The 2nd Annual Blazing Paddles is a celebration of how the Cuyahoga River has risen like a phoenix since the 1969 fire ignited the environmental movement. Paddleboards, kayaks, and canoes will navigate either the 2-mile Carl Stokes Memorial, the 5.7-mile Ruth Patrick Memorial or 13 mile Rachel Carson Memorial (fast canoe/kayak/surf ski only) urban courses that flow past a unique mix of riverfront sites where iconic bridges and pyramids of sand and stone stand in contrast to paved paths and green-spaces.

The scenic, winding, and protected 5.7-mile course with sweeping views of downtown Cleveland will take you under 10 bridges spanning the river before you reach the race’s iconic turnaround point - the site 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.

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. When you participate in Blazing Paddles and recreate on the Cuyahoga River, you’ll be making a national statement about the value of protecting our nation’s natural resources.


When you participate in Blazing Paddles on Cleveland’s historic Cuyahoga River, you’ll be reminding the nation of the great things that happen when our natural resources are protected.

Blazing Paddles is part of the Kentucky Waterman Series and the newly created Erie Series. Our model? The EPIC Ohio River Paddlefest. Register on Paddle Guru TODAY as our field will be capped.

xtinguish torch fest

xtinguish torch fest

The inaugural Blazing Paddles on June 23, 2018, set the stage for the City of Cleveland’s & Sustainable Cleveland’s plans for Cuyahoga50, an encompassing celebration with a wide variety of community events, exhibits, performances, and conferences taking place throughout 2019.

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 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!

Race Details

Race Distances

  • 2.0 Miles (The Carl Stokes Memorial Recreational Paddle, all classes)

  • 5.4 Miles (The Ruth Patrick Memorial short race & paddle, all classes)

  • 13.0 miles (The Rachel Carson Memorial long race & paddle, high performance kayak, fast sea kayak)

Race Classes

  • SUP 14’ & Under

  • High Performance Kayak (18'1")

  • Fast Sea Kayak (16'1" -18')

  • Sea Kayak (14'-16')

  • Kayak (Under 14)

  • Solo Canoe (Includes Outrigger)

  • Tandem Kayak

  • Tandem Canoe (Includes OC-2)

Kayak Rental (while they last)

  • Single - $30.00

  • Double - $50.00

Preliminary Event Day Map (Cuyahoga50 HUB at Rivergate Park)

Preliminary Schedule

  • Friday, June 21, Blazing Paddlers Boat Drop Off at Merwin’s Wharf

    4:00 - 8:00 pm On-site registration, packet pickup, camping check-in & boat drop off

  • Saturday, June 22, 2nd Annual Blazing Paddles

    6:00 - 7:30 am On-site registration, packet pickup & boat drop off

    7:30 am Blazing Paddles participants enter the water

    8:00 am Deadline to claim rental boats

    8:15 am Blazing Paddles departs

    8:30 am Put-in closes

    11:00 am - Deadline for Blazing Paddles participants to take out at Merwin’s Wharf docks

    11:30 am Presentation of race awards

    12:00 pm Deadline for all boats to take-out

    2:00 pm Deadline to pick-up boats from take-out

Course Maps

Burning the Cuyahoga River Narrative

Our Model for Blazing Paddles?

The Epic Ohio River Paddlefest

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.

what’s there to do during your stay in cleveland? check out destination cleveland!

what’s there to do during your stay in cleveland? check out destination cleveland!

Save the date and invite your friends! here will be a TON of events and things to do in Cleveland during your stay as part of Destination Cleveland’s “Visit Me in CLE” weekend. 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

Blazing Paddles Media Links

Cleveland's Burning River Narrative is Evolving