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However, many of the kayakers and canoeists will still be on the river when the awards are presented. The only stipulation is that to finish the race, entrants must arrive at the finish line within 30 hours. “The overarching thing about the SDKC that makes it amazing is the fact that it’s really two events in one. There are the veteran, aggressive racers who are out there to win or finish in 10 hours or less — they really attract attention and amaze folks who watch or take part. Then there are the folks who are in the event for the sheer adventure of it — they just want to finish and may come out in a shorter craft with less river smarts.” “It’s fun to host them all,” Bies says. “And since this will be the eighth year, it’s also been fun to see the personal evolutions among some paddlers. Some of the adventurers now are really racers.” The last wild stretch of the Missouri may be a challenge, especially for a casual paddler, but it also offers several advantages: solitude from other busy waterways, the chance to explore nearby islands, and the joys of observing native plants, animals and birds while cutting through the wild landscape. Not everyone is ready or willing to paddle 59 miles, but the kayak challenge has inspired many local residents and visitors to explore the river on kayaks, canoes and tubes. Many enter the water below Gavins Point Dam and paddle or float five miles into Yankton, docking along Riverside Park. Others like to depart from Riverside Park and travel about 7 miles to the St. Helena boat docks on the Nebraska side of the river. Both trips take two hours or so, depending on the wind and river current. Life jackets are imperative, and it’s wise to go with someone who is experienced the first time. Bies warns new kayakers to never let their guard down. The river is wild. “She’s gorgeous and generous but powerful and will put you in your place the moment you underestimate that power.” If you are up for the SDKC as a racer, volunteer or spectator, visit www.sdkayakchallenge.org. This year’s Challenge is May 26. Another race, the Fort to Field 50 Paddle Battle, is similar in style and length to the SDKC and will be held on July 14. For more information visit www. forttofield50.com or call (605) 941-4940. vSouth Dakota Magazine Yankton, South Dakota – 61