Photograph by Michelle M. Peltier
No self-respecting river rat should resist the challenge of paddling the world’s longest nonstop river race, which traverses an entire state in three and a half days. The Missouri River 340, from Kansas City to St. Louis (technically, St. Charles) is something of a Wild West race, with few restrictions other than reasonable safety regulations (nav lights, no jousting with barges) and the need to finish within 88 hours.
You can paddle the 340 miles (547 kilometers) solo, or with a partner in a kayak or a canoe, your choice, and carry onboard whatever you want—hard-core contenders paddle day and night and know there’s no time to go ashore for meals, or, well, for anything else. (Last year’s tandem winners did it in 38 hours, 59 minutes and took no shore breaks.)
But there’s a more casual dimension to the race, too. Many paddlers look at it as part grueling challenge, part vacation getaway, and revel in the community hoopla that greets them all across the state—e.g., Boy Scouts and community groups serving up hot dogs or pancakes. And most do partake of food and water at the checkpoints. Still, entrants tend to be obsessed with the MR 340, and even though many stretches are lovely, passing under bluffs and alongside wineries, they’re all about grinding out downstream miles in the three-mile-an-hour (4.8-kilometer-an-hour) current and accept blistered hands and hallucinations as part of the cost of doing business.
Need to Know: The 2010 race (www.rivermiles.com) was July 27–30. The 2011 dates have not been set.