Table of Contents
You’ll arrive at Kaw Point the day before the race to 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 the race sponsors that will be available, load up on some MR340 and Missouri River Relief merch at our 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.
You are welcome to drop off your empty boat during Check-In. We will have folks at Kaw Point Park all night keeping an eye on things. Leave at your own risk, but we’ve never had any issues either. 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. This is also a good time to check out the Kansas River and available bank space to launch in the morning.
Pre-Race Check-In Parking at Kaw Point:
Please review the 2-page parking map for Kaw Point Park and the surrounding area to get a plan sorted out with your ground crew ahead of race day. Consider using the Riverfront Heritage Trail to access Kaw Point on foot on race day to avoid parking congestion. Plan to park outside of Kaw Point when all possible. Nothing worse than being stuck in traffic when you want to be stuck in your boat.
Launching into the Kansas River water at Kaw Point prior to your race start time can be quite crowded. We ask that you take care of any boat and body maintenance before getting yourself and your boat near the ramp. Take all your selfies before you get on the ramp, and please request your family and friends not follow you once you begin taking your boat toward the water, unless it's someone who is there to help you carry your boat. Our goal is to get everyone on the water in time for their start.
Do you have to launch from the boat ramp? Nope! Launch from a nearby bank on the Kansas River if you like. If you can do this, it sure saves you time. Once on the water, move upstream on the Kansas River and find a place to park yourself in your boat away from the ramp area while you wait for the race countdown.
Being nervous is normal!
Solos start at 7:00 a.m. All other divisions at 8:00 a.m.
You must be upstream of an imaginary line directly across the river from the boat ramp at race start. Once the countdown for your start is over, you're off!
If you're new to the race, be aware of the confluence cluster. Use the whole mouth of the river as you leave the Kansas River and enter the Missouri. Even better, hang back to watch and feel it out! The water can be very choppy here with all the paddlers and the change in current from one river to the next. The Missouri River will turn your boat downstream (to the right). Give your boat space to avoid collisions with others.
If you find yourself tipped over, try to stay calm with your boat and wait for a safety boat. We will have safety boats here keeping an eye on the start.
[Updated for 2023] This two-page document gives a lot of information on the MR340 Race Course, Checkpoint open and close times, Checkpoint locations, times for moon and sun rise and set and more. Click on the images below to view them in full-screen mode.
Firstly, you are not required to stop anywhere. This is why the MR340 is the world's longest non-stop river race.
You are only required to check in and out at Checkpoints, and that process is completed with the RaceOwl system. Be sure to read all about RaceOwl in the Race Tracking section of our website.
Paddlestops are places where we will have a volunteer and safety boat presence. And sometimes a food vendor available.
You have control over your destiny through training and preparation. Efficient paddling is crucial for those first 74 miles. Minimize wasted time.
By Glasgow, most paddlers have enough time banked up that they aren't worried about cutoff times anymore.
Waverly is the first official Checkpoint this year, river mile 293.5 (74 miles). And this town has two boat ramps. The first is upstream of the bridge, and the second is just downstream. You can choose either one. Both ramps will have restrooms available. If you choose to stop at Waverly, be sure it’s clear with your crew as to which ramp you plan to utilize.
Checking in is a crucial part of the MR340 safety plan. Remember that your first check in will have happened on Monday, the day before race start at Kaw Point. Waverly will then be the second time you officially check in. We will have a couple RaceOwl volunteers at Waverly if you or your ground crew need an extra bit of help to get the hang of it. If you are successfully tracking with RaceOwl, remember you will benefit from the auto check-in/out system process. Another good reason to track - one less thing to do at a Checkpoint.
The Waverly Checkpoint cutoff time is 8:00 p.m. Soloists have 13 hours to get there, and everyone has 12 hours. If you don’t arrive by 8:00 p.m., you are out of the race. Remember – stay efficient, especially for Day 1. The Reaper is the pace boat at the rear of the race which will arrive at the speed needed to meet the 8:00 p.m. cutoff at Waverly (and every other Checkpoint close time along the way). More info on the Reaper in the Safety page. Beat the Reaper.
