Written by Chris Dixon
African conservationist Baba Dioum once said, “In the end we will conserve only what we love.” This truth is reflected in River Keepers’ motto, “Learn, Sustain, Enjoy.” In keeping with the spirit of these words River Keepers recently hosted the 31st annual Race the Red Canoe and Kayak Race.
As always, when planning outdoor events in the Northlands, you find yourself at the mercy of Mother Nature. The event was postponed twice this year due to fast flowing river conditions. But on July 17th it was finally in full swing with 40 participants, 28 vessels, a few dozen volunteers, and a gaggle of onlookers chomping at the bit to get the races started. Conditions were near-perfect: 75°F and sunny with a breeze just fast enough to confound mosquitoes, at least some of them anyway.
Some competitors came in hopes of victory, while others were here simply to participate in a relaxing evening paddle with like-minded outdoor enthusiasts. But each was building a bond with the river.
As in past years, participants had their choice of 3 different race distances: 1.5, 3.5, or 6 miles. This year the 3.5-mile race was the most popular with 15 of the 28 vessels choosing to compete in that distance. The varied distances are the key feature of the event making it accessible to all competitors.
As the clock approached the 6:30pm start time the lively emcee gave the safety briefing, race rules, and was even successful at thrusting a few “Dad jokes” upon his captive audience. The air-horn sounded and the racers were off, some in a frenzy and some slipping immediately into an easy gear for a comfortable evening paddle.
Fun and fellowship were the immediate objectives of the day, but the larger objective is always the conservation of a vital resource, the Red River itself. Of course events like Race the Red raise funds for conservation efforts, like riparian corridor tree planting and pollution mitigation. But more importantly they foster awareness, and yes, maybe even a sense of love for the river itself and all it has to offer. After all, In the end we will conserve only what we love.
River Keepers would like to thank all our sponsors and volunteers who made the 31st annual Race the Red event possible.