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 be racing on 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 newly created 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 race’s turnaround point - THE location of the 1952 Cuyahoga River fire, the infamous image that's used as a visual stand-in for the much smaller June 22, 1969 fire.

Yes, Blazing Paddles' turnaround point 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 launched America’s environmental movement. When you compete in Blazing Paddles on Cleveland’s historic river, you'll be reminding the nation of the great things that happen when our natural resources are protected.

At one time in American history, hundreds of rivers were used as sewers for the byproducts of industrial processes. Yet it is the Cuyahoga River that stands alone as the poster-child for the ravages of a bygone era. More rigorous environmental regulations and engaged citizen stewardship helped fuel the recovery of tributaries that now support not only a widening array of fish and wildlife species, but they also support a sustainable economic driver for their regions: tourism and recreation. Blazing Paddles is not just a stand-up paddleboard (SUP) race: it will serve as the mecca for the SUP community to make a national statement that healthy and vibrant rivers are an essential quality of life enhancer for America’s waterfront cities.

In addition to the 5.7-mile race, Blazing Paddles will offer a shorter 2-mile paddle for casual paddleboarders, kayakers and canoeists. We are currently working on river access that will allow kayaks and canoes the ability to pass the site of the 1969 fire during the 6 mile float down to Rivergate Park. Details will be released in January.

Our inaugural Blazing Paddles set the stage for the City of Cleveland’s & Sustainable Cleveland’s plans for Cuyahoga50, an encompassing celebration with wide variety of community events, exhibits, performances, and conferences taking place throughout 2019. Make your plans now to be part of the historic celebration!


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 have 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

  • 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! Registration for Blazing Paddles will go live in late January, 2019

Would you like to be part of the team that's making this year's Blazing Paddles and Share the River Ramble 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