KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The world’s longest nonstop river race is being put on hold because of flooding on the Missouri River.
The MR 340, originally scheduled for July 16-19, will likely be rescheduled for some time this fall. But that could be instrumental in helping communities downstream recover.
Organizers were in this same position in 2011 when flooding forced them to push the July race back to October. Eight years later, they say the Missouri River is once again too dangerous right now for the race.
“I mean, it’s a worldwide draw,” said Scott Mansker, MR 340 director.
For 12 years now, a growing number of paddle boat enthusiasts have launched from Kaw Point in KCK for the MR 340, a 340-mile paddle boat race down the Missouri River.
“There are no dams, no portages. It’s just a wide-open river from here to St. Charles, Missouri,” Mansker said.
But this year, the river is dangerously high.
“Last year was the highest water we had ever for the 340. It was 95,000 cubic feet here at Kansas City,” Mansker said. “What you’re seeing right now is 260,000 cubic feet.”
He said it would be impossible for participants to safely navigate the water after weeks of heavy rains.
That poses a problem if paddlers were to hit rocky weather and have just minutes to get to shore.
“Typically, when you race, there’s 10 feet of bank where you can pull up anywhere, get out of your boat easily and wait out a storm, wind or fog,” Mansker said. “But right now we just don’t have that.”
John Boren was looking forward to his first MR 340.
“For old guys like me, you need something to keep you motivated,” the 59-year-old said.
He’s disappointed the race is being pushed back. But his concerns are more for those directly impacted by flooding.
“This isn’t really affecting anybody but the people downstream that have farms and houses that are flooded, and that’s really the priority here,” he said.
Mansker said communities downstream might be taking a beating right now, but he believes the race — likely to take place in September or October now — will help in the recovery process.
“I mean, we bring 700 racers to town. Plus, probably 1,200-1,400 ground support crews for those racers. And so when we hit a small town, it’s an economic benefit to that town,” he said.
Those that weren’t able to secure a spot in the MR 340 initially might now have a chance to participate, and Mansker said participants who can’t make the rescheduled race can defer their registration until next year.
But for now, while race organizers continue to monitor water levels, Boren is staying the course.
“I get more practice time,” he said. “I guess that’s a good thing.”