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Middle Loup River Challenge

The Sixth Annual Middle Loup River Challenge will be held September 7, 2024.  The proceeds of the event go towards maintaining public access along the Middle Loup River and maintaining a paddler friendly environment throughout the segments of the river in Thomas County.  Proceeds may go towards paddler friendly fences on private land, public access point improvements, river clean up, or working with private landowners to allow for public access points.  The race is suited for competitive racers and leisure floaters alike.

Early Bird Cost $55 + Processing Fees (Before Aug. 1)

Cost August 1st $65 + Processing Fees 


12 divisions to choose from......


Men's/Women's Competitive Kayak

  • Under 14'

  • 14'-18'

  • Unlimited (over 18')


Men's/Women's Competitive Canoe


Men's/Women's Competitive SUP


Team Canoe



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The following is included in event registration:

  • Gift (shirt or gear suited towards paddle sports)

  • Awards

  • Snacks

  • Meal at the end of the race


The race is not suited for new paddlers.  It is recommended those newer to paddling participate in the the leisure division to get a feel of the river.  You will want to have some experience for the full race.  

The whole course is gorgeous.  If you are looking for a really nice float that you can take your time on, please sign up for the leisure float.  28 miles is a long time on the river to do at a leisurely pace.



Friday September 6, 2023

Check-in at the Sandhills Corral in Thedford from 6:30 until 8:30.  Come and network with other paddlers and meet the sponsors of the event over a meal at The Sandhills Corral.  No meal is provided Friday night, but we have worked with the Sandhills Corral for a discounted meal price for participants.  

Saturday morning checkin is available if you are unable to make it Friday night. Please arrive by 7:30 Saturday morning for race day checkin. If you are not utilizing the shuttle service, please be at the start of your division by 7:45.  Participants should not be leaving the start location after 7:45 for any reason.

Race Day September 7, 2023

The start of the race is at the bridge located 7.5 miles west of Thedford or 7 miles east of Seneca.  Ample signage will guide you to the registration point. The leisure float will start at the Sandhill River Trips campground at 39225.The leisure float will start at the Sandhill River Trips campground at 39225 Call Lane, Thedford.

Shuttle service is available at $10/person.  There will be a shuttle in the morning from the finish to the start.  Shuttle will leave the finish at 7:00 am sharp for racers and 7:45 for leisure floaters.  Equipment must be dropped at the start prior to the shuttle.  Equipment will not be shuttled. 

A required safety meeting will begin at 8:15 am at the start of the race and at the leisure division start.  You are required to have a PFD with you.

The first heat will start at 8:30. The Leisure Division will also start at 8:30.

The race and leisure float finish at the Middle Loup River Guest Ranch.


Women Solo Canoe: No Record

Women Kayak:

  • 14' and Under - Mitzi Klimek, Omaha, NE - 5:13.34 2020

  • 14'-18' - Lisa Grossman, Lawrence, KS - 5:10.17 2023

  • Unlimited - No Record

Women SUP:  Rhonda Graff, McCook, NE - 5:50.21 2021

Men Solo Canoe: Calvin Hassell, Grand Island, NE - 3:32.59 2021

Men Kayak:

  • 14' and Under - Nathan Holthusen, Ogallala, NE - 4:51.59 2021

  • 14'-18' - Travis Greenough, Valentine, NE - 4:30.05 2023

  • Unlimited - Mike Huggins, Valentine, NE - 4:05.41 2021

Men SUP: Marek Uliasz, Fort Collins, CO - 5:36.59 2023

Team Canoe:  Pete Jizba / Elise Kreikemeier, Omaha, NE / Sidney, NE - 5:58.34 2023

Course Information

The race course consists of a 28 mile competitive race and is filled with many challenges along the way.    The leisure float is about 17 miles and takes between 3 to 5 hours depending on the pace you go.

Start - Check Point 1:

This portion is 9.25 miles.  The check point is located at the first Highway 2 bridge on the west side of Thedford.  This portion of he river has many twists and tight turns, which presents a challenge for vessels over 16' if you don't have a rudder.  There are low bridges you may need to portage depending on the type of vessel you have.  

Full Race.PNG

Check Point 1 to Check Point 2:

This portion is 7 miles.  The check point is located at the Gaston Road bridge east of Thedford.  This portion of the race has some small rapids under the railroad tracks just after Check Point 1.  These are not difficult to navigate and are just big enough to give you a little bit of a splash.  You will probably get slightly wet going through them.  The mile stretch through Thedford has a few down trees.  None of these are hard to get around, but they can look intimidating to a novice kayaker at first appearance.  After you get to Highway 83, the river is wide open and easy to float.

Start to CP1.PNG

Check Point 2 to Finish:

This portion is 11.75 miles.  You will find this stretch of the river easy to navigate and wide open.  The last mile and a half is the most challenging portion of the race though.  The river widens out and gets shallow.  This will likely be he part of the river that makes the difference between 1st and 5th.  Your navigation skills will come into play.  Pick the wrong channel and it might cost you winning the race.  There is at least one channel that will get you through to the finish without having to exit your kayak or canoe.  SUP racers will have the best view of the channels and will be able to navigate them easier.

CP1 to CP 2.PNG
CP2 to Finish.PNG


There is a room block with special pricing at the Roadside Inn in Thedford. 

Mention Kayak Race. (308) 645-2630


Sandhill River Trips - Camping at the start of the leisure division.  This is primitive camping with a porta potty. Contact Cay at (308) 636-8608.


Halsey National Forest (877) 444-6777


Redwood Inn in Halsey (308) 533-2240

Saturday Evening

Please join us at Sandhill Sutton's in Halsey for awards, meal, and beer garden (not included with registration) following the race.  Come and spend time with other racers and mingle with the locals that help make the event possible.

Spectator Viewing Locations

Starting line, second highway 2 bridge west of Thedford, Check Point 1 bridge (first Highway 2 bridge west of Thedford), Maple Street bridge south of Thedford (turn south at Ewoldt's Grocery), old Highway 83 bridge, Check Point 2 (Gaston Road bridge), finish line. 

Thank You To Our Sponsors

Sandhill River Trips

Thomas County Visitors Committee

Ewoldt's Grocery

Tom and Twyla Witt - Middle Loup River Ranch Guest House

Security First Bank

Western Nebraska Bank

Roadside Inn

Sandhills Corral

Sandhill Sutton's Speed and Supply

Sandhill Oil

Thedford Lumber and Supply

Anthem Coffee

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