Thedford — Nebraska has more miles of river than any state in the nation. Tanking on Nebraska’s rivers is the state’s original water sport, with kayaking, tubing and canoeing enjoyed as well.
To celebrate the state’s waterways, the Sandhills River Trips and Sandhills Scenic Journey Byway have teamed up to host the inaugural Hills 2 Forest Middle Loup Kayak Race on Sept. 14.
“The race is 33 miles, which seems long, but compared to other kayak races, is shorter than most,” said Cay Ewoldt, owner of Sandhills River Trips. “My wife, Stephanie, and I have been tossing this around for several years, and when the Byway members approached us about the possibility of doing a race, we felt now was a good time to take the plunge.”
Details and registration can be found at Eventbrite. The cost is $60 and includes a T-shirt, goodie bag, meal after the race and awards. Both the Roadside Inn, Thedford, and Halsey Frontier Inn have set a special room rate for that weekend.
The race will begin between Seneca and Thedford and end past the Nebraska National Forest office.
For the inaugural race, keeping it simple is key for the organizers. Divisions are between men and women, kayaks and canoes can be entered. For those not wanting to race, they can still enjoy the river and get out at two different check points — one after two hours and one after four, cost is the same.
“There is one portage needed, meaning one must get out of the river with their vessel and walk around a low bridge. The Middle Loup, after the Dismal River, is the fastest flowing river in the state. It will be a challenge with the trees, bends and for those that are racing, the final few miles will be the most challenging.
Competitors will have to catch the channel after the river widens and becomes shallower or they will end up dragging their kayak or canoe a lot.
“Many veteran kayak racers consider this a great challenge and hope to make it,” Ewoldt said.
Pre-registration will be from 5-9 p.m. Sept. 13 at the Thedford Art Gallery. On Friday, the Scenic Byway organization is hosting a tailgate party 30 miles east of Thedford to welcome the racers while they watch the Sandhills-Thedford eight-man football team in its homecoming game at Dunning.
Linda Teahon, SJSB director is hosting the event at her lodging offering, Brando’s Bunkhouse, west of the football field. Signing up on Friday will allow the racers to sleep in as Saturday’s registration will begin at 6:30 a.m. and kayaks and canoes will be put in at 7:30 a.m.
Sponsors for the inaugural race are Thomas County Visitor’s Committee, Consolidated Telephone, Sandhills Motel & Glidden Canoe Rental, Security 1st Bank, State 4-H Camp and KBEAR Radio. For more information, call SJSB office 308-546-0636, Ewoldt’s Grocery at 308-645-2235, email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. To assure your T-shirt size, register ASAP. For those not racing that want a T-shirt or a place at the evening meal at the State 4-H Lodge, the cost is $15, which can also can be paid via Eventbrite.