Hello MR340 friends!
This is the second email dispatch in a series that you will receive leading up to the 18th Annual Missouri American Water MR340. Thank you all for your amazing fundraising for Missouri River Relief! All fundraiser links will remain open through the end of the year, so feel free to continue to share on social media and among friends and family. We’ll continue to send out fun perks for those of you who reach certain fundraising tiers. If you haven’t yet, check out the Leaderboard to find out about the amazing offer from Llama Racks for racers who raise $1500 or more.
You and Your Boat
Double-check the Roster! If you don’t have a boat number listed it simply means your number selection was already taken when you registered. To select a unique number, use Ctrl-F to search on the roster page for a number not already in use. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to update. Or just let me know if you want me to pick one for you. If you see a “TBD” listed in your boat on the roster, it means you have a partner who isn’t registered. Send them to the registration page and have them include the same boat number and team name as they sign up so we can match them up with you.
Please print and legibly complete your 2023 race waiver. Bring it to Kaw Point and drop off during Pre-Race Check-In on Monday 7/31/23. We will have some blank ones there if you forget, but it will save you time to bring yours with you. One waiver per paddler per boat. Once you have read all racer dispatches and have watched the 2023 Safety Video (we’re working on that and will let you know when it’s ready for you to view), be sure to initial the top of your waiver indicating you’ve done these things. Also include your boat number in the upper right. Read it all and fill it out appropriately.
Pre-Race Check-In at Kaw Point
Check-in at Kaw Point on 7/31/23 is mandatory for all racers. We’ll be there from noon to 8pm for you to go through the Check-In process. You’ll turn in your waiver, pick up your t-shirt, and grab a required safety card with safety info you’ll keep in your boat (we’ll have some printed on waterproof paper for you). You’ll double-check all of your contact and race info with us and provide any last-minute edits. Chat with some of our race sponsors that will be available, load up on some MR340 and Missouri River Relief merch at our big merch tent, and get your last minute RaceOwl questions answered. You’ll have your first official Checkpoint check-in via RaceOwl at Kaw Point during this time. More RaceOwl info coming in a future dispatch.
You are welcome to drop off your empty boat during Check-In. This is also a good time to check out the Kansas River and available bank space to launch the next morning. We will have folks at Kaw Point Park all night keeping an eye on things. Leave your empty boat at your own risk, but we’ve never had any issues with this. Then bring your paddles and other race gear and supplies the morning of race start. It’ll make your early morning arrival for the race a lot easier. We’ll have specific parking info available for you in an upcoming dispatch.
The reason we say the MR340 is non-stop is because there are no required stops along the course. Once you leave Kaw Point in Kansas City at race start, you aren’t required to stop anywhere until the finish line in St Charles. Is it realistic to not stop anywhere? Nope, it’s not! And it doesn’t mean your best approach is going to be to load up you and your partner in a canoe with all of your food, water, gear, and supplies needed for multiple days and nights. No, no... The Reaper can smell these boats miles away. What this really means is you can make some best choices for what works easiest for you and your ground crew to meet.
Are there other ramps besides the Checkpoints and Paddlestops? You bet. Find the Google map with all available access noted, and a full list of each ramp here. Share with your ground crew. You have options out there.
Speaking of ramps. You are going to be joined by hundreds of other racers on the Missouri River, and you all will look amazing out there in your boats, connecting with this big and beautiful waterway. And though the river is big and there is plenty of room for you all on it, each boat ramp along the course is the size of, well, a boat ramp.
Keeping the ramps clear is especially important from Kansas City to Glasgow where the race pack is most clumped up. There is a steady stream of boats trying to land at Waverly, Miami, and Glasgow. So, if you stop at these places, be quick to exit your boat and get your ground crew's help to then carry it up and ideally off the ramp so the next boat can land. If you’re in a team boat that is not easily manageable for getting up and off the ramp, find a piece of bank that works best for you and your crew that doesn’t block the space where ramp meets water. We will have volunteers to guide you at Checkpoints and Paddlestops. Once you're up and out of the way, you can work on your boat, resupply, etc.
