Dispatch 2 [2018]

05/20/18 AT 14:56:27

Please review Dispatch #1 for important dates and times. 

Also, please review your roster entry here: ;

Make sure you have a valid boat number.  Make sure your partner or partners or get signed up asap.

If you are unable to race for any reason it is not necessary to let us know.  We will leave you on the roster until the mandatory pre-race safety meeting where we determine who actually has shown up. 

For this Dispatch, we are focusing on some basic Missouri River paddling info for those who have not yet had the experience or are relatively new to the race.

Moving water is very different from the lake or bay training you may have done.  It's our hope that you will get a chance to get out on the river prior to the race.  For those who are travelling from far away, we know that this is not always possible. 


Paddling with current is fun and makes the miles go by.  It does require a bit more anticipation and attention.  You never want you or your boat to be caught between moving water and a fixed object.  Fixed objects in the Missouri River include bridges, rock dikes, navigation buoys, downed trees and other random structures.  When approaching any object, give yourself plenty of time and room to steer clear.  It's never a good idea to be close to any of these things as sudden shifting currents can push or pull you into the object at the last second.

When landing your boat at a ramp or riprap (rock covered shoreline) or a sandbar in current it's important to pass the spot you want to land and then approach it from downstream.  This gives you control of the speed of approach and ensures you will not be in a position to have the current controlling you. 

On a windy day the current can affect you a few different ways.  If the wind is at your back, that's great!  You'll gain speed.  But because you're moving with the wind it can feel like there is no breeze at all and you'll feel quite hot.  Then the river bends the other way and you can have a stiff breeze in your face but you'll slow down.  And if the wind is very strong and moving against the current, the water can stack up and form some pretty formidable waves if the winds are sustained.  For lake and bay paddlers, you already know what this looks like.  Every paddler is required to wear a PFD and all paddlers should have a means of bailing water from your canoe or kayak and should also have experience with self rescue if your find yourself out of the boat. 

Self rescue can be practiced on a nice calm day in your favorite flatwater lake.  Go to a shallow, sandy spot and exit your boat.  Somewhere that you can stand up if needed.  Now pretend you can't touch and try to get back into your flooded canoe or kayak.  This is a good skill for any paddler to master.

All of this will become apparent to you flatwater paddlers after you've been out there an hour.  If anything, you'll be wishing the current was faster.  When you're out there in it, there is little sense that the water is moving at all until you look at shore and see it whipping by. 

Navigation Markers

The river has a fairly thorough system of navigation/channel markers built for the barge industry to avoid running aground.  They can also be handy for paddlers looking to stay in the fast water OR looking to get out of the channel so a barge can pass.  Here's a great MR340 Paddler video to explain more.

And to go along with navigation, here's the Chris Luedke video on buoys.

Barges and Sand Dredges

Speaking of barges, you will see them out there for sure.  Some are doing a short run from a sand dredge over to shore and back.  Others may be moving grain from Omaha to the Gulf of Mexico for transport all over the world.  Our job is to stay out of their way.  Which isn't so hard if you understand the navigation channel (see above video) and can make sure you're not in the channel when the barge passes. 

It's also important to be predictable.  Ever drive down the road and watch a squirrel go left, then right, then left, then right?  Get a plan and demonstrably execute it so the captain knows your intentions.

Chris Luedke's MR340 Paddler Channel has an excellent video to explain Barge and Dredge cautions.

Barges at night

Sometimes a towboat will be pushing barges at night to keep a schedule.  This is more likely to be a boat pushing upstream as they have more control.  A downstream boat is more likely to pull over at night but not always. 

Either way, the rules are the same as daylight.  Be decisive and get out of the channel.  We've met with a towboat captain who will likely be out there somewhere that week.  We explained that there was confusion last year when he would shine his light to where he hoped the paddlers would go.  Some thought he was shining it where he intended to go and so they went the other way.  He is more likely this year to shine his light for the channel marker where he is headed. 

We will be communicating with the tow captains and sharing that information via text with paddlers and ground crews regarding barge plans for the day and night.  Safety boats will also have a good idea of the towboat itineraries for the day and night.  If conditions allow, we might also have a safety boat out in front of a barge clearing a path for him and letting paddlers know which way to go. 

Our relationship with the industry is quite good and they support the event.  We support their hard work in moving goods up and down the inland waterways.  With good communication and awareness, it's a very minor challenge that week and we don't anticipate you'll have any problems.

Storms On The River

Seems like we always get a little rain and a little lightning.  Some years we get a big storm that becomes everyone's favorite story to tell.  But with the race course being so long and the racers so spread out over miles and miles, no two people will experience the same weather or storm.  The responsibility is on you and your ground crew (physical or virtual) to know the weather that is ahead, to check radar and to have aboard your boat whatever you would need to survive a storm layover of hours.

Another good Luedke video, this one on storms...

Ground Crews (Virtual and Physical)

All boats must have a ground crew that is responsible for knowing where they are and when they are expected to arrive.  This can be either a physically present ground crew that helps you with food and supplies or a virtual ground crew that is back at home keeping tabs on you via text message.

A physical ground crew is obvious.  They wave to you at the start and then they drive to the next place you tell them to meet you.  So let's say you agreed to meet at Napoleon for a quick stop and to get liquids and food.  You told them you thought you'd be there at noon.  Well, a storm comes along and you pull over a for awhile and now it looks like you may not get there until 2pm.  You might turn on your phone and send a quick text so they don't worry.  Then they see you at 2pm where you develop a new plan.  You will be meet them at Waverly at 8pm.  And so on all the way to St. Charles.  If you're ever significantly late to a rendezvous and they don't hear from you, they then would call our safety number and let us know that you left Point A at this time and were expected at Point B by this time and we would send a safety boat to look. 

With a virtual ground crew, it's a similar setup.  When you arrive at a planned location you would send them a text letting them know you made it and where you plan to go next.  Their job is to track you via these text messages and make sure they are hearing from you on a consistent basis.  If you go dark on them they would call us with where they last heard from you and where you were headed. 

Checking in at Checkpoints

Our safety system depends on paddlers checking in and out of required checkpoints.  This is done via text message. There are even some apps developed by RaceOwl now that will help make sending this text very simple.  RaceOwl is the tracking service we use for the MR340. 

When you reach or pass a checkpoint, you activate your phone and send the text.  With the RaceOwl and Jon Marble apps, this is as easy as choosing the checkpoint from a drop down menu, hitting IN or OUT and then send.  The text is then automatically sent to RaceOwl and your progress is tracked in the system.  When a checkpoint closes, we look to see who HAS NOT checked in and then we start calling their ground crews for information.  This safety plan has worked very well over the years.  Checking in is your responsibility and is essential.  If your phone dies or you don't have a signal, talk to a safety boat at the checkpoint or any of our yellow clad volunteers.  We will help!  Or ask another paddler or ground crew if you can use their phone. 

If you withdraw from the race at a checkpoint you must also notify us via text.  The apps have this option or you can send a regular text to the RaceOwl number to include your boat number and DNF (did not finish). 

We will go into more details regarding the process for these texts as the race grows closer.  We just want you to have some clarity on how it works.


We partner with many charities and non profits who make the 340 possible!  Thanks to and we are raffling an Epic V7 and two Llama Racks to 3 lucky winners.  Limited to the first 300 tickets.  More information here: Quote Modify Remove

Thanks to Chris Luedke for all his hard work on the MR340 Paddler Channel.  Get a head start on future dispatches by visiting and viewing his channel often!

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