The 2019 Missouri River 340 mile "MR340" kayak/canoe race has been delayed until September or even October due to expected historic flooding.
The paddlers of 551 boats: canoes, kayaks, stand up paddle boards and various other paddle craft have just let out a collective groan over the scramble to adjust vacation, budget, ground crews & house sitters. All without knowing a final date for the race--which will be when the river levels finally drop.
We were lucky enough to participate in the 2011 MR race that was delayed until October because of the flooding that year.
Shorter days but no energy draining heat.
And the Autumn colors on the Missouri River was a nice bonus.
In the 2011 delayed race, an autumn storm off of the Great Plains brought gusty winds. When the wind was behind us, our boats were pushed to crazy speeds. My GPS shows 8.5 MPH. That is after I slowed down to unpack my camera and take the photo.
However no good thing lasts forever. As the Missouri River twisted in its serpentine route, we were alternately hit with the same winds from the side and then had to paddle into the gusty winds.
Our sleek Epic and QCC kayaks passed ALOT of people struggling to paddle into those winds.
Pre dawn preparations on race day.
Excitement building, beautiful river!
The 2019 delay
Email from Scott the MR340 race promoter:
As many of you are painfully aware, there has been massive flooding along the Missouri River this spring. Homes and farms have been wiped out along with roads, bridges and other infrastructure. It has been one of the wettest springs on record with many places receiving a year's worth of rain already and it's only June. This will surely be, at minimum, the second greatest runoff event in the 121 year history or record keeping. Second only to 2011. For those that remember 2011, you know that recovery takes a significant amount of time and resources. Many farms and communities have yet to fully recover from 2011 and are now back under water.
As part of flood control, the United States Army Corps of Engineers has used area lakes and reservoirs to store water so that flood impacts are less severe. This means that these lakes are now at maximum capacity and will have to be drained in as safe a manner as possible to provide additional flood control through the summer. They have simply run out of room.
Draining these lakes means the river will be high throughout the summer even if there is no more significant rain. The lakes are so high, that special criteria has been set for releases. Currently, they are allowed to maintain a 180,000 flow at Waverly. That's twice what we've ever raced at before. This means a river up into the treeline for great portions of the race course. A dangerous proposition providing no way for paddlers to exit the river safely. The predict several weeks (at minimum all of June and July) between 180,000 to 160,000 before the lakes are at acceptable levels.
The Missouri below the Osage River is in similar peril with Truman Lake reaching a new record high a few days ago and all the lakes upstream of Truman also in near maximum storage. It will takes months to get this water out. So all the towns like Chamois, Hermann, New Haven and Washington will have to deal with the extreme Kansas River water AND the Osage River as well.
Thus, it pains us to say that July will not be possible for the MR340. The river will still be in a dangerous condition with flood stage over a great portion of the lower river. We are working with the Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard and Missouri Water Patrol to identify a time later in the summer or early fall for the 14th Annual Missouri River 340. As you know from registration, August 12-15 are the primary make up dates. Current models suggest that this may also be flood stage on the river as the lakes continue to empty. We have been advised by the Corps of Engineers that the chance of a river safely below flood stage in mid-August is unlikely. As a backup to this we have also arranged for September 10-13 and October 15-18 as additional dates. Our intention is to go with the earliest date that provides a better than average chance for a safe river. It is too soon to make a call on August at this time. Each day that passes gives a clearer picture.
We have raced in August many times and that would be the preference. September is generally nice weather and that would be our second choice.
In 2011, the year with the largest and longest flooding on record, the MR340 was held in October. The race went well and for many of the folks that raced, it has been their favorite MR340. Cool temperatures, fall colors, fewer bugs, etc. However, it means longer nights and the chance of some very wet and cold weather. Racer and ground crew preparation for cold conditions would be important.
We wanted to get the word out as early as possible so that you could minimize impacts for your vacation schedule and planning. Once we've made a decision about August vs. September every racer will receive an email with instructions on how to proceed. Like in the previous flood delay years, there will be the option to either race on the new date or defer your entry to 2020.
We know this is extremely disappointing and creates a lot of work for you as you plan for August or September. We are also disappointed and stressed by the extra planning required. But mostly, we're sad that the river is a mess for so many people who are impacted in far greater ways than a scheduling inconvenience. This is, for many folks, worse than 2011 with higher crests and more damage.
The Corps issues a 3 week river forecast every day and updates their long range projections. We are in constant phone and email contact with some great folks in the Water Management Division. They are followers of the race and many have competed. They are helping us and rooting for us. One guy I talked to today said, "Boy, we've got to get that race in this year." I agree completely. When we race it will be some good news for a river that has had very little good news this year.
We will keep you updated via weekly emails and will be making the decision about the August vs. September date as quickly as possible. I think we would know by July 1st. I know that this gray area of August or September is difficult. This is, at this point, a math problem. All that water has to get to the Gulf and it all has to go through St. Charles to do it. Thankfully, we can do the math and each day the picture gets clearer on August. We should know by the July 1st release schedule if August if worth trying. If the numbers merit, we will proceed for August. If not, we will plan an amazing September race. MR340 people are resilient and tough. Thanks for your flexibility and patience. We will get out on the river this season and it will be the great adventure that it always is. Looking forward to seeing everyone at the safety meeting in Kansas City soon.
Pulling into the checkpoint at Jefferson City Missouri
Back on the river, autumn colors!
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