Nebraska has more miles of river than any other state. 33 miles of the Middle Loup River west of Thedford to the walking bridge over the river at the Nebraska National Forest near Halsey was either kayaked or canoed by 40 adventurous men and women on Saturday, September 14 in the 1st annual Hills 2 Forest Middle Loup Kayak Race.
Cay and Stephanie Ewoldt, Lincoln, run Sandhill River Trips out of Ewoldt’s Grocery in Thedford. Cay’s father, Allen and wife, Velma own and manage the store, as well as take guests to and from the river. They, along with kayak race enthusiasts, Brian Harmon, Omaha, organized the logistics of the race, while co-organizer, Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway association did the marketing and promotion aspects, as well as provided the numerous volunteers needed that day.
All organizers were well pleased. The initial goal was 20 entries, the end number was 40. Communities they came from out state included Denver, Colorado, and Rapid City, South Dakota.
Some of the Nebraska communities included Alliance, Omaha, Grand Island Norfolk, Ericson, Shickley, Valentine, Broken Bow, and a local lady, Bobbi Scott from Thedford. The Shickley participant was a 2009 graduate from Thedford, and while Treva Nutter raced, her mom Linda held a garage sale in town where she grew up. Treva is now the K-12 P.E teacher at Shickley and an assistant coach in basketball as well as coaches track. Nutter and Scott, completed the race in 6 hrs. 52 min. and 6 hrs. 59 min. respectively.
Categories were men’s kayak, women’s kayak, and canoe.
Calvin Hassel, Grand Island, won the canoe division, a rowing machine finishing the river in 4 hrs. 15 min. 27 sec. He was given his awards after he left the river, as he was headed to the Niobrara river by Valentine to canoe that one also later that day.
2nd in the canoe entries was on a paddleboard, and he went the distance – Marek Uliasz, (town unknown). He paddle boarded it in 6 hrs. 21 min.
3rd place canoe was MJ Bosiljevac from Omaha. She was one of the hard luck winners, as right after she began, she capsized – this was at 7:40 a.m. when temp was in low 60s, so though the temps got to above 90s, she was soaked until the sun came out.
Helen Forster, Broken Bow, in her kayak also capsized at the beginning. They helped right each other’s vessels, and Helen also received a hard luck prize.
Men’s Kayak winners – 1st – Mike Huggins, 2nd Mike Larson and 3rd – Patrick Wellner. Their times respectively were 5 hrs, 42 min., 5 hrs 53 min and 5 hrs 59 min. There was a total of 18 in the men’s division.
Women’s Kayak winners – 1st – Kassie Sheiffermiller, from Rapid City in 6 hrs.14 min and 37 sec. 2nd was Daisy Staab, from Broken Bow in 6 hrs 15 min. 16 sec. 3rd was Mitzi Klimek in 6 hrs 36 min. 8 women competed in the kayak division.
The Middle Loup is the second fastest flowing river after the Dismal in the state. They and the other branches of the Loup, the North and the South, form the Loup River system and are the world’s most constant flowing in the world – meaning their depth fluctuates the least because their source is from underground springs of the Ogallala Aquifer.
Racers had to portage around one bridge, travel under several fences and other bridges and either catch the river channel the last few miles or drag their vessel over sandbars much of the way. Landowners Richard and Tami Jameson and Mark and Marian Nutter offered two opportunities to leave the river if they did not want to go the distance. No one left the race until the end.
All participants received a handmade clay medallion and first place winners received a larger one as well. Linda Lacy, past president of the SJSB and artist from Ashby, (CaLinda’s Pot Shop and Art Gallery) donated her time, labor and talent in making them. T-shirts were given or will be mailed to the racers. Meal after the race was at the lodge on the State 4-H Camp, catered by Allen and Velma Ewoldt, with a slide show of photos taken by Terri Licking and Linda Teahon looped during the meal.
Sponsors included Thomas Co. Visitor’s Committee, Security 1st Bank, Consolidated Telephone, Nebraska State 4-H Camp, Sandhills Motel and Glidden Canoe Rentals, which organize for the Byway, the annual Polar Bear Tank Race the first weekend in March. The racers were encouraged to come to Mullen in March to participate in that race also.
Radio stations KBEAR 92.3, Broken Bow and Eagle radio, (Double Q country, and KCOW a.m.), Alliance helped promote it as did KNOP TV, North Platte. Custer Public Power District and Kinkaiders Brewery, Broken Bow, donated items to each of the welcome bags.