Your article was aimed down the wrong river. If Jim Harrison wants to cover a really tough canoe race, tell him to try the Texas Water Safari, which starts at San Marcos and finishes at Seadrift on the Gulf of Mexico. It is a long, grueling pace down the San Marcos and Guadalupe rivers and across a portion of salt water at the end.
Note a few comparisons: the Michigan race is 240 miles. The Texas Safari is 419 miles, and since it began in 1963, only 19% of the starters have finished. The Michigan racers had to contend with a few short portages, but I doubt that they made any more than a mile long, up and down steep grades through dense woods. Part of the safari runs through an almost junglelike area, and spectators cannot even get to the riverbanks in most places. There also is the possibility of a water moccasin dropping into the canoe from overhanging branches and many log jams lie between start and finish. One other thing: no assistance can be given to canoe teams, as is done in Michigan, which means that food must be carried all the way.
I speak from experience; I was in the 1973 safari, but my partner and I made it only halfway. Our canoe had acquired a dozen holes and would no longer float. Former Michigan racers Norm Brown and Bill Staples expressed pessimism about any increase in the popularity of canoeing because it takes too much work to be a winner. On the Texas Safari, if you finish you are a winner.
JOE V. HUNT