Waverly will be crazy busy. Some of you will feel a need to hang out or even spend the night at Waverly. Resist that feeling. The park at Waverly has train tracks running through it (and loud, fast trains), and it might well be muggy and buggy. You still have at least another hour of daylight. Have your ground crew refill what you need, make sure you have your navigation lights working on your boat, and grab your nighttime gear you prepared. Maybe you even have a new paddle buddy you have made on the water. Buddy up and take off.
A good spot downstream to get rest is Hill’s Island, about 12 miles from Waverly at river mile 281. The Reaper will overnight here. Racers who stop at Hill’s Island will leave at various times. Watch for others heading out and join their little packs or their spread-out lines of lights down the water. Gain distance from the Reaper. Hill’s Island can be the last time you even see the Reaper. You’re then headed toward your next Checkpoint, Glasgow, river mile 226.
Refer to the Race Course Map (link this) for all Checkpoint deadlines and additional ramp options for meeting your crew. It also includes Reaper Time. Share with your ground crew.
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 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. 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 in the middle of the ramp or blocking the trailer back-in lanes.
This area is unique in that the parking lot is not overlooking the river but is set back a bit. Ground crews - park in the lot and carry what you need to the park. Cars cannot drive to the ramp. The ramp approach is for fishermen to turn around and back down the ramp. We cannot block this. Nor can we block with vehicles or canoes, any access by folks trying to launch boats. This might sound confusing. But it's just a common sense thing once you're out there. Park in marked parking areas or along the road on the way in leaving space for passing. Don't clog roads that lead to the ramp. Walk from marked parking spots.
Again, get your ground crew to help get your boat moved up and off the ramp once you arrive. This is good practice for any ramp along the course (or anywhere else in the world). If your ground crew is waiting on you to arrive, remind them that they can always assist other racers in moving boats before you arrive too. We love all of the helpful ground crews!
Are there other ramps besides Checkpoints and Paddlestops? Yeah! Check out your options: Here is a Google map with all available accesses. Click the Google pin for more info on each location.
You can also view our full list of each ramp along the race course.
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 light to verify.
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.
Barge traffic on the Missouri is minimal but increasing. We will likely see 2 or 3 during race week but potentially more. Some are long haul and travel night and day. Some are short haul and just go a half mile back and forth from a sand dredge. Click here to view 2023 Barge Report.
Sand dredges operate mostly during normal daylight work hours. These are large, noisy, and anchored night and day midstream. You will pass one the first morning. The dredge itself doesn't move, but the cables that anchor it to the bottom will rise and fall out of the water. Keep your distance. The dredges auger up sand from the river bottom for use in construction. The sand is then deposited in sand flats (barges) tied alongside the dredge. As the flat is filled, a small towboat will bring an empty to the other side of the dredge, tie it off, then grab the full one and haul it to shore for offloading. So, if you see a dredge pumping sand, look for the towboat and stay out of their path from shore to dredge and back.
At night, the dredges do not usually operate but they will still be there in the water. They are supposed to leave a light on both ends but you can't count on this as the lights can fail. You'll want to use your eyes and ears and be ready to grab your strong flashlight if needed to light up the river.
The other type of towboat will be pushing 2-3 barges for long distances, running night and day. These are bigger and tend to throw a larger wake if moving upstream with a heavy load. If you see a barge going upstream OR downstream, you need to exit the navigation channel and stay a safe distance away. This can be a good time to tuck behind a wing dike to have a snack and a short rest from the paddle.
Parked barges also require your utmost attention. Sometimes we see a barge with no towboat attached, parked along the river bank. These are almost impossible to see at night because they just look like a shadow along the tree line. Again, these are supposed to have a white light marking them but these can fail or be confused for something else.
We advise folks to stay out towards the middle of the river when paddling at night in part to avoid the goofiness that is in the tree line shadows. The danger of hitting a parked barge is that the raked (sloped) front end makes a dangerous trap for a paddler and if pinned there it's possible to be pulled under. This has never happened during the race because our paddlers are cautious and vigilant and always evaluating the path ahead. But poor visibility is always a possibility due to clouds, rain or fog. Paddling in thick fog is the epitome of bad decision making. You can rely on a gps or chart plotter to keep you on the river, but it cannot see dredges, barges or buoys. In poor visibility, be smart and get off the river and rest your weary bones.
