The allure of the Lumber River is expected to draw hundreds to its banks this Saturday during the 2013 Chalk Banks Challenge.
Organizers are involved in final preparations this week for the Challenge, which includes canoe, kayak and homemade raft races as well as fun, games and entertainment for those not planning to put in at the Chalk Banks Access area.
Mickey Turlington of the North Carolina Canoe Racing Association said that he expects a big crowd this year as word of the event, in only its third year, spreads.
“I think there will be a good turnout this year and I expect to see some new people. I’ve heard from folks from Charlotte and South Carolina. I think there will be quite a few.”
According to Turlington, the event is destined to grow because of the irresistible appeal of its centerpiece, the Lumber River.
“Most of the paddlers, once they paddle this section of the river, they always come back. People say that it is one of their favorite sections to race,” Turlington said.
The charm and intrigue of the stretch of the Lumber River used for the Chalk Banks Challenge’s individual kayak, individual canoe, tandem canoe and homemade raft races is rotted in both its beauty and in its challenging twists and turns.
“We’ve been racing there since the 70’s and 80’s and it’s real challenging,” Turlington said. “Every time we race you have one or two flip over. It’s real difficult to maneuver and I’ve even gone in a few times myself.”
Whit Gibson, one of the event’s organizers, said that the river’s elegance is famous for a reason.
“The Lumber River is really unique. It was voted one of the ten best natural attractions in North Carolina, and nine of the other locations on the list were either in the mountains or on the coast.
“It’s a great river.”
Later this week, park rangers with the Lumber River State Park will make one last paddle down the river to clear away any limbs or trees that may have fallen into the river, making sure that the “blackwater” river has its best face on show.
On the day of the event the rangers, joined by members of the Lumber River Canoe Club will be stationed in the water to ensure the safety of all entrants into the various competitions.
“The canoe club has been a big help to us,” Turlington said.
Individuals interested in adding to the difficulty of their water-bound event may add a 5k run, as well.
Entries will be accepted up until the day of the event.
The Chalk Banks Challenge is not just for those looking to ride the current, either.
“There will be music, and bluegrass groups coming to play. We have food vendors booked to come and kid’s games also,” Gibson said.
New this year is a “Kid’s Olympics” event that features a wet t-shirt contest, a “hollering” contest, a bubble gum blowing competition and several other competitions aimed at youngsters.
The results of an ongoing children’s art contest involving several local schools will also be revealed at the event.
A raffle will be conducted where first prize is a kayak valued at $300. Tickets may be purchased at the following locations: Laurinburg Chamber of Commerce, Morgan Complex Recreations Center (Turnpike Road in Laurinburg), The Wagram Town Center, or by calling 280-1644.
And while a good time will be had by all, including those who choose not to brave the water, Saturday’s Chalk Banks Challenge will always be about paddling the Lumber River, say organizers.
“It really is a fantastic stretch. You can go on a river like the Cape Fear that’s flat and long and boring, or you can go down the Lumber River with its tight turns and the shade from the trees and really enjoy yourself,” Turlington said. “It’s a special place.”
The 2013 Chalk Banks Challenge will take place on Saturday, May 18 from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. at the Chalk Banks Access Area of the Lumber River in Wagram.
For more information on the canoe, kayak and biathlon races contact Mickey Turlington of the North Carolina Canoe Racing Association at 910-904-1578.
10:00 a.m. – Festival Opens
10:15 – Welcome and Kick-off
10:00 – 11:00 – Continued registration (canoe, kayak, raft)
11:00 – Raft Races Begin (put in at Chalk Banks – finish at Highway 401)
11:30 – Start canoe & kayak races – single & tandem. Paddlers will put in at
Turnpike Rd. and race to Chalk Banks. 5k run follows for
12:15 p.m. – Kid’s Olympics begin – Kid’s wet t-shirt, hollering contest, bubble gum blowing contest and more
1:00 – Art Contest winners announced and prizes awarded.
2:30 – Awards and raffle drawing