East Race whitewater rafting closure, Lake Barron Triathlon continues

This week, we’re looking at ways literally everyone can immerse themselves in our living local waters, from young triathletes to people with special needs to moviegoers.

East Race Last Weekend

August 20-21 will be the last weekend you can raft South Bend’s East Race Waterway for the year. The hours will be noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

The city had hoped to keep the East Race open until Labor Day, but, as last summer closed in mid-August, it is struggling with a lack of lifeguards, Jonathan Jones, director of experiences recreation for the Department of Sites, Parks and the Arts, says.

The department offered bonuses for working later in the season and overtime for city firefighters, he said. But they seem to have other opportunities, he says. Even raft truck drivers can find work elsewhere due to general labor shortages in the economy, Jones says. Many guards are college and high school students returning to school.

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Lake Barron Triathlon

The Barron Lake Triathlon race for children and adults on August 27 in Niles will be much like years past – same weekend, same Lake Barron shoreline and many of the same volunteers. But the main organizer has changed.

When Sarah Cira of the Racing For Steve-O Foundation stepped down 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 sent a few teams of volunteer “angels” to run with disabled “captains” in the Barron Lake Triathlon over the past few years. They use a bespoke racing chair on wheels that can be pushed while running or riding a bike. On the water, a swimming angel pulls the captain in an inflatable raft. The charity will have at least a few race “captains” this time around, said Doug Babcock, gear and race day coordinator.

Children line up for the Barron Lake Triathlon, which returns to the Niles area on August 27, 2022.

Most of the money raised from the race will benefit the local MyTeam Triumph chapter, helping pay for entry fees for various races (many of them are races), as well as amenities, such as more racing chairs, which Babcock says can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000. Babcock says he has about 15 captains in total, from children to adults. Part of the money will go to the Racing For Steve-O Foundation, which supports efforts to help people with special needs stay active through sport.

For adults it will be a sprint race including a 500 meter swim, a 15 mile bike ride and a 3.1 mile run. You can do it alone or in a relay team. Youngsters aged 6 to 11 can choose between a non-competitive or competitive race, both with a 25-meter swim, a 1.2-mile bike ride and a half-mile run. It all departs from 1263 Rose Drive, Niles, with the adult race at 8am and the kids at 9:30am

The cost for adults is $90 per person or $110 per team. For children, it’s $30. Prices increase after August 25. Volunteers are also needed. Visit barronlaketri.com to register.

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Elkhart EnviroFest

Elkhart’s EnviroFest from 3-9 p.m. on August 20 brings back sustainability-focused vendors, food, kids’ activities, live music, a local beer garden and canoe rides in City Island Park, surrounded by the cool, restful waters of the St. Joseph River where it meets the Elkhart River.

Pick up your bike and leave it at the Bike Elkhart County valet. Or take it for a quick spin to explore nearby trails as you venture into High Dive Park north across the river or along the banks to the south, including Elkhart’s Riverwalk.

Wilderness Inquiry will take people on canoe rides. There will be animal shows by Indiana Wild and main stage jams by bands Acoustic Gravity and Memphis Underground.

The cost is $5 per family of any size. For more information, call the organizers at the Elkhart Environmental Center at 574-293-5070 or visit www.ElkhartEnviroFest.com.

High Dive Park in Elkhart is just across the St. Joseph River via a bridge from Island Park, where EnviroFest will be held on August 20, 2022.

Movie about the Pokagons

A 26-minute documentary, “The Seven Generation River,” examines the history of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians and how its people work to heal local waters from degradation, including recent efforts on the Dowagiac River. It will be presented free of charge at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. on August 20 at the Ruthmere Museum, 302 E. Beardsley Ave., Elkhart. The 14 ha show has limited seating 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.

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 planting rice, which was a staple of their ancestors, while showing how the restoration of sacred waters fits into the spiritual traditions of the band. The film can also be viewed at greatlakesnow.org/the-seven-generation-river.

Meanwhile, WNIT general manager Greg Giczi said the station is working on a new documentary about the Pokagon group and, if all goes well, it could debut in the fall of 2023.

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White water race

Teams of four will be racing rafts on South Bend’s East Race from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on August 20. You can still register for the In the River race at $100 per team by the end of the day on August 18. Money raised will support Ronald McDonald House Charities Michiana and the City Sites, Parks and Arts Youth Scholarship Fund. To register, find a link in this column online.

Middlebury River Festival

Dive into the value of healthy waters while having fun, floating and eating from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. August 27 on the Little Elkhart River in the 12e Annual Riverfest at Riverbend Park, 511 E. Warren St. (County Road 16), Middlebury.

Take brief kayak rides with guides from the Michiana Paddlers group. Or, in the “Recyclables Regatta,” use the materials and help 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 raffle.

Starting at 10 a.m., see and touch wild fish that will be safely electrofished by Elkhart’s aquatic biologist. At 1 p.m., Indiana Wild will show live animals from around the world. Check out several nature-focused arts and crafts projects, games, natural resource educators, and information booths.

All activities will be free except food. Vendors include Dougie’s Food Truck, Kings Barbeque, Papa’s Dippin’ Donuts and Dips on the Vine Ice Cream.

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Northern Everglades Paddle

Join this self-guided group as you paddle through the bayous of the Kankakee River where native hibiscus plants are expected to flourish. The Northwest Indiana Paddling Association runs this annual event that provides a glimpse of what the river was like before it was straightened, here on the Indiana-Illinois border in Newton County.

The trip will depart from LaSalle Fish & Wildlife Area and travel from White Oak Bayou to 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 US 41, near Lake Village, approximately 40 miles south of Merrillville. This will last until 3:00 p.m. CDT.

Bring your own boat or borrow one from the group. A shuttle will be available. Donations are accepted. Sign up in a link here in this column online.

Find columnist Joseph Dits on Facebook at SBTOutdoorAdventures or 574-235-6158 or [email protected]

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