It’s obvious that the folks who organize the Snake River Canoe Race have been doing it for a while. Saturday’s race, the thirty-second annual, was well-organized, yet relaxed. Things ran smoothly, and everyone seemed to have a good time.
The Snake River is one of the major tributaries of the St. Croix. It flows about 100 miles from Aitkin County to its mouth near Pine City. It’s a beautiful and mostly wild river deserving of celebration in the spring.
I paddled the race with my buddy Slim — it was our first canoe race, and our first time paddling on the Snake River. I also borrowed a GoPro camera, which is a nearly indestructible digital video camera made for capturing extreme sports … or relatively sedate river cruises. Check out the video I put together below.
There were 176 canoes entered in the race, from hardcore racers in their skinny specialized canoes to many people from the area (and beyond) paddling aluminum canoes. Racers start six at a time from the County Highway 3 bridge, at one-minute intervals. We then paddled downstream about 14 miles to the finish line at the Kanabec History Center.
The fastest time of the day was 1 hour and 57 minutes, posted by Devin Arenz and Dama Henry of the Twin Cities. Two aluminum canoes came in just twenty minutes later and only seven seconds apart: Doug Berg and Keith Canny finished in 2 hours, 17 minutes and 30 seconds, while Lynn Stegeman and Brody Halverson of Mora clocked a time of 2 hours, 17 minutes, 37 seconds.
The nature of canoe racing is you get plenty of time to talk to the people passing you (or who you are passing). We talked to people who had first run the race in the 1980s. There were also more than a few canoes featuring fathers in the stern and 11- or 12-year-old kids in the bow.
The river banks are mostly undeveloped, but we occasionally saw small groups of spectators on the banks. I overheard another paddler saying, “This is the best parade I’ve ever been in.”
The cross-country skiing website SkinnySki made a nice video of last year’s race.