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Yukon River Quest set to start with 73 teams registered for race to Dawson

River racers will leave Whitehorse bound for Dawson City on June 26
2023 Yukon River Quest teams begin their journey down the Yukon River to Dawson City.

The Yukon River Quest is set to begin on the riverbanks of the Yukon River at Rotary Park in downtown Whitehorse on June 26. 

According to a press release, 73 teams have registered to paddle the entire 715-kilometre route up to Dawson City, in what organizers call “the race to the midnight sun.” A mix of canoe, kayak and paddleboard teams will compete in a marathon to finish in the fastest time. An additional three teams will take on the half race, stopping at Carmacks.

Racers on the full distance will pass through Lake Laberge and traverse the upper Yukon River before hitting the mandatory 10-hour rest point in Carmacks. Organizers have arranged for teams to rest up at the Coal Mine Campground on June 27, as stated in the press release. 

The second stage will see paddlers navigating through Five Finger Rapids, past the historic site of Fort Selkirk, along Coffee Creek and up the last long haul straight to Dawson. The first set of arrivals are expected to cross the finish late afternoon on June 28.

An awards banquet will be held in Dawson after the race wraps up on June 30.

In total, 178 paddlers from 12 countries are signed up take on the “world’s toughest and alluring marathon paddling race,” as labelled on the Yukon River Quest website. 

Canada is represented by paddlers from nine provinces and territories while the United States have paddlers representing 11 states. Racers from the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Estonia, Belgium, France, Ireland, Israel, Czech Republic and Slovenia will also be making an appearance in this year’s race. 

A race tracker will go live on the Yukon River Quest website between June 26 to June 29. 

Racers and volunteers shared a preference for setting the race dates around the final week of June, according to the release. This provides an opportunity for those involved with the Yukon River Quest to acknowledge and celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day over the long weekend. 

The Nov. 5, 2023, announcement that race registration was open reads: “The race passes through the traditional lands of five Yukon First Nations and honours the cultures of those who have lived off the river and nurtured it for centuries. Annually, the River Quest’s continued success depends on more than 125 dedicated volunteers who bring great skills and enthusiasm to the event.” 

Close to 200 volunteers are helping make this year’s Yukon River Quest a reality, per the release. The community is coming together to carry out roles such as safety boat crew, handlers and servers along the route. 

— With files from Stephanie Waddell