Russian River race limited by drought, but event called a success

  • The men's singles race starts with a flurry of paddles. The Great Russian River Race, Drought Edition dropped the 15-mile race and limited the 5-mile race to just 200 participants. The event benefits Russian Riverkeeper.

Matthew Moore, a fit, 52-year-old general contractor, outpaddled a field of 190 contestants in a drought-curtailed Great Russian River Race on a sunny Saturday in Healdsburg.

"Whew," Moore said after beaching his red-and-yellow kayak, borrowed from a friend, on the sand at Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach. "Made it."

The fourth annual race, a fundraiser for Russian Riverkeeper's educational programs, unfolded without a major hitch, with some paddlers — as usual — hitting tree branches and getting dumped in the water.

Great Russian River Race


"Everyone made it through fine," said Don McEnhill, executive director of Russian Riverkeeper, a conservation nonprofit.

Following the North Coast's third-driest winter in history, which left the river about 30 percent narrower, McEnhill said the 15-mile race was eliminated and the 5-mile event limited to 200 entrants.

On Saturday, he estimated the flow at Rio Lindo Beach, the starting point, at 165 cubic feet per second of clear, green-tinted water.

The race website had warned that flows could be as low as 35 to 50 cfs.

"The February and March rains just saved us," McEnhill said.

In a pre-race briefing on the gravel bar at Rio Lindo, McEnhill advised the paddlers that "every part of the river is passable."

But, he said, in a few places "if you don't read the river right you're going to run aground."

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