Print Canoes head to river for a float
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Wednesday, 16 February 2011 00:00

The Verde River Canoe Challenge is almost here once again and organizers are hoping that last year’s cancellation of the ever-more popular event was just a fluke.

The challenge takes boaters of all skill levels on about a 10-mile journey from the White Bridge in Camp Verde down to Beasley Flat.

Last year, the Verde River’s water level was running so high, organizers canceled the river run due to safety concerns.
“It was running at over 1,800 feet the day of the event,” said Chuck Hammersley, an organizer with the Northern Arizona Parks and Recreation Department.

Between 600 and 1,000 cubic feet per second and the run would usually still be held for the more advanced boaters, but last year’s level was a historical aberration.

It’s impossible to tell how the river will look a month from now; it depends on numerous factors including the snowpack and temperatures.

“We’ve got a below-normal snowpack now,” Hammersley said. “We could have a slow melt, or it could rain just before the event.”

Still, Hammersley said he’s not too concerned.

“We held the event for 10 years with no problems before we ever had a problem and had to cancel it,” Hammersley said. “I’m hoping we’ll be back to normal this year.”

While Hammersley hopes the canoe challenge is back this year, he wants to make sure the public knows that there are some major differences, especially with event registration.

Hammersley said the canoe race has grown so popular that organizers are no longer allowing people to register on the day of the event.

All registration must be conducted ahead of time, Hammersley said.

Registration is limited to 200 participants, and permission to participate is on a first-come, first-serve basis. The event is scheduled to start at 10 a.m., Saturday, March 26. Check-in will be between 7:30 and 9:30 a.m. at White Bridge Park on State Route 260, east of downtown Camp Verde.

NAU used to work with the Town of Camp Verde Parks and Recreation Department to hold the canoe challenge, Hammersley said. Town budget cuts have ended that arrangement; now the university partners with Friends of Coconino County Parks.
The canoe challenge has grown since it started in 2000, when 18 boats and 27 racers took part. The 2009 event saw 256 people in 182 boats.

The Verde River Canoe Challenge was inspired by the Adobe Whitewater Club’s Mothers Day Race in Pilar, N.M., according to NAU.

There will be both men’s and women’s competitive and recreational event categories. Trophies will be given to the first- and second-place winners in each category.

Registration is due by Wednesday, March 16. The entry fee is $20 per adult and $15 per child. For more information, call (928) 523-6655.