Neches River Wilderness Run

The toughest little river race in Texas is set for Aug. 1. The canoe/kayak race, held by the Neches River Runners, is 22 miles down the Neches River and serves as the group's fundraiser for a special needs scholarship at Trinity Valley Community College.

The nonprofit Neches River Runners is dedicated to conservation, outdoor education, canoeing, and kayaking.

The group offers free canoe clinics each spring and undertakes several river clean-ups throughout the year.

This is their 29th race in 30 years, with one cancelled due to rainout.

Over the past 30 years, the race has raised more than $30,000 for college scholarships, available to all high school graduates and college students from Palestine attending TVCC.

The race is set up with two classes of paddlers: leisure class and pro class.

The leisure class starts one hour before the pro class, which means the pro classes don't run off and leave the rest of the paddling field. Starting an hour later, they will have to catch up to the leisure class and maneuver their way around and through the slower paddlers to make their way to the front of the pack.

Radio operators are stationed along the way to provide instant contact to emergency personnel, if necessary.‚Äč

At the finish line, volunteers pull canoes from the river for the paddlers; everyone enjoys hamburgers/veggie burgers, cold drinks, and watermelon.

A shuttle takes racers to the starting line to pick up their autos.

Awards are presented when all paddlers in a class have crossed the finish line.

A drag boat sweeps the river from starting line to finish to make sure no stragglers remain on the river.

Entry fee in the leisure class is $35 per person on race day; the professional class entry is $45 per person on the day of the race. Canoe and kayak rentals are $35, first-come, first-served.

Race day registration starts at 6:30 a.m. at the Blackburn Dam race start.

This year there is a mandatory check-in time of 7:45 a.m. and a meeting at 7:50 a.m.

The Leisure Class will start at 8 a.m.; the Pro Class, 9 a.m.

There are two check points and water stations, as well as free refreshments at the finish line.

Medical personnel with the Palestine Regional Medical Center will be available.

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