This week, we look at ways that literally anyone can immerse themselves in our living local waters, from young triathletes to folks with special needs to film watchers.
East Race’s last weekend
Aug. 20-21 will be the last weekend you can raft down South Bend’s East Race Waterway for the year. Hours will be noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.
The city had hoped to keep the East Race open through Labor Day, but, like last summer’s closure in mid-August, it is struggling with a lack of lifeguards, Jonathan Jones, director of recreational experiences for the Venues, Parks and Arts department, says.
The department offered bonuses to work later in the season and overtime pay to city firefighters, he says. But they seem to have other opportunities, he says. Even raft truck drivers can find work elsewhere because of general labor shortages in the economy, Jones says. Many of the guards are college and high school students who are heading back to school.
Barron Lake Triathlon
The Barron Lake Triathlon race for kids and adults on Aug. 27 in Niles will look very much as it has in years past – same weekend, same shore of Barron Lake and many of the same volunteers. But the lead organizer has changed.
When Sarah Cira with the Racing For Steve-O Foundation stepped aside this winter, saying it was time to pass the torch, another charity quickly stepped in: MyTeam Triumph of Southwest Michigan. Based in St. Joseph, this chapter of a national organization had already been sending a few teams of volunteer “angels” to race with “captains” who have disabilities in the Barron Lake Triathlon over the past few years. They use a custom-made racing chair on wheels that can be pushed by running or biking. On water, a swimming angel tugs the captain in an inflatable raft. The charity will have at least a couple of “captains” racing this time, Doug Babcock, equipment and race day coordinator, says.
Most of the money raised in the race will benefit the local MyTeam Triumph chapter, helping to pay for entry fees to various races (many of them are runs), along with equipment, such as more of the racing chairs, which Babcock says can cost from $5,000 to $10,000. Babcock says it has about 15 captains altogether, from kids to adults. A portion of the money will go to the Racing For Steve-O Foundation, which supports efforts to help people with special needs to keep active through sports.
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For adults, this will be a sprint race including a 500-yard swim, 15-mile bike ride and 3.1-mile run. You can do this alone or in a relay team. Youths ages 6-11 can choose between a noncompetitive or a competitive race, both with a 25-yard swim, 1.2-mile bike ride and half-mile run. It all departs from 1263 Rose Drive, Niles, with the adult race at 8 a.m. and the kids at 9:30 a.m.
The cost for adults is $90 per individual or $110 per team. For kids, it’s $30. Prices increase after Aug. 25. Volunteers are needed, too. Visit barronlaketri.com to sign up.
Elkhart’s EnviroFest from 3 to 9 p.m. Aug. 20 brings back sustainability-focused vendors, food, kids activities, live music, local beer garden and canoe rides to the city’s Island Park, surrounded by the cool, restful waters of the St. Joseph River where it meets the Elkhart River.
Ride your bike in and leave it with the bike valet service from Bike Elkhart County. Or take it for a brief spin to explore nearby trails venturing into High Dive Park to the north across the river or along riverbanks to the south, including the Elkhart Riverwalk.
Wilderness Inquiry will take people on canoe rides. There will be animal shows by Indiana Wild and jams on the main stage by the bands Acoustic Gravity and Memphis Underground.
Cost is $5 per family of any size. For more information, call organizers at the Elkhart Environmental Center at 574-293-5070 or visit www.ElkhartEnviroFest.com.
Film about Pokagons
A 26-minute documentary, “The Seven Generation River,” examines the history of the Pokagon Band of the Potawatomi Indians and how its people are working to heal local waters from degradation, including recent efforts on the Dowagiac River. It will be shown for free at 2 and 5 p.m. Aug. 20 at the Ruthmere Museum, 302 E. Beardsley Ave., Elkhart. The 2 p.m. show has limited seats but is handicapped accessible in the Havilah Beardsley House. The 5 p.m. show has 30 additional seats in Ruthmere’s Game Room. Reserve seats at Ruthmere.org or 574-264-0330.
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Detroit Public Television made the film about four years ago. Locally, WNIT-TV aired it in 2019. The film interviews local Pokagon leaders and its natural resources staff. It shows restoration efforts like the planting of rice, which had been a staple of their ancestors, while also showing how the restoration of sacred waters fits with the band’s spiritual traditions. The film can also be viewed at greatlakesnow.org/the-seven-generation-river.
Meanwhile, WNIT General Manager Greg Giczi says the station is working on a fresh documentary about the Pokagon Band, and, if all goes well, it may debut in fall of 2023.
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Teams of four will race rafts down South Bend’s East Race from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 20. You can still sign up for the In the River race at $100 per team by the end of the day Aug. 18. Money raised will support Ronald McDonald House Charities Michiana and the city’s Venues, Parks and Arts Youth Scholarship Fund. To sign up, find a link in this column online.
Delve into the value of healthy waters through fun, floating and food from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 27 on the Little Elkhart River in the 12th annual Riverfest at Riverbend Park, 511 E. Warren St. (County Road 16), Middlebury.
Take brief kayak rides with guides from the group Michiana Paddlers. Or, in the “Regatta of Recyclables,” use materials and help that will be provided to build your own boat from 10 a.m. to noon, then join a boat race for cash prizes. Or win a kayak through a free drawing.
Starting at 10 a.m., see and touch wild fish that will be safely electro-fished by Elkhart’s aquatic biologist. At 1 p.m., Indiana Wild will show live animals from around the world. Check out several nature-based art and craft projects, games, natural resource educators and informational booths.
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All activities will be free except for the food. Vendors include Dougie’s Food Truck, Kings Barbeque, Papa’s Dippin’ Donuts and Dips on the Vine Ice Cream.
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South Bend’s Kids Triathlon
Aug. 20 is the deadline to register kids ages 5-14 in the rescheduled Kids Triathlon, which will run from 8 a.m. to noon Aug. 27 at Potawatomi Park. It features a 50- or 25-yard pool swim, 1.3-mile bike ride and half-mile swim. Cost is $26. Register in a link here online.
Everglades of the North paddle
On Aug. 27, join this self-guided group paddle into bayous of the Kankakee River where native hibiscus plants should be flowering. The Northwest Indiana Paddling Association leads this annual event that peeks into what the river looked like before it was straightened, here at the Indiana-Illinois border in Newton County.
The trip will launch from the LaSalle Fish & Wildlife Area and go from the White Oak Bayou to the State Line Bayou at the Illinois border. Arrive between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. CDT at the launch site on County Road 1150 North, west of U.S. 41, near Lake Village, about 40 miles south of Merrillville. It will go until 3 p.m. CDT.
Bring your own boat or borrow one from the group. A shuttle bus will be provided. Donations are accepted. Register in a link here in this column online.
Find columnist Joseph Dits on Facebook at SBTOutdoorAdventures or 574-235-6158 or [email protected]