Group of people standing at the Russian River


By Murphy-Goode Winery

Viking “Raid” on the River: Rowing for Conservation!

Once again, Murphy-Goode took to the shores of the Russian River in single and double kayaks - sponsoring the Great Russian River Race: Drought Edition on a beautiful and sunny May 3rd. This year marked a special event in that there was a focus on water conservation. As we enter into the third consecutive year of an ongoing and tremendous drought, water issues are becoming more prevalent throughout California. With low flows of 35 to 50 cubic feet per second in some places, the river is said to be about 30% narrower than usual. Despite the alarmingly low flows on the Russian River this season, Russian Riverkeeper in partnership with the Sonoma County Regional Parks, along with their sponsors continued in the 4th year to celebrate this local treasure by hosting an abbreviated version of the race.

Instead of the traditional fifteen-mile long race, participants from all over the county and beyond kayaked, canoed, or stand-up paddle boarded down a five mile course towards the finish line at Healdsburg’s Memorial Beach. Equipment rentals were provided by local outfitter, River’s Edge Kayak and Canoe. Other sponsors such as Marmot, Camelbak, Lagunitas, Guyaki, and of course Murphy-Goode teamed up with Russian Riverkeeper to put on a fun, adventurous, and some would argue competitive event to build community awareness and engagement for protecting the Russian River. A limit of 200 entrants was allowed so as to reduce the impact on the river from the event. As a participant myself, let’s just say that I wouldn’t have been able to keep up with any more than 200 other kayakers anyhow!

Rowing for Water Conservation

This Race has been integral in bringing communities together to celebrate the Russian River, and to raise awareness of river ecosystems and the need for its protection. Don McEnhill, Executive Director of Russian Riverkeeper, noted that the Great Russian River Race began as, “We were struggling to come up with ways to get the community more engaged with the river. We found that there was a big disconnect between the community and this wonderful place. The river is why we have this wonderful community and wonderful wine industry.”

So when asked why the big race? He describes the event as an opportunity to celebrate the river as the third leg to their organization’s goals: education, advocacy, and celebration. Indeed, the camaraderie, albeit slightly competitive, helps build community engagement around the river. It is important to provide education on why the river is critical for the local community, their homes, surrounding farms, and the recreation that connects us to nature. “The race gave us this platform to connect the community with the river and remind us of this natural treasure. When we care about something, we can change our behavior.”

Indeed, we are faced with a serious drought. Connecting with the river in such a fun way brought greater awareness that we are very much stakeholders in this drought. The great Viking horns of the Murphy-Goode team clad in purple didn’t exactly win first place. But we had tremendous fun falling in racing down the Great Russian River, and raising awareness for water conservation so that you can continue to see our horns floating down the river.