Canoes, Kayaks … Mid-Am Race Brings Fox River to Life June 4

Canoes, Kayaks … Mid-Am Race Brings Fox River to Life June 4

  • This column is written by Jeff Long (, the public affairs and communications manager at the Fox Valley Park District. Visit for more information and be sure to “Like” Blackberry Farm on Facebook. 

The Fox River is a lifetime friend. Similarly, I’ve enjoyed the same long-term relationship with the Mid-American Canoe & Kayak Race.

We go way back … to boyhood days in Batavia with my brothers and friends, fishing along the river’s banks, swimming when it was hot (don’t tell Mom) and watching canoeists glide in the brisk current, wishing it was us.

Every year, on the first Sunday in June, we headed for the river on our bikes to watch hundreds and hundreds of paddlers in the Mid-Am. As we got older, my friends and I became those very paddlers we once idolized from the shoreline. During my years as a newspaper reporter, I covered this great event many, many times.

Started in 1961, the Mid-Am’s tradition is every bit as vibrant today. On June 4, the 56th Mid-Am will welcome paddlers of all ages and abilities – folks from all walks of life, taking part in this transcendent event and enjoying time together, on the water and off.

From first-timers to 30-year veterans, the Mid-Am strikes a balance between easy-going recreation and hard-core competition. With 20 different divisions – 11 for canoes, 8 for kayaks and an open (non-competitive) division – there’s a fit for everybody, and awards to the top three boats in every division.

The Mid-Am offers two race lengths, with a 10-mile course starting in St. Charles and a 6-mile race beginning in Batavia. Free shuttles run regularly between both start lines and the finish area. Both routes finish at the Illinois Avenue bridge with a lunch party at beautiful McCullough Park.

Early heats starting in St. Charles are “racers-only” to give the most competitive paddlers free run of the course and avoid potential crowding in tight spots and portages. Those who are less experienced at being on the river – novice paddlers and young families – are able to start later and travel at a more leisurely pace.

New start-line procedures are in order this year with individualized starting. Rather than launch in heats of 10, boats will still be grouped together, but will start individually every 15-20 seconds. Think in terms of a triathlon or Tour de France time trial. In essence, each boat will have its own starting time, creating better timing accuracy and greater flexibility for paddlers.

It’s easier than ever to experience a memorable trip down the Fox River in the company of like-minded paddlers. And the perks are pretty nice, too – commemorative T-shirt, goodie bag, grilled lunch (hot dog or burger), shuttle bus transportation and dozens of post-race prize drawings.

You don’t even need to own a boat or worry about transporting a borrowed one – the Mid-Am offers discounted canoe and kayak rental packages.

It’s simple, really: 1). Register online (by May 31) and choose the canoe or kayak rental package; 2) Show up on race day at your starting site, where your rental boat is waiting for you; 3). Enjoy a glorious paddle down the Fox River; 4). Leave your boat at the finish line to enjoy the post-race lunch party and awards ceremony.

Over 200 canoes and 100 kayaks are available for rent, so bring friends and family – there’s a boat for everybody. Just make sure you’ve registered and reserved by the May 31st deadline – day-of registration will NOT be available this year.

Afterward, the riverside finish area at McCullough Park is a festival of fun, food, music, beer and games. Non-paddler friends, family and spectators are welcome to join the festivities. Food vendors will have subs, popcorn, frozen yogurt and other tasty menu items, and plenty of booths to browse with local businesses joining the celebration.

There’s fun along the route as well – particularly at the State Street Bridge, where the North Aurora Lions Club sets up shop and turns the portage into a party. They’ll be announcing the names of paddlers – Olympic style – one of the many highlights along the way.

Go ahead, enjoy the celebrity treatment, as fans line the banks in St. Charles, Geneva, Batavia, North Aurora and Aurora, waving and cheering.

Good times like these make for a great event, one that celebrates a shared, recreational resource – the Fox River – and the enjoyment it provide,

FEATURE PHOTO CAPTION: The Fox River will be alive with paddlers of all ages and abilities on Sunday, June 4, when the Mid-American Canoe & Kayak Race returns for the 56th year – a timeless tradition that spans generations

More About the Mid-Am Canoe Race

A 10-mile race will begin at 9 a.m. from Mount. St. Mary Park in downtown St. Charles, with a 6-mile race starting at 10:30 a.m. from the VFW in Batavia, just south of downtown.

Boats will be staged in heats of 10 boats each and then launched individually at 15-second intervals from both start areas. Free shuttle buses for participants and spectators will run continuously from McCullough Park to both starting sites beginning at 7 a.m.

All-inclusive canoe and kayak rental packages are available for both races at discounted prices, with start area delivery and finish line pickup of rental boats included.

A riverside party for all paddlers, friends, families and spectators will take place at the finish area at McCullough Park and feature food, music, cold beer, prize drawings, local vendors and live interviews with paddlers. An awards ceremony will conclude the event, with awards for first, second and third-place finishers in each division for both races.

All registered paddlers will receive a commemorative T-shirt, goodie bag, grilled lunch with chips and drink and be eligible for prize drawings.

Visit to register online. Registration forms also are available at all Park District community centers. Registration closes at noon on May 31, and day-of registration will not be available. For more information, call (630) 859-8606.