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2023 Yukon River Quest slotted for July to avoid peak flood season

The race is planned for July 4 to 7
New dates have been announced for the 2023 Yukon River Quest. (Jim Elliot/Yukon News Files)

Next summer’s Yukon River Quest has been scheduled for early July to account for anticipated high water levels.

The Quest will take place from July 4 to 7, instead of the traditional solstice week start in late June.

“The weather patterns are changing,” Quest organizers wrote in the date announcement on Oct. 3.

“That doesn’t mean every year will be high water. It does mean that high precipitation years are more common.”

Organizers explained that the last two years have seen “100-year flood situations” and this upcoming summer is forecasted to be the same.

The 2021 River Quest, which was scheduled to start June 23, was cancelled due to rising waters the day before the event. The 2022 race went ahead on June 22, with warning that only experienced paddlers should attempt the tough conditions. High water levels meant it was difficult to pull off between checkpoints and contributed to an extremely fast river accompanying nearly Class 4 rapids, wind and rain storms.

Quest organizers said there were some “close calls” last year, and safety boat crews and volunteers worked overtime to make sure “everyone survived.”

The July start for 2023 is intended to mitigate some of that risk. Historic data shows water levels stabilizing or dropping by mid- to late June, organizers say.

The later dates also consider the riverside communities which may be dealing with local flooding during the race. In 2022, Carmacks issued a flooding evacuation alert two days before the race start.

“Race date considerations must include our local communities,” the announcement said.

The new start date also follows the last day of school for Yukon students, at participants’ request, and avoids the July 1 tourism rush in Dawson City.

“A change in start date to a time when water levels are less volatile helps all of us,” organizers said.

Registration for the 2023 race will open on Feb. 1.

Contact Gabrielle Plonka at