Ramps need to be kept open for access by local recreational boaters and, most importantly, emergency response teams. We share the river and ramps with lots of other people, many of which consider their local ramp to be their backyard. We can help build goodwill amongst the river community by being respectful and not hogging the ramp. We know…you’re exhausted, you think you’ll only stop for five minutes or whatever… but there’s too many of us to leave boats on the ramp or blocking the trailer back-in lanes.
Knowledge is Power
Depending on the year, up to a third of all racers will not see the finish line in St. Charles. There are a number of reasons for this, but if finishing is your goal, you still have time to learn as much as you can about what to expect and how you want to plan. We have Chris Luedke’s YouTube channel and a couple other resources you might want to check out here.
Getting Familiar with the Missouri River
We touched on this a little before, but I want to mention it again. If you live near the Missouri River and have the time to get familiar with how to navigate on water, you don’t have to do it alone. Area races are good way to get familiar with navigation, and our River Race Calendar has some listed. You can also connect with other paddlers in your area on the MR340 Facebook Group to set up some training runs.
These are rock structures jutting out into the current. They are installed to artificially narrow the flow of the river so that it is deeper and faster for barge traffic. It's possible these will be mostly underwater during our high-water years, but there will undoubtedly be places where the water is flowing over the top or around the tip of these and making noise. You'll see the turbulence easily during the day, but at night, use your ears and be sure you're staying in the channel.
Luckily, bridges are easily seen for a couple miles before you get to them. They have lights set in such a way that a red light indicates a pier or a no-go space and a green light indicates the clear path. However, the piers at night have given paddlers trouble from time to time due to the turbulent water around them. And sometimes there are rafts of logs pinned to these that make it worse. But the green light is dead center over the navigable span between piers and so going right under this light is a nearly sure bet. But it is always a good idea to approach with caution and use your flashlight to verify.
Navigating Channel Markers
Knowing where the channel is located not only helps you stay in the best water for your race, it helps you know where the barge traffic has to operate. By knowing where barges must operate, you can predict where they will go and then know how to stay out of their way. A barge can only operate in the channel. You in a little kayak or canoe can navigate outside of that channel.
The channel will often stick to the outside of a bend and slowly cross to the other side of the river near the outside of another bend. The channel moves throughout the width of the river. So how do you know where it's at? There are a variety of clues, but the easiest way to know is to learn how to interpret channel markers (also referred to as day markers). These are signs you will see on the banks with symbols indicating the channel staying along that side of the river or crossing. These markers are also reflective and can be picked up with your flashlight at night. Steve Schnarr, Director of Missouri River Relief, gives a good explanation of these markers and how to use them in the 2022 Safety Video (25-minute mark).
These giant 7ft steel tubes painted either green (called cans) or red (called nuns) mark the right "starboard" and left "port" descending channel. They are anchored in the river to mark the edges of the channel. We generally don't have to worry about which side of this warning to be on as our boats are only drafting inches deep, not 6 to 9 feet like barges. Again, they come in handy when you encounter an actual moving barge because it shows you where the barge MUST go and then you know where to NOT go. At night, these are easily heard and when you hear one, shine your light. They have reflective tape and stand out well. Swing away because hitting one is not as exciting as it might seem. They outweigh your boat 50 to 1 and often have logs and other debris pinned to them that is tough to see in the dark.
Barges and Dredges
You will likely see barge traffic a few times during your race. Knowing how navigation on the Missouri River works will enable you to know where barges have to operate and therefore the safest areas for you to be when you encounter barges. Dredges have some of their own unique features that you need to be aware of too. Please read up on the Barges and Dredges info we have on the website and check out another one of the videos from Chris Luedke we have linked there on the same page.
If you have any updates you need to communicate about you or your boat, or if you can’t find an answer on our website to a race question you might have, send me an email.
We’re looking forward to seeing you all in a little over two months - oh my!