Families flock to the Missouri River for annual 'Race to the Dome'
More than 100 paddlers gathered on Saturday at the edge of the Missouri River’s shores with one goal in mind: Conquer the Big Muddy’s flow and reach Jefferson City first.
It was the 14th time that non-profit group Missouri River Relief has hosted its annual Race to the Dome event to support river-cleaning efforts and connect people with the Missouri landmark.
“It gives novice paddlers a chance to interact with experienced paddlers,” said Christina Ruiz, the race director.
The race featured two starting points: Hartsburg and Providence, Missouri, the latter being the longest of the two with nearly 28 miles in length, making it the most popular launch point for most paddlers.
However, Ruiz said more people were trying out the Hartsburg location this year - a welcome change of pace, she said, that might suggest new paddlers were trying the race for the first time.
Some groups like Paddle KC, a Kansas City-based paddling club, took advantage of this event to introduce new members to the sport.
“It’s really cool to see a lot of our paddlers start as fairly new paddlers and then they build up the skills and confidence to do this race,” Christy Kurtz, the group’s founder, said. “We’ve got people here that have never been on a race, ever.”
The freezing water may have come as a shock to the novices getting their kayaks in the water. More experienced paddlers, however, found it familiar and in some way, comforting.
Cinda Eichler has done the Race to the Dome before alongside the MR340, a race that covers the entirety of the Missouri River, and she said found the activity so enjoyable that she celebrated her 60th birthday at the race.
“I feel young, I feel 40,” Eichler said. “It’s just a really peaceful place it really is, the Missouri River is underutilized recreationally.”
Eichler has done both river races five times and called the experience “fun torture.”
It’s these types of reactions that make each iteration of the Race to the Dome so important to Missouri River Relief’s mission of expanding awareness of the Missouri River.
“[The race] is getting people outdoors, interacting with nature and hopefully developing a relationship with an amazing river,” Ruiz said. “So, it’s a way to get people up close and personal with the waterway.”
At the finish line, the racers arrived one-by-one to the banks of Jefferson City and were greeted by the sounds of an excited cow bell. Coffee, beer and food awaited them further up the trench.
The race’s founder, Patrick Lynn, partnered with the Missouri River Relief group at the beginning of the event’s creation so all the proceeds could go to the nonprofit. He has since retired as the race’s director.
“People like to be in the water, I think it’s in our nature to be on or near the water,” Lynn said. “I’m glad to see we’re getting back to that.”
At the event’s end, bottles of wine and medals were given out to the various category winners. Another successful year, organizers said, for this annual celebration of the river.