Here's an explainer video about barges from Chris Luedke's 340 Paddler channel:
We strive to have concessions at all the Checkpoints and most Paddlestops. Many of these are non-profit groups that depend on the race for a big chunk of their annual fundraising. We'll be adding to this list as we near race week. Come back for updates! And be sure to remind your ground crew about these options too.
Bring some cash, and tell your crews to do the same. If you have a chance to support these groups at ramps along the way, please do!
It’s not easy to wrap your mind around 340 miles of paddling day in and day out. So don’t! Break it up in sections from ramp to ramp. Are you meeting your crew at Lexington the first day? Plan for Kansas City to Lexington. That’s 50 miles.
What do you need in order to do 50 miles? What is your plan with your crew at Lexington? What are you reloading into the boat at Lexington? When you pull in to Lexington, you and your crew will know your general plan. Assess yourself along the way.
So you made it 50 miles. Over. Forget about it. Your race just started over. Assess. Are you good? Anything causing concern for you? Do you feel like you are up to the next distance before you meet your crew again? If all is well, you’re back at it.
You’ve got 23 miles. Repeat the process.
For a number of racers, something happens in this process that causes them to pause to try to get control over a situation. Maybe it’s a long rest in an air-conditioned car because they are feeling a little too hot for what feels right for them. Maybe it’s something annoying in the boat that needs fixed. Maybe this isn’t what they thought it would be. Maybe it’s more serious. Maybe this is the end of their race.
The consistent assessment of your situation on the water and at ramps with your crew can help you make good decisions about your race. If you’re not feeling confident about the next 23-mile goal for any reason, talk it out. It’s easier to pause at a ramp with your crew to sort it all out than push on and have issues 5 miles later.
If you've made it this far in reading, you're really doing well. You've read through what you need to know for the mandatory Pre-Race Check-In. You know what to expect for Race Day start and navigating into the Missouri River from Kaw Point.
So now what? Well, we don't want to give it all away, but we'll give you a bit of info about what to expect Day 1. Everything in between and all the rest is your adventure.
After you pass the start and clear the upcoming bridges, you’ll eventually get into the rhythm of your first day. You’ll get passed by some boats, and you will pass some boats. Find the pace that feels right for you. It’s a marathon, so you want that sweet spot where you can maintain a steady pace without overdoing it and needing long breaks. You’ll start to notice other boats traveling at your similar speed.
As you get settled into your day you might starting to notice details about your efficiency. Hopefully you have sorted out most of this ahead of time. Here are some things to consider while you can still plan now:
Your physical ground crew’s efficiency becomes your efficiency. Have them approach the race with an on-land plan that can include things like using a cart to haul your refill items to the ramp, being the extra hands to move your boat once you are off the water at a stop, the hands that remove your trash from your boat while you stretch, the extra set of eyes to monitor how much and what you are eating and drinking between stops. Text them ahead of time if you have a special need they can have ready for you.
At this point, you’re paddling along as planned, drinking liquids and eating periodically. If you are in a tandem or team boat, use the buddy system and consistently check on each other. Stay cool by dipping your hat in the river. Be aware of your present location and approximate river mile as you travel along. And be on the lookout for barge traffic.
As you round another bend you see the front end of a barge come in to view. You've read up on barges and sand dredges and you decide to pull out of the channel and wait this barge out from a safe distance. After some wake subsides, you're back in the channel and on your way.
You've already made some plans in advance with your ground crew about your first stop. Keep plans flexible, but at least have one in the first place. Missouri has some great boat ramps and adjacent parks. But the MR340 tends to overwhelm the parking and ramp size, so we all have to work together to keep these places functional. We all have to work together to make sure things go as smoothly as possible.
The big problem tends to be at the bottom of the ramp where folks are landing and launching and repacking boats all in a tight space. We have to leave the bottom of the ramp open so folks can land. So, once you land, have your crew help you get your boat up the ramp to a spot out of the way. Then you have time to work before jumping back in the launch line to get going again. Only the fastest racers will get there early enough to have the ramp to themselves for the ground crew to service the boat at the waterline. The rest of you will be crowded and will need to come up the ramp to a clear spot. Please help this happen.
