Texas Water Safari to come through Gonzales this weekend


A whopping 172 teams from all over the globe are expected to take part in the “world’s toughest canoe race” this weekend as the Texas Water Safari returns for its 61st year — and the Gonzales Dam will once again be a checkpoint.

This year’s race will again shove off from the Texas State University Meadows Center for Water and the Environment in San Marcos (the former Aquarena Springs) on Spring Lake this Saturday, June 8 at 9 a.m.

The course traverses the San Marcos River to the Guadalupe River (the confluence of the two is in Gonzales) to Guadalupe Bay and then San Antonio Bay with a finish line some 262 miles away in Seadrift. The teams have until 1 p.m. Wednesday, June 12, to cross the finish line at Swan Point at Bill Sanders Memorial Park — just 100 hours total.

The primary requirement is a boat powered only by human muscle. Racers must take all equipment needed with them, receiving only water, ice and food along the way.

The Texas Water Safari is not just the race that takes place every year on the second weekend in June, but also includes a seminar in February, the Texas Water Marathon race in May and the Texas Jr. Water Safari in September.

Checkpoint 4, which used to be at the Gonzales gravel bar (mile 85.79), is at the Gonzales dam (mile 84.46). Paddlers have until 2 p.m. Sunday, June 9 to make this checkpoint. They will have a mandatory left portage at the dam to the checkpoint to be signed through by their crews. Boats will exit the river above the dam, take the portage and head down the path to put in below the dam.

“There is a cable strung 15-20 feet above the water 500 yards above the dam with a warning sign on it. Generating building on left side of the dam is usually well lit at night,” course notes state. “Must portage on Left hand side. Take out at ramp. Carry up to access road. Turn in to gate on right. Follow trail to the river. There is quite a bit of rip rap, so exercise caution.

“The next road crossing is 39 miles and this is the longest section on the race course. Make sure to have plenty of water. The dam is not conducive to team pulling over to sleep. Suggest going to Gravel Bar if planning to sleep.”

How TWS started

The following information comes from the Texas Water Safari website:

Legend has it that in 1962, Frank Brown and Bill "Big Willie" George decided to take their V-bottom boat, without a motor, from San Marcos to Corpus Christi. They accomplished their mission in about thirty days and decided that other people should have the opportunity to experience the same journey. So, in 1963 they set up the first Texas Water Safari.

Today the Safari is a long, tough, non-stop marathon canoe-racing adventure, traversing 260 miles of challenging rivers and bay. Many participants enter the race with no intention of winning, but with the goal of joining the elite group of finishers and earning the coveted Texas Water Safari finisher's patch.

Entrants must have all provisions, equipment, and items of repair in their possession at the start of the race.

Nothing may be purchased by, or delivered to, a team during the race except water and/or ice. Each team must have a team captain (18 years old, or older) whose responsibility it is to follow the team by vehicle (car, truck, or bicycle) to keep track of their location and condition and to give them water and/or ice.

During the Safari, teams may not receive any assistance of any kind, except verbal. Teams must be prepared to travel day and night, nonstop, to be competitive but teams who occasionally stop for sleep have been able to reach mandatory checkpoint cutoff times and cross the finish line by the 100-hour deadline.

For more information about the Texas Water Safari, check out texaswatersafari.org.