Texas Water Safari, ‘The World’s Toughest Canoe Race’

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The Texas Hill Country is a land of rivers and springs. The well-fed waterways of these majestic lands are what attract thousands of tourists to the area every year… and coerce many to stay for good.

Water is synonymous with recreation in the Hill Country. While many float lazily in tubes with ice chests, other may stand-up paddle board or go out in a canoe or kayak. But for those seeking a test of will from the waters, there is one Hill Country event that brings even the strongest to their breaking point: The Texas Water Safari.

“The World’s Toughest Canoe Race”

Welcome if You dare

Photo: Flickr/Elizabeth Garcia

The Texas Water Safari kicked off the second Saturday June at the headwaters of the San Marcos River. The event has been nicknamed “The World’s Toughest Canoe Race” for good measure.

The full length of the course is 260 miles of river-madness. While starting at a relatively mild stretch of water in San Marcos, the race ends at the Gulf of Mexico in a small town named Seadrift. Competitors have 100 hours to complete the course and must bring all of their food, gear and other survival tools with them. The only aid competitors receive is water and ice at select stops along the route.

Paddle Only

Paddles only, please!

Photo: Flickr/Elizabeth Garcia

Other stipulations about the race are that competitors must paddle only. That means use of motors or mechanical propulsion of any kind is strictly prohibited. Competitors must also complete several safety courses and shorter qualifying races to secure their entry into the event. The race coordinators require these qualifying rounds to “weed out the weaklings.”

Is that a Gator or My Imagination?

Real deal or hallucination

Photo: Flickr/jerome

What makes the race so tough? Past and present competitors report a variety of obstacles ranging from the oppressive Texas heat, gnarly rapids, dangerous wildlife, illness, injury, and several long portions of the course where boats may have to be carried or hauled. Many longer races exist, but the gritty Texas combination of heat, wildlife and sleep deprivation cause forty percent of the entrants to drop out every year. Many contestants report having hallucinations near the end of the course.

Think you’re tough enough to give it a try? Next year’s Texas Water Safari is only 11 months away…