Upcoming paddle races on the Allegheny

Times Observer file photo The Pennsylvania Association of Canoeing and Kayaking (PACK) will hold its championship event on the Allegheny River in Warren County on Saturday, July 20.

Canoes and kayaks — and the people paddling them — from all over will test Warren County’s waters in two upcoming events.

The Pennsylvania Association of Canoeing and Kayaking (PACK) will hold its championship event on the Allegheny River in Warren County on Saturday, July 20. “We’re certainly excited to have it back this year,” Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry Director of Chamber Operations and Tourism John Papalia said.

Registration will be open right up until the start of the races at 11 a.m.

The one-day championship event features numerous classes, including recreational classes appropriate for newcomers to the sport. Papalia said the recreational classes do not include any upstream sections.

The other classes will face the more challenging course, including multiple buoy turns.

Papalia said he expects some 100 paddlers to compete in the state championship.

“We’ll see quite a few folks coming in from out of town,” he said.

Some of them will be looking for a preview of a larger group of races to follow.

From August 8 through 11, the U.S. Canoe Association’s Canoe and Kayak National Championship races will be held in the county.

It is the seventh time the USCA Nationals will be held locally. The races were held here every other year from 2003 through 2009, then in 2012 and 2015.

As many as 500 racers could participate in the four days of competition this year, which will be held on the Allegheny River and at Chapman State Park, according to Papalia.

Sprint races for youth and paddlers with disabilities will be held Thursday, August 8, on Chapman Lake.

“The sprint races will be back at Chapman this year,” Papalia said. He said he has been in touch with Chapman State Park personnel and is confident the lake, which is currently drawn down for a rehabilitation project on the dam, will be ready. “We should be good to go. The lake is ideal.”

There are good places to spectators, plentiful parking, and still water, so the competitors don’t have to fight the flow of water at the start, he said. “We’re excited to be there.”

The marathons will utilize the river from Friday, August 9, through Sunday, August 11.

The presence of Kinzua Dam and the cooperation of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers helps Warren County bring the races back regularly. “The Army Corps of Engineers helping us with the water level is a major advantage,” Papalia said.

Like the PACK races, the USCA marathons begin below Kinzua Dam and end at Betts Park, with upstream sections at Shipmans Eddy and at the Veterans Memorial Bridge in Warren.

“We’re going back to our original course,” Papalia said. “For us as race organizers, it’s pretty tough to beat that course.”

The USCA has scheduled neither open sprints nor the orienteering competition.

Orienteering, which involves using a map to find controls at numerous points along a course, has been held at all previous nationals events in Warren County.

It is possible orienteering could be held on Wednesday, Aug. 7.

Except for the sprints (and orienteering, if that event is held), there will be no ‘day-of’ registration available for the USCA events. Registrations are due to WCCBI no later than 5 p.m. the day before the race. There are also waivers required by USCA.

“Any time we can bring out-of-town people into our county, that’s a big thing for our community,” Papalia said. “The economic impact is a good thing.”

In addition to benefits to hotels, campgrounds, restaurants, and others, Warren County Fair — which will be going on during the same week — could see extra attendees.

“We try to do the best we can administering the event,” Papalia said. “We’re trying to make the paddlers feel as welcome as possible.”

He is putting together a ‘Welcome Paddlers’ packet and local businesses and organizations that would like to draw the visitors in are encouraged to contribute information, coupons, or whatever.