Everybody get wet: Breakers to Bridge Paddle Festival raises awareness through fun

Breakers to Bridge, Facebook A line of kayaks sit on the shore of the Breakers, waiting for Saturday’s non-competitive, Breakers to Bridge Paddle Festival, which is to raise awareness of the Keweenaw Water Trail and the Keweenaw Land Trust.

It’s that time of year again. Every year, within the first two weeks of September, The Breakers to Bridge Paddle Festival takes place, and this year was no exception.

The 2018 kayak race took place Saturday, Sept. 8, and began at the beach on the Houghton side of the North Portage Entry, locally known as the Breakers, where the first wave of paddlers departed from at 10 a.m.

The start of the paddle was what is called a Le Mans start, meaning the paddlers had a short distance to run to their boats, jump in them and then start paddling, rather than having everyone start in their boat.

The Breakers to Bridge Paddle Festival is an annual 10-mile race from the Breakers to the Portage Lake Lift Bridge, and its purpose is to raise awareness of the Keweenaw Water Trail and the Keweenaw Land Trust (KLT). The trust is a community partnership dedicated to protecting land, water, and quality of life through conservation, stewardship, and education.

It was founded in 1996 as a non-profit organization with a mission of protecting and restoring natural areas, watersheds, heritage lands, traditional farms, forests, and family lands. The Keweenaw Water Trail Association was formed in 1995 to promote the area’s extraordinary paddling opportunities. Consisting of canoeists and kayakers, the association has sponsored recreational, educational, and conservational activities.

Pat Toczydlowski of the KLT said that since the two organizations were founded, their missions remain the same, but the KWTA is now under the umbrella of the KLT.

Part of their KWTA’s purpose was to inventory sites and develop a Keweenaw Water Trail map, Toczydlowski said. A couple of different versions of the map were printed, but they are outdated now. The KWTA’s membership dwindled to two members, and they approached the Keweenaw Land Trust, because the two organization had a great deal of overlap with each other.

“They asked us we would basically assume it,” said Toczydlowski, “and so our board approved the organization taking over the KWT, and so really, what that is now is being granted us, the funds that they had in their account, and we administer those funds now to benefit the water trail, and what we’re working on now is starting to inventory what the sites are, and then to reprint that map.”

Registration and check-in for the Breakers to Bridge festival was Friday at the Outdoor Adventure Program at Michigan Tech, followed by a casual social at the Keweenaw Brewing Company in downtown Houghton at 6 p.m.

On Saturday, a 10-mile, non-competitive, timed paddle took place from the Breakers to the Portage Lake Lift Bridge. Following the race, a celebration was held at Houghton East Waterfront Park. Food was available from The Fitzgerald’s Restaurant. Food tokens were also available for purchase.

There were two aid stations, one near the Marsin Retreat Center near Oskar Bay, said Toczydlowski, and one at the Hancock Beach, at which paddlers could stop for aid. Otherwise there was limited support during the paddle.

Timing started when the wave was released at the Breakers, and ended at the lift bridge. The post-race meal and celebration was held at the Houghton East Waterfront Park next to Super 8, with lunch catered by Baby E’s BBQ. Boat demos by Paddle Dynamics followed

On Sunday, Sept. 10, throughout the Keweenaw Peninsula, there was self-guided adventures. Participants received information in their race packets about local waterfalls, hiking trails, conservation land, and other local treasures to explore.

With the wrap-up of the event Sunday, paddlers were encouraged to get out and explore on their own, be it paddling, biking, or hiking some of the great trails in the Copper Country.

For more information on the Breakers to Bridge Paddle Festival, please visit www.BreakersBridge.com.

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