This past weekend my heart was warmed to see so many people from across our nation taking the opportunity to visit of one of Kentucky’s gems; the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. I feel blessed that we hosted such a diverse showing of craft in a first-year event with a rowing shell, SUPs, an outrigger canoe, canoes, kayaks, surfskis, ICF K-1s and a tandem surfski along our 8-mile course.
For the last year, the Explore Kentucky Initiative has been making an ardent and pointed effort to broaden the horizons of the general public in order to showcase all of Kentucky’s natural recreation and beautiful sights. Our efforts are two-pronged -- to help invigorate the adventure tourism industry in our state and to help with conservation efforts by providing awareness to places that need protection. This February, the Explore Kentucky Initiative teamed up with Beinthewater, forging an alliance to bring to life projects all around Kentucky. This race is a product of our joint efforts to support conservation and appreciation of Big South Fork. We figured that once paddlers experienced eight miles on the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River that the scenic gorges, sandstone bluffs and lush forestland would mesmerize them and inspire them to return.
As many already know, this race was supposed to take place back in October as part of McCreary County’s Heritage Trail Days Festival, but the permit process took longer than planned. We knew that the season was coming to a close, but as the registration deadline loomed, the EKI email servers became like a pinball machine, ping, ping, ping, ping -- our 50-person race cap was quickly filled. We cannot fully express the excitement of pulling into the Alum Ford campground the night before the race and seeing it full of cars with license plates as far away as Alaska (granted, that was the Mcdaniels, who just relocated to Louisville). The race day was a dream. We’re so happy to have shared Big South Fork with all of racers and I hope that many will come back on their own.
We want to give a huge shout-out to all our paddlers (especially the first time racers!) and to all our valiant top finishers. You all were gladiators on the water. As we plan to make this race a recurring event and we’ve made a permanent home for the race on our website. As of now, you can browse photos, find your times to brag over and see race recaps as they are published. Soon, you'll be able to purchase race posters. You can find all of that here.
We hope that all of racers will join us next year and that many will participate in the inaugural Kentucky Waterman series, a paddle sports race point series that Explore Kentucky is hosting in 2017. I want to close out giving a huge ups to all of our wonderful sponsors and supporters; with their support we were able to plan, promote and conduct this race in less than a month -- an unbelievable feat that we’re very proud of.
- McCreary Tourism & McCreary County Chamber of Commerce provided financial, marketing, and massive amounts of logistical support!
- Big South Fork Scenic Railway provided railway tickets so that every single paddler could enjoy the scenic vistas of the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area via an amazing train ride.
- Southern Paddlesports LLC provided us with marketing support and Stellar + Epic paddling gear for our raffle prize give-away.
- BeintheWater & DCH Technologies LLC helped us with marketing, logistics, several small prizes, and a tandem kayak to give away as part of our raffle.
- Outdoor Venture Corporation provided us with financial support and several prizes to give-away during a raffle which included 2 ghillie suits.
- The Farm House Inn Bed and Breakfast provided us with financial support. Huge thanks!
- Mountain Tech Media & Pine Mountain Settlement School provided us with financial support and prizes that included a cabin retreat for two.
Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area + National Park Service, McCreary County Search And Rescue Squad, McCreary County 911, and Brian Hill provided logistical, safety, and rescue support. Big ups to those guys and gals for helping keep everyone safe!
McCreary County Central HS JROTC provided parking and paddler assistance. Hi-five to those amazing cadets!
The Explore Kentucky Initiative's volunteers; Michael Cheser, Laura L Grasser, Greg Davis, and Lois Jean Patton provided timing, photographic, and logistical support. Hugs to all of you guys! A rousing round of applause goes to Josh Patton, our graphic designer who with minimal creative direction churned out another amazing event poster.
Surveyor, Christopher Morris helped design and map the course.
FirstBuild provided technical support and usage of their laser printers to make our Big South Fork River Dash Awards come to alive!