ST. CHARLES, MO (KTVI) - Flooding on the Missouri River has forced a delay for a big event that's brought Missouri worldwide recognition: The MR340 river race from Kansas City to St. Charles.
It's billed as the world's largest, non-stop river race for canoers and kayakers.
Competitors come from 20 states and 3 countries.
A record 400 boats with more than 600 paddlers were supposed to be on their way Tuesday.
They were to begin arriving at the finish line at the Lewis & Clark Boat House on the St. Charles riverfront 36-88 hours after the 9th annual race began.
But with several points along the 340 mile route at, approaching, or beyond flood stage, and too many river hazards paddlers would normally see were hidden under the water.
So, organizers made the gut-wrenching call to push the event back until August 12th.
The race raises money for river preservation groups, like Missouri River Relief, which gets $5,000-$10,000 each year from the MR340; money which helps Missouri River Relief in its mission.
“Let’s get people on the river. Let’s get them engaged and start to understand this amazing resource we have through direct experience. There is no more direct experience than spending 3, wet, muddy, wonderful, beautiful, horrible, days on the river paddling,” said Steve Schnarr of Missouri River Relief. “[In world of paddle racing] the MR340 is it. It’s the big one.”
“50% of all Missourians get their water from this river. It’s a precious resource. We want to help the groups that preserve and protect our river,” said Ann Dettmer of the Missouri American Water Company, the event’s chief sponsor.
“Even just the last mile here with the birds flying over and the sun coming up and the bridges, just a very, very, cool way to end this race. I hope it’s always preserved for people who want to enjoy it,” said Robyn Benincasa after winning the 2012 race in the women’s solo category.
“[The river’s] not safe. We have 600 people who are going to get in this river. Safety’s got to be paramount,” Dettmer said.
Despite the delay, the Lewis and Clark Boathouse will continue plans for post-race parties and barbecues on the riverbank this Thursday and Friday.
Missouri American Water is also sponsoring free admission to the museum there for the 2 days.
Since the race is non-stop, paddlers rely on moonlight to guide them through the night. So, the race always coincides with the approach of a full moon. The race is now set for the next full moon: August 12th – 15th.
The race also benefits the Healthy Rivers Partnership in Kansas City and the Lewis and Clark Nature Center and Boathouse.