Snake River Race in Seven Steps

While it's weird to think about paddling in two weeks when there is a fresh six inches of snow on the ground, all that shoveling should be good training for the Snake River Canoe Race, right?

I did the event for the first time in 2012. As a newbie, it was a bit of a mystery how it all worked, but afterwards I remember being impressed by how smoothly everything ran.

Note: If at all possible, register in advance. It will make everyone's life easier on race day (and save you $20).

Here are the basics:

1. Start at the Finish

Drive to the Kanabec County History Center in Mora, Minnesota. That's where the finish line is located. You need to be there by 8:30 a.m. at the latest.  There is a large grassy area for parking and you'll see a couple canoe trailers being loaded.

Park your car and get your canoe over to the trailers, where it will be loaded up and brought to the starting line. Grab the rest of your gear (including your paddle and PFD) and head over to the shuttle bus stop for your own ride upriver.

2. Ditch Rendezvous

The bus will drop you off near the highway bridge that marks the starting line. There will be dozens of canoes in the ditch, and your own should soon arrive on a trailer. Keep an eye out for it and go get it, but be careful on the side of the road.

Stash your boat in the grassy ditch and go sign in.

3. Get Your Number

On the south (downstream) side of the bridge, right across from the ditch staging area, registration tables will be located down a short driveway. Walk over there (be careful crossing the road!) and you'll be given your race numbers on large stickers.

4. Get Ready

Return to your boat, apply your numbers to the bow, and get ready to go. Organize your boat, put on your PFD, chat with the other participants who are nearby. I thought this was a fun part of the day, with a relaxed feeling of anticipation and lots of camaraderie.

5. Set

When you're ready, grab your canoe and start moving toward the river. There may be a line, depending on when you go. There will be a couple very helpful gentlemen in chest waders standing in the river near at least two points where you can get on the water.

When we put in, there were a couple dozen canoes drifting around behind the start. Slowly find your way toward the bridge.

6. Go!

Racers start in one-minute intervals, six at a time. Six ropes with metal rings will be hanging down from the bridge, have your stern paddler hold onto one and wait for the starting gun. When it goes off... paddle!

7. Follow the river

The first mile or so is particularly narrow and winding, which is fun because it's also when there are the most other canoes around. Cut those corners close, but be courteous, too. Everyone's looking to get to the same place.

You'll pass under a bridge about four miles into the 14-mile course. When you go under a second bridge, you'll have a half-mile to go.

There will be helpful gentlemen waiting past the finish line to help you land your canoe and get out. Clear the area and go grab some food from the concession tent.

Congratulations, you've just done a canoe race two weeks after a major snowfall, you're a true Minnesotan.

Go here for a Google Map of the course: http://goo.gl/maps/4KR78

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