Canoe races on two St. Croix tributaries return — with public health precautions

Races for canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards on the Snake and Eau Claire Rivers back on schedule after last year off.




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Snake River Canoe Race, aluminum canoes ready to start, 2018. (Greg Seiz/St. Croix 360)

Races for paddlers are back after being forced to cancel last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. This year, the Snake River and Vatten Paddlar races will have registration limits to keep crowd sizes down, changes to transportation, and other practices.

The races are popular with serious competitors and casual paddlers alike. Despite the restrictions, the events will still bring people together to enjoy wonderful waters.

Snake River

May 1, 2021
Mora, Minn.

Details and registration

The Snake River Canoe Race turned 40 last year — except it was the first year since 1980 without a race. The popular 15-mile downriver race is holding a revised version of the event this year on its traditional first Saturday of May.

The race offers classes for competitive canoeists and the general public, as well as kayaks. There is also a special class for aluminum canoes.


  • Masks are required to be worn by participants at all times except while they are on the river or while eating or drinking refreshments after the race.


  • Registration available Online only at:
  • No race day registration this year.
  • Pick-up of canoe numbers will be available only at the start area and will be self-serve.

Transportation to the start

  • There will be limited bus service for participants to the start. You must reserve your bus seat when you register. Buses will be socially distanced for safety so only registered bus riders will be allowed.
  • If you do not take a bus you will have to make your own transportation arrangements to the start.

Eau Claire River and Lakes

2019 Vatten Paddlar. (Photo courtesy Vatten Paddlar)

July 10, 2021
Barnes, Wis.

Details and registration

The Vatten Paddlar is hosted on the Eau Claire Chain of Lakes, which flow through the Eau Claire River, the uppermost major tributary of the St. Croix. The event is near the town of Barnes, Wis. There are classes for canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards.

The race offers two lengths, one five and one ten miles:

“The 10 Mile Canoe and Kayak Race involves a short segment of fast moving river through various obstacles. It includes two portages and is a great paddle for those with a higher skill level. It does not include rapids. If you want a longer paddle – the 10 Mile Race is a good choice.

​”The 5 Mile Canoe, Kayak and SUP Race is perfect for individuals and families who want to enjoy the event in a shorter version. It includes one portage (assistance will be available for those requesting it.) It does not include rapids. Show up and finish and you will be a winner.”

Map courtesy Vatten Paddlar

Both race routes go past a historic hand-operated lock-and-dam between Middle and Lower Eau Claire Lakes, where a short portage will be necessary. The lock is a slow process and would cause a traffic jam for paddlers trying to use it. There is another portage for 10-mile racers between the upper and middle lakes.

The event is co-sponsored by the Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Museum and Robinson Lake Resort.


The St. Croix Fatcat Triathlon, which features paddling down the St. Croix River as well as biking and running, will not take place this year. Organizers with the Marine-Scandia Lions recently announced it is off:

“I’m writing again with unfortunate news – there will be no St Croix Fat Cat Triathlon in 2021. I KNOW so many of you are will be disappointed and trust me I am as well. You know that we are 100% volunteer run organization so please understand that between all that has gone on in 2020 it is just too taxing, at least for our group, to put on the type of event we are proud of. We typically would have begun planning months ago, but with continued uncertainties that just was not possible. We’ll report later on the future of this event and thank you for your past support, Ross”


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Canoe races on two St. Croix tributaries return — with public health precautions