It seemed different but not out of place to be giving a safety speech on the Lower St. Louis River to a group of rafters. It was the first commercial whitewater rafting trip on the Lower section of the St. Louis River. Quick side note if you are going whitewater rafting in Duluth, Minnesota the St. Louis River is where you would go. Anyways, we had rafted the Lower with our team several times to train our guides and dial in the trip. Now here we were doing a trip to kick off to the 2015 Paddlemania—St. Louis River Rendezvous.
Paddlemania—St. Louis River Rendezvous is a two part name because it is the marriage of two whitewater events. Paddlemania was established 16 years ago through the efforts of Joerg Steinbach and support through whitewater kayak outfitters and companies. It began on the St. Croix River and eventually made it to the St. Louis River four years ago. the goal of Paddlemania was to bring kayakers together to demo boats, have a fun race, and to hang out.
The St. Louis Rendezvous has been around since the 1990’s. It originated as a slalom event and later added a whitewater freestyle competition. Since then whitewater playboats have changed and the highway 210 feature was no longer desirable for playboaters to demonstrate their freestyle moves. The flood of 2012 had also put the kibosh on it.
In 2014 Swiftwater Adventures teamed up with UM-Duluth’s Recreational and Outdoor Sports Program to bring back paddling events to the region. Through the support of dozens of great sponsors and volunteers Paddlemania—St. Louis River Rendezvous was back in a new way. Our goal was to showcase whitewater rafting and kayaking near Duluth, Minnesota and to bring the paddling community together.
The 2015 Paddlemania—St. Louis River Rendezvous featured a great line up for experienced and newbie paddlers as well serve as a resource for those looking to get into whitewater paddling. The event was planned to coincide with a scheduled release through the Thomson Dam (the section of the St. Louis River that flows through Jay Cooke St. Park). Here is what the event offered:
Blast to the Bridge Downriver Race
This race was for experienced whitewater kayakers as they raced through challenging class III to V rapids from below the Thomson Dam to the Swinging Bridge in Jay Cooke St. Park. In 2015 there were 28 racers, complete with a women’s division. The swinging bridge was packed with spectators as the winner, Johnathon Sisely, paddled under the finish line.
Team whitewater rafting? Yes! Teams of five paddled through a ¼ mile slalom course then paddled the remaining miles to the take out. Four paddlers and a guide in the back navigated their way through several slalom gates. That Saturday over 80 people competed in the rafting event.
Many kayakers competed in a for fun slalom competition. Additionally, a special slalom event was set up for the youth paddlers to show case their skills. These same hard working and hard charging kids were the ones who set up the slalom course.
Overall this event was about bringing the paddling community together. The variety of events allowed for expert boaters to have a challenging race, newbies paddled the Upper and parts of the Lower sections of the St. Louis River, people of all whitewater skills participated in the team Rafting, and everyone shared in the fun. The event proves that whitewater rafting and kayaking near Duluth, Minnesota is top notch!
To learn more about Paddlemania—St Louis River Rendezvous visit: www.paddle-mania.com
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