Celebrate Mother’s Day at the Second Oldest Organized River Race in the Country

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We knew that paddlers love only one thing more than boating, and that’s their moms. And to celebrate, we recently learned that the second oldest, organized river race in the country down in Pilar, New Mexico, the Mother’s Day Rio Grande Whitewater Races are once again hosting kayakers, rafters, canoeists, SUPers, spectators, campers — and the famed Dutch Oven Cookoff competition — from May 11 to 13, 2018.

The races is held on the 4.5-mile, Class III section of the Rio Grande known as the “Racecourse,” which begins just south of Taos in Pilar, and runs along NM State Road 68.

The three-day event is being hosted by the New Mexico River Outfitters Association, The Adobe Whitewater Club, The American Whitewater Association, and the American Canoe Association.

The Mother’s Day Races were founded in the 1950’s by Los Alamos paddle boater and LANL employee, Jim “Stretch” Fretwell. After competing at Colorado’s FiBark for many years, Stretch decided to start a paddle race closer to home on the Rio Grande, now known as the Pilar Racecourse. The races were supported by Los Alamos’s Explorers: Post 20, The Atomic City Citizens Band Radio Club, The Los Alamos Fire Department to name a few.

By the late 1960’s, an estimated 2000 spectators leap frogged their way downstream on Highway 68 to watch rafts and kayaks twist and turn through the whitewater. Stretch eventually handed it over to the Adobe Whitewater Club who valiantly ran the races for over thirty years until they handed it over to NMROA in 2008. This year, NMROA wants to expand the races and welcomes spectator, racer and sponsor enthusiasm and support.

The schedule of events includes two nights of camping and social gatherings at the Rio Bravo Campground in Pilar, a Dutch Oven Cookoff and potluck dinner on Friday evening, and a full day of organized races on Saturday that will include short and long kayak races, a SUP (stand-up paddle board) race, kayak slalom, Down River Rodeo at Albert’s Falls, a family race, and 4 and 6-person raft races. Sunday offers a community, “on your own” paddle in the morning as well as Kayak New Mexico’s (501 C3) adaptive paddle session for special-needs river runners.

Spectators are invited to attend free of charge. Schedule and event details can be found at www.mothersdaywhitewater.com. Helmets are required for all racers and participants. All racers are required to register for their events and online pre-registration is strongly encouraged.

Camping reservations can be made on a first-come, first serve basis by going to www.blm.gov/visit/orilla-verde-recreation-area or calling 575-758-8851.

To register for races, go to adobewhitewater.org/events/mdrregistration.

Special room rates for the Whitewater Races are being offered at the Sagebrush Inn & Suites in Taos, New Mexico. Rooms at special rate are available while supplies last, those interested must book before April 18.

For more information about Kayak New Mexico’s adaptive kayak programs and the Sunday morning adaptive paddle event, go to www.kayaknewmexico.org or contact Jane Bales at (505) 980-7207.

“At 61 years in the making, the New Mexico Mother’s Day Whitewater Races are both a time-honored tradition and a hidden gem,” said Matthew Gontram, of the New Mexico River Outfitters Association and owner of New Mexico River Adventures. “The races offer serious challenges for serious boaters and they give recreational paddlers a great chance to play on the river with family and friends. It’s a great time of year to be in northern New Mexico. We can’t wait to see everyone on the river!”

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