Yesterday – June 27 – marked the beginning of the Yukon River Quest. This annual canoe and kayak race is the longest canoe/kayak race in the world. The race travels approximately 444 miles from Whitehorse downstream to Dawson City in the Yukon, and has been an annual event since 1999.
Although teams have 85 hours to complete the course, the records for completing the race are much faster. In 2008, the winning team set the record for the fastest completion of the course, finishing the
route in 39 hours, 32 minutes, and 43 seconds. In 2017, the fastest team completed the course in 42 hours, 47 minutes, and 8 seconds.
It may seem that a canoe and kayak race today would be a simple affair, but thanks to the location of the Yukon River Quest, it comes with some unique problems. Because of the remote nature of the Yukon River, any injuries may not be easy to treat. Paddlers are required to bring survival equipment, and each team must carry a tracking device.
The biggest hurdle paddlers face, though, is the Yukon River itself. Even in summer, the Yukon River is a dangerous body of water. The river flows deceptively quickly, and its temperature never rises much above freezing. If a paddler falls into the water, he or she only has a few seconds before the cold begins incapacitating him or her. Hypothermia is thus a very real danger even on the hottest day of the year. Even as we post this, a solo paddler on the route is being attended to because of hypothermia.
You can keep track of the Yukon River Quest for the next few days through their Facebook page, which is regularly updated with race updates. If you are looking for real-time information, check out the tracking page to see where the racers are live.
Do you want to get the most out of your trip up the Alaska Highway? Check out 101 Travel Bits: The Alaska Highway and learn about some of the off-the-beaten path places and stories that will make your next vacation your best vacation ever.