South Dakota Kayak Challenge

About SDKC

2020 update coming soon.

Racers of the South Dakota Kayak Challenge face 72 miles of wind and waves on the Missouri River between Yankton, S.D. and South Sioux City, Neb. Most of the course is in the National Park Service’s Missouri National Recreational River, a unique waterway that is the only NPS property that holds the designations of Wild and Scenic River, National Park and National Water Trail.

The Challenge and its volunteers welcome all racers who seek a challenge on an amazing part of the Midwest. It’s set for May 25-26, 2019, with pre-race briefing on Friday, May 24 in Yankton.

History-rich Yankton, S.D. has been a stalwart host city since the race was founded in 2010. Racers gather on Friday afternoon at Riverside Park for registration and pre-race briefings that night. Free camping in the park is available for tents.

The race ends in South Sioux City, Neb. Racers have until 1 p.m. Sunday to reach each of the four checkpoints and complete the course. There are no time restrictions, within reason, to reach the checkpoints, and there is no designated overnight camping location. All racers must begin the Challenge by 7:30 a.m.

The priority of our event is safety. The Midwestern weather and the river itself will provide ample challenge. Our other goals include making the race challenging but welcoming to competitors of many skill levels. Spending time on one of the most beautiful stretches of the Missouri River is rewarding and we hope our event reminds all who take part the true importance of this waterway.

Local search and rescue, medical, law enforcement and other groups are part of the South Dakota Kayak Challenge team. Safety boat crews will patrol the waters of the course as necessary, including South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa state officials. Emergency medical care either will be on-site or readily available during the event.

Locals cherish this American waterway and the South Dakota Kayak Challenge helps celebrates the grandeur of the river for both newcomers and veteran racers/river paddlers. Communities from start to finish provide support, volunteers, racers and financial contributions to make the race possible.

Registration costs $60 per person between Jan. 1, the opening of registration, and May 1. Thereafter, racers will pay $85 for late registrations. We will close registration on May 11. There are no refunds after May 1 or due to weather-related cancellation.

We provide a shuttle bus from the finish area in South Sioux City back to Yankton on Friday night. This service allows self-supported racers to put a vehicle in South Sioux City so it's there when you finish. You can secure lodging in Yankton or camp in Riverside Park. There is an additional $15 fee for the shuttle (if needed) and registration for it is mandatory so that we make sure we have room and to cover costs.

In addition to free camping in Riverside Park, Yankton is home to a wide range of hotels. Learn more here.

Delta Hotel (formerly the Marina Inn) in South Sioux City is our HQ for the finish.

Camping is also available in South Sioux City in addition to the wide range of Sioux City and South Sioux City motels and hotels.

Info for First-Timers

The South Dakota Kayak Challenge is a 72-mile marathon-endurance paddling race. Racers attend a safety briefing Friday night and the race starts at 7 a.m. on Saturday. Racers must reach the finish line before 1 p.m. on Sunday. Racers must check in at each of four checkpoints on the route. There are no cut-off times for the checkpoints; they are for supply, support and logistics.

Read about checkpoint locations on “The Course” page. All checkpoints are rolling: Racers need not exit craft, but they are responsible for assuring checkpoint staff have recorded them. How do I train? This race is a “sprint distance” for veterans of marathon-endurance paddling events, but the South Dakota Kayak Challenge has shown, in its past years to be ... challenging.

Strong south-southeast winds are common in the area and can lead to standing waves and arduous paddling. In addition, a confusing channel, warm air temps, cut banks, sand bars and recreational boat traffic in the last quarter of the race can make it grueling. We encourage all racers to "make it their own" and can provide transportation for anyone who decides to stop at any point along the route.

Newcomers may scoff at the idea of finishing 72 miles in 30 hours, based on their own recreational or touring experience. We'd encourage them to consider this example: For a kayaker to cover 72 miles, he or she only has to average 2.3 miles per hour to finish in the maximum time allowed. At a somewhat typical paddling speed of 4 mph, you could cover 80 miles in 20 hours. Our event gives you 30 hours to finish.

Some paddlers take breaks. Some stop for the night. Others faced the challenges of night travel on the river. No matter how you approach the SDKC, we encourage you to make it your own. It's not impossible. But it's certainly not easy.

Extensive training is recommended. A race of more than 70 miles will challenge almost anyone. The Missouri River makes it a true challenge in a unique location. Several Facebook pages focus on the training needed for this event. Let us know if you need help finding them or if you have any questions on training methods.

Four mandatory checkpoints are set with rolling check-ins. In addition, a mandatory pre-race meeting on Friday night before the race will offer time for questions.

Naturally, we welcome any and all questions. Visit the contact page, email or call us, and we’ll answer yours.

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