reasons, chief among them the 3 F’s (fitness, fun and friendship). There are few team sports that allow 22 people (20 paddlers, a drummer and a sternsman) to all be on the playing field (or in this case, the boat) at the same time! The team also encourages new or inexperienced paddlers to give dragon boating a try by offering two (2) free sessions (including personalized coaching) to anyone interested in paddling. Membership in the club is only required if a paddler decides to continue after the introductory sessions, so there’s nothing to lose! However, most new paddlers end up joining the club after their first experience on the water. It’s just that addicting . . .

For more information on the WCDBC, please check out their website at windycitydragons.com or send an email to windycitydragons@gmail.com to request your first free introductory session!

Black Dragons St Charles Close-up

Illinois Whitewater Festival

The Illinois Whitewater Festival was held on July 17th and 18th in Yorkville, IL. Events included a cardboard regatta, slalom race, boatercross competition, film festival, and live music. A rib fest with beverages rounded out a great time by spectators and participants. Highlight was the Chicago Whitewater Association Buttercup that drew 53 paddlers in 10 classes making 123 runs down the slalom course.

Wisconsin Canoe Symposium

Wisconsin Canoe Symposium

By Paul Klonowski



The Wisconsin Canoe Symposium was a great success!  More than 30 people attended this event, and a lot of learning happened, for beginners and some pretty seasoned canoeists as well.  Beyond that, a lot of friendships were created, and a whole lot of fun was had!  This was held at Pine Lake Camp near Westfield, Wisconsin, about an hour’s drive north of Madison.  Hotel-style accommodations, bunkhouses, and tent/RV camping were all available.


You might think that after 5 hours of instruction on Friday, people might be tired?  No…  It was time for the Giant Schlalom Race, in which canoeists paddle through a designated slalom course.  Penalties for hitting (or missing) gates were… um… ignored.  More than fifteen canoes (solo and tandem) competed in this intentionally silly excuse for competition, including a tandem team in costume – one in a gorilla suit, the other in a horse’s head mask. Another tandem team featured PFD Man wearing PFDs all over his body, including one upside down like a diaper!  The competition was won by Team Minnesota’s Mike Venero, with Marc Ornstein from New York coming in a close second…  The Coveted and Fabulous First Prize was a 4-pack of Sprecher’s Root Beer!  OOOOOooohhhhh!


After the competition was over, two people took out the camp’s 29-foot “war canoe,” and attempted to run the slalom course.  It was tough, but they managed well enough to secure last place.


The weather Saturday morning was a bit challenging, with a stiff wind that couldn’t decide which direction to blow.  The lake was small enough that we could paddle across to the wind shadows, and instruction could continue.  By lunch time, the wind started to settle in, so classes became a bit more focused.  One of the Saturday classes was “Creekin’ FreeStyle,” for people who already know a few (or more) FS maneuvers, and want to learn to apply them in moving water situations.  The Mecan River provided a grand venue for this — people came back with big smiles!


Saturday evening featured an interpretive Freestyle Canoe Exhibition, in which advanced FreeStylers paddled their canoes to music, either in pre-arranged routines or “flashed” routines which are not pre-planned.  The audience again included Symposium attendees, as well as people from the camp staff and visitors, and was well-received.   It’s amazing what some people can do with a canoe…


After the Exhibition, people again took the camp’s 29-foot “war canoe” out on the lake.  The team included four individuals, all skilled paddlers…  This turned into many attempts to execute FreeStyle Maneuvers… in this 29-foot canoe.  Believe it or not, it worked!   You’ll have to come out next year to see it for yourself…


As the daylight faded, the Candlelight Paddling began. Glow Sticks in milk jugs provided colorful “mood lighting” on the water, and battery-operated tea lights, as well as bicycle lights, adorned many canoe decks. Several of the camp’s visitors from another group joined the fun!


The Sunday Morning classes wrapped up the event, followed by lunch in the dining hall.  Participants were busily exchanging contact info, and asking each other if they were planning to come back next year.  Imagine this…  the participants were deciding to come back next year, and the organizers still didn’t know if it would happen!  But an after lunch meeting with camp staff settled it — Father’s Day Weekend 2016 will be the next Wisconsin Canoe Symposium!


As my Uncle Don used to say, “A great time was there to be had.  If you missed it, it’s your own damn fault!”