Once you're back on the water and on your way, you’ll be heading to your first official checkpoint. Waverly, MO is a blessed town in that it has TWO boat ramps. The first is upstream of the bridge. The second is just downstream. You can choose either one. So it's really a preference but you'd want to have worked it out with ground crew ahead of time. Or, have them text you with whichever location they scout that day.
Protocol at a checkpoint is no different. Help keep the ramp clear and be efficient. The difference is that at a checkpoint, you are required to check in electronically using the RaceOwl (link this to Race Tracking) system. If you haven't looked into RaceOwl, be sure you leave plenty of time ahead of the race to figure it out.
The Waverly cutoff time is 8:00 pm. This is 13 hours for the solos and 12 hours for everyone else. If you don't make it there by 8:00 pm, you are out of the race. So efficiency day 1 is super important. One of our safety boats, The Reaper (link to this), acts as a pace boat and will run all day long at precisely the speed needed to make the 8:00 pm cutoff. Hopefully, you never see the Reaper behind you. And we really hope you never see it in front of you. If the Reaper beats you to Waverly, you are out. Plan and train accordingly.
With everyone in by 8:00 pm, it's unlikely we'd have anyone considering spending the night in Waverly. There will be still be about an hour of decent light. It will be hot, muggy and noisy at Waverly. And you've got another cutoff time to beat tomorrow at Glasgow. Better to make some miles in the evening and overnight if the weather and other conditions allow.
Night travel requires navigation lights. Have you read through the Gear section of our site and think you're all set? Good deal!
You'll be surprised by the second wind you get once the sun goes down. You're surrounded by paddlers and with the heat of the day fading, everyone gets a little boost. The moon comes up and you wonder why anyone would ever want to paddle in the daytime. Some of your best miles will come at night. And guess what? The Reaper takes the night off. She usually parks at Hill's Island about 12 miles downstream of Waverly and doesn't pick up your trail again until 6:00am. So, if you paddle most of Tuesday night, odds are you won't see the Reaper again.
So that's a busy day 1. You checked in twice. Once at Kaw Point and once at Waverly. You passed a sand dredge and a barge. You met your ground crew a couple of times. You peed in a bottle a few times with no mishaps. You ate and drank on a good schedule with plenty of electrolytes and food you could tolerate. And you got through the heat of the day and into the night.
By sunrise of day 2 there will be racers from Hills Island (mile 281) to Jeff City (mile 144) - an unbelievable spread. And in the night of Night 2, the first boat will finish and the back of the race will be in Glasgow. A spread of 199 miles from first place to last.
You'll be somewhere in there. The training, research, planning will all be paying off. The mental toughness of gritting through the pain and staying in the boat will your biggest challenge. But along with the bad hours there will be great hours! Second winds that come out of nowhere, and experiences and beautiful views that propel you along to the next Checkpoint.
Talk to yourself and your partner. Stay positive. Say things like, "I got this." "I can do this" Say these things out loud! Play some music that motivates you. Stay with a group that is smiling and laughing and paddling. Veterans of the race will tell you… it's 90% a mental game out there. Maybe more. If you're spending all of the first day saying how much it sucks and maybe I should quit…. well….?
We know it's not easy. It's damn hard. Find that mental grit that gets you there. Imagine there's a long rope from Kaw Point to Waverly and each stroke is you reaching out and grabbing that rope and pulling Waverly closer to you. You stop pulling that rope, it's not going to happen.
Medals and trophies are awarded to you as you finish at the ramp in St. Charles. AND you are all invited to our Finish Line Party on Friday evening at the Lewis & Clark Boathouse. Racers, ground crews, family, friends - we want to see you! Take pics at the official finish line! There will be food and drink available. More party specifics to come.
We will be recognizing all podium (1st -3rd) finishers live on the music stage during the party. We'll have a specific time set for the music to start and the awards ceremony to begin in the coming months. This was such a blast last year! Make plans to be here and celebrate!