Blazing Paddles is a standup paddleboard race, canoe & kayak celebration held on the Cuyahoga River, a historic body of water that's risen like a phoenix from its ecological low-point in 1969. You'll navigate a curvy, 5.7-mile urban course that flows past a unique mix of riverfront sites where iconic pyramids of sand and stone stand in contrast to paved paths and green-spaces. The scenic course with sweeping views of downtown Cleveland will take you under 10 bridges spanning the river before you reach the turnaround point - THE location of the 1952 Cuyahoga River fire, the infamous image that's often used as a visual stand-in for the much smaller June 22, 1969 fire.
Blazing Paddles' turnaround point at the former Jefferson St. bridge serves as a physical metaphor for the turnaround of the Cuyahoga River and the turnaround our nation's relationship with its national resources. The ’69 fire ignited America’s environmental movement and when you participate in Blazing Paddles on the day of the 50th anniversary, you'll be reminding the nation of the great things that can happen when our natural resources are protected.
Blazing Paddles is not just a paddle event: it is a mecca for the paddleboard, canoe, and kayak community to make a national statement that healthy and vibrant rivers are an essential quality of life enhancer for America’s waterfront cities - and GOOD business for local economies. At one time in American history, hundreds of rivers were used as sewers for the byproducts of industrial processes. Yet the Cuyahoga River stands alone as the symbol for the ravages of a bygone era. More rigorous environmental regulations and engaged citizen stewardship have helped fuel the recovery of tributaries that now support not only a widening array of fish and wildlife species, but they also serve as a sustainable economic driver for their regions: tourism and recreation.
In addition to the 5.7-mile race, Blazing Paddles will offer a shorter 2-mile paddle for casual paddleboarders, kayakers and canoeists. Blazing Paddles is part of the Kentucky Waterman Series and the newly created Erie Series. We are working to secure river access that will allow fast kayaks and canoes the ability to see the location of the 1969 fire. Our model? The EPIC Ohio River Paddlefest. Register on Paddle Guru TODAY as our field will be capped.
After Blazing Paddles, join us for the dedication of the Cuyahoga River Water Trail at the river access point at Merwin’s Wharf! Blazing Paddles will also serve as the terminus of the Xtinguish Torch Fest, a four-day, 100-mile long regional cultural commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the ‘69 fire.
Come for Blazing Paddles, but stay for Destination Cleveland’s #VisitMeInCLE weekend (June 21-23). There’s the CONCACAF Gold Cup, Great Lakes Burning River Fest, Cleveland Indians, Cleveland History Days, and more! Check out the cleveland.com article. Make your plans now to be part of Cleveland’s #Cuyahoga50 celebration! If you care about clean water, recreation, and the environment, there’s no other place on earth you should be but Cleveland, Ohio! Reserve your place in our public recreational celebration of Cuyahoga River history!
Burning the Cuyahoga River Narrative
The burning river image from 1952, forever used to illustrate the much smaller 1969 fire, has been iconic shorthand for well-meaning folks to press a number of agendas forward on a number of fronts. And yeah, it's also been used in a not-so well meaning fashion (#CLEvsTBS anyone?). Our vision for Blazing Paddles is to provide a national stage for recreation to show the world that clean water and clean rivers matter and are worth preserving, protecting and investing in. And when amazing photographers like Lawson Whitaker document hundreds of paddleboards. kayak and canoes recreating on the birthplace of the environmental movement, you'll be part of launching a new brand and a new narrative for the Cuyahoga River. Healthy rivers ARE economic drivers!
Blazing Paddles is intended to provide a focus on several themes central to Share the River's mission:
the importance and demonstrable positive impact of common sense environmental regulations
the value of public investments in clean water infrastructure (like NEORSD's Project Clean Lake).
the positive impact of engaged, long-term recreational use of our nations rivers and waterways
the benefit the above three have on waterfront cities' appeal 1) as a place where people want to work, live and play in and 2) as a tourism destination.
We're grateful to our supporting sponsors who helped make the inaugural Blazing Paddles a possibility:
Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District: "‘Given our role in helping to improve the health of the Cuyahoga River, we’re excited to be part of this celebration. Plus, we’re happy to support an event that connects people to our water resources."
Fat Head's Brewery, our official brewery partner.
Canalway Partners: "We're pleased the Share the River Ramble is serving as one of the kick-off events for the inaugural Cleveland History Days, "10 Days and 20 Ways to Experience Cleveland’s History". More information is at http://canalwaypartners.com/events/clevelandhistorydays/
The Port of Cleveland: “The Port of Cleveland is excited about the expanding and safe recreational use of the Cuyahoga River. Moreover, we are pleased to support events like Blazing Paddles, that allow people to share the rebirth of the Cuyahoga River with friends and family.” - William Friedman, President and CEO, The Port of Cleveland
Ohio City Inc.: "Ohio City Incorporated is working with partners to tie together a growing network of trails and connecting people to the riverfront through Irishtown Bend, and we are thrilled to support the Share the River’s Blazing Paddles which celebrates one of our regions greatest assets, the Cuyahoga River."
Save the date and invite your friends! here will be a TON of things events and things to do in Cleveland during your stay as part of Destination Cleveland’s “Visit Me in CLE” campaign. Registration for Blazing Paddles will go live March 1, 2019. Still on the bubble? Check out our “Blazing Paddles Wrap” interview with women’s division champion Karen Kennedy.
Would you like to be part of the team that's making this year's Blazing Paddles an event to remember? Register to be a volunteer or serve on one of our committees!
And if you are a business, organization, foundation or individual who would like to be involved with our efforts to make an expanded Blazing Paddles a reality, please e-mail us at email@example.com.
Blazing Paddles Media Links
Laura Johnston (Cleveland.com) - Erie Series presents 6 stand-up paddleboard races from Kelleys Island to Erie, PA
Mary Kilpatrick (Cleveland.com) - CONCACAF Gold Cup soccer tournament, lighted boat parade: Saturday June 22 should be a busy day in Cleveland.
Steve Litt (Plain Dealer) - First standup paddle race on Cuyahoga, Blazing Paddles, to showcase shipping and recreation sharing river
Laura Johnston (Cleveland.com) - Blazing Paddles race celebrates healthy Cuyahoga, 49 years after river fire
Stephanie Jarvis (Ideastream) - Blazing Paddles Brings First Standup Paddleboard Race To Cuyahoga River
Laura Morrison (Scene Magazine) - Cleveland History Days Kick Off Tonight With the Share the River Ramble
John Petkovic (Plain Dealer) - Cuyahoga River enjoys revival 49 years after the fire: a visual tour
Brian Duffy (Cleveland 19/WOIO) - Cuyahoga River brimming with recreation, wildlife 49 years after disastrous fire
Kyle Lanzer (Plain Dealer) - Cuyahoga Blazing Paddles race celebrates a river without flames
Annie Baxter (Brains On) - Burning Rivers of Fire