River race moved away from flooding

An expected summer of flooding on the Missouri River has prompted organizers of an annual 340-mile adventure race to shorten the course and move it west.

The Missouri River 340 canoe and kayak race usually begins in Kansas City, Kan., and heads east to St. Charles, Mo. But race organizers are taking no chances with the heavy rainfall and melting snow that is already causing flooding on the river.

The Columbia Missourian reports that the race from July 19-22 will move to the Kansas River and cover 150 miles rather than the longer distance.

Event organizer Scott Mansker said the U.S. Coast Guard requires the river to be below flood stage before issuing a permit. The revised race will start in Manhattan, Kan., and finish at Kaw Point.

“We were looking at not having a race, period,” he said. “We’re hearing from all sides that the Missouri (River) will be unusable in August and that September would be marginal. September is an unsafe time to have a race anyway, though, because of temperatures and darkness.”

“The river is going to be well above the tree line for months,” Mansker added. “If you have 400 boats on the water and there’s nowhere to land in sight, and there’s a storm, then there’s no place to pull off.”

While the race will cover less than half the anticipated distance, participants can expect a more rigorous route on a river with a shallow bed and slower current, Mansker said. The route on the Kansas River, which is also known as the Kaw, features sections over which racers have to carry their kayaks.

“On the Missouri, you can eat a sandwich and drink a Coke and still float along at three miles per hour,” he said. “On the Kaw, you have to earn that distance. It’s going to take a different kind of paddler to win this race.”

The race, entering its sixth year, attracts both Olympic-level paddlers and weekend warriors.

Linda LaFontaine, 60, described watching eagles, river otters and other migratory birds while paddling with her partner beneath the stars.

“It was magical,” she said. “The fact that it was on the Missouri River made it really special.”

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