World’s Toughest Canoe Race: Texas Water Safari Well Into Its 5th Decade

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On the second Saturday in June, “The World’s Toughest Canoe Race” has been held here in Texas since 1963. It takes place on the San Marcos and the Guadalupe Rivers, between San Marcos in the Texas Hill Country and a small Texas coastal town called Seadrift. It’s a canoe route equalling 260 miles in length, and the manpower required to complete the race, also known as the Texas Water Safari, is amazing!

To the winners of “The World’s Toughest Canoe Race,” bragging rights are the prize. There’s no money involved, but does that stop those eager to take on the challenge? Absolutely not! Having the right to say you took on a Texas-sized competition such as this and won has been enough to draw participants from near and far. Making it through rapids, some intense heat, and enduring the need to carry all of your supplies while you try to maintain the proper mental space required to compete is something only sheer willpower can accomplish. Participants of the Texas Water Safari are happy to show up and say they’ve done so!

Video: YouTube/KUT Austin

Shared on the KUT Austin YouTube Channel, the video above features a brief documentary from 2019 on the Texas Water Safari. With more than 140 teams, each of which has a captain allowed to help them along the way by supplying water, food, and ice, this race is epic! The team captain can follow the canoe along the race path on land, doing so either by car or even by bike. It’s arduous, to say the least, for both the team and the captain. The Texas Water Safari has stated that to take part in “The World’s Toughest Canoe Race,” the teams have to be prepared to reach mandatory checkpoints, including set cut-off times. Many do so by canoeing 24-hours nonstop, however, teams have occasionally been known to stop for rest and still been successful in doing so, crossing the finish line within the 100-hour deadline. The journey is long and hard, but to the victor go the rights to say they did it better than anyone else! Regardless of its 57-year history, that means only a very few have been able to say that’s the case.