Do you enjoy a challenge? What if that challenge also raises funds for an environmentally friendly cause? If you answered yes, then Tuolumne River Trust’s Paddle to the Sea paddle-a-thon is for you.
Beginning in May, Paddle to the Sea is a six-week event that takes participants from the headwaters of the Tuolumne River right outside of Yosemite National Park all the way to Aquatic Park in San Francisco. The annual paddle-a-thon is a fundraiser that raises money towards Rim Fire recovery efforts for the Tuolumne River, while highlighting the importance of water conservation in the face of the ongoing drought. Although this year’s event has already passed, it is never too early to start preparing for next year, said event coordinator Rebecca Steivater.
Participants can either join as a paddler for a weekend or go the distance to San Francisco as a “principal paddler.” Steivater said there is no need to worry for those who are not paddling masters, as Paddle to the Sea accommodates all experience levels. Participants can choose which leg of the journey they want to join in on that best accommodates their paddling expertise and location. The fundraiser offers many options for paddle-a-thon participants including, whitewater rafting, flat water canoeing, and sea kayaking. With the exception of sailboats used for some legs of the journey, all equipment is included.
Steivater said the paddle-a-thon did not start out as a fundraiser initially. An idea thought up by a few of the Tuolumne River Trust’s board members, the journey on the river from the headwaters near Yosemite all the way to San Francisco simply seemed like a fun way to raise awareness about the connectedness of the Tuolumne watershed. It was not until the event’s second year that it officially became a fundraiser. Even though the Paddle to the Sea event raises $50,000 annually, Steivater says that it is not just about the money. Rather, she hopes that the paddle-a-thon will also create advocates for the river.
Zoe Lehman, a second year Paddle to the Sea participant who has dedicated many weekends to the event, strongly encourages anyone who might be interested in paddle-a-thon to join next year. Once a beginner herself, Lehman said that participating taught her a lot of river skills, which sparked a love for the river. She stressed how the paddle-a-thon is a great way to connect with nature and have a good time.
“It’s a really amazing way to spend a day,” Lehman said, “and if you spend one day, you’ll want to spend more days”—a mindset that Steivater and the Tuolumne River Trust believe is the most important thing that participants can take away from this event.
For more information on the next Paddle to the Sea event, visit paddletothesea.org or call 888.994.3344.