WAGRAM — Though the segment of the Lumber River enjoyed as a scenic waterway in northern Scotland County is winding, the list of official rules for next month’s Chalk Banks Challenge is not.
Almost anything goes in the event’s headline event: the homemade raft race, an event which after five years at the Chalk Banks Access Area of the Lumber River State Park is still all but guaranteed to surprise.
“A lot of people just build them and then they don’t put them in the water until the day of the event to test them out, so it’s sort of a learning experience, but that’s part of the fun of it too,” said park ranger Eric Siratt.
Chalk Banks Challenge will be held on May 14, featuring canoe and kayak races, a 5K, and the one-mile Scotland County Schools elementary cross-country championship in addition to the raft race.
Entrants in the raft race are limited only by their own ingenuity and the prohibition of motorized propulsion. The 2015 victor, the “CSS Lumber” paddled by Brent Spivey of St. Pauls and Jeremy Hester of Grays Creek, was made of polyurethane-coated cardboard.
Among other memorable entries, Siratt recalled a group of military members from Fort Bragg, who paddled to victory on an inflatable mattress.
All of the water races will follow the river roughly two miles from the Chalk Banks Access Area to the wildlife landing near U.S. 401.
While the paddlers duke it out on the river, spectators will have their choice of live music, food vendors, educational exhibits, canoe rides, and children’s games including a wet T-shirt relay and hollering contest.
“We’re trying to make it where it’s family-oriented so everyone that comes out can enjoy the park and being outdoors,” Siratt said. “You’ve got so much technology nowadays and a lot of the younger kids don’t have a chance to get out and enjoy the outdoors like they should.”
In the aim of promoting the Lumber River State Park and inspiring a new generation of river enthusiasts, Siratt said the event has been a success since it was revived in 2011 after a 30-year hiatus. The original raft race was held in the Riverton area.
“It’s actually been really great; we have a lot of people who come out to do the free canoe rides or just view the park and I see those people back in the park two or three weeks later,” said Siratt. “Some of the same families buy their own canoes or kayaks and come back later and paddle, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Entry fees are $10 for a single person raft and $20 for rafts carrying two or more people. The entry fee for canoe and kayak races is $10. For the 5K trail run, registration is $25 in advance or $35 on race day.
Onsite event registration begins at 8 a.m. on May 14, with the 5K trail run starting at 9 a.m.
The river festival will open at 10 a.m. Canoe and kayak races will set off at 10:15 a.m., and the raft race will start at 11:30 a.m.
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.