CP Race Spotlight - The California River Quest

California River Quest

[ Cali Paddler loves exploration. Point to point paddles. New water challenges and variety. And we have always been infatuated with races and events that challenge paddles to push beyond the norm. Physically and mentally. To be rewarded with accomplishments that re-invent what we 'can' do'!

In 2019 a rebirth of sorts will be taking place. The beloved California 100 river race used to be a pinnacle of racing achievement in our state. And two paddler rockstars have taken the steps to bring back this magic, in new form. And with various distance options to make sure paddlers are not intimidated by big numbers. Please welcome the CALIFORNIA RIVER QUEST to our calendar, and Emily Matthews who was kind enough to shed some light on this Memorial Day paddle awesomeness! ]

Share with us the history of this race and what it will involve this year (course distance dates etc.).

The race was borne on the Sacramento River when paddlers, Emily Matthews and Jeff Kay, were training for the 2018 Yukon River Quest. We were bemoaning the loss of the California 100 as we paddled the course last year. What started as an attempt to distract ourselves during the second 50 miles of our paddle got more and more serious as the day wore on. By the time we got to Chico, we had convinced ourselves that we needed to make a race on this course. On the shuttle from Chico back to Redding, we made up a name for our race – the California River Quest. (The name was an homage to the Yukon River Quest as well as a play on a favorite movie – Monty Python and the Holy Grail.) A few weeks later, over Memorial Day weekend 2018, we announced the race.

California River Quest

The California River Quest was inspired by endurance paddle events, including Rivers for Change’s California 100, the Yukon River Quest and many others that we participated in or are on our bucket lists (e.g., Texas Water Safari, M340). The course has been used by a number of groups over the years for race, adventure and social paddle events.


  • Challenge Quest
    25-mile course from Redding to Anderson
  • Ultra-Marathon Quest
    50-mile course from Redding to Red Bluff
  • Endurance Quest
    100-mile course from Redding to Chico


  • Saturday, May 25 – registration, boat inspection, racers’ briefing
  • Sunday, May 26 – race day
  • Monday, May 27 – celebration lunch at Sierra Nevada Brewery

What makes this race so special?

The first thing that makes this race so special is the location – the Upper Sacramento River. This event provides a unique opportunity to visit a special piece of the Sacramento River that remains natural and clean thanks to the ongoing work of many hard-working river advocates.

California River Quest

The course begins at Sundial Bridge and flows through riparian forests and oak woodlands teaming with wildlife and plants as well as a section that runs through a lava canyon. (Some of the wildlife on the river can be seen in this simple video.)

Another reason that our race is special is that it provides a variety of course options that makes it interesting to competitive paddlers as well as accessible to adventure paddlers. We are equally excited about both groups of participants and have made an event that will celebrate all paddlers’ accomplishments.

This event is not for profit, though we are set up as a business. Rather than set up a nonprofit organization, we decided to donate our profits to organizations that advocate for and protect rivers.

This year, we have selected Friends of the River to be our beneficiary. Friends of the River is California’s only statewide river conservation organization that drives protection and restoration of rivers to support sustainable water solutions through advocacy and education.

And, the event is 100% volunteer run.

What are some things paddlers can expect to see along the course? As well as different waters to paddle (flat vs. flowing).

The California River Quest’s full course runs from Redding to Chico on the upper Sacramento River. Paddlers can choose to run the entire course, the top half or the first quarter.

California River Quest

The first 50 miles of the course has some class one and two rapids, while the second 50 miles is mostly flat, slower-moving water. We will have safety boaters positioned at Wyndham Rapid (in the first 25 miles) and at China Rapids (a few miles above the end of the first 50 miles), in addition to the safety boaters that we will have throughout the course.

Current varies throughout the course. Paddlers can expect about 4 MPH current for the first 25 miles, 3 MPH for the second 25 miles then 2 MPH for the second half of the course. (Some sections of the river can be seen in a simple video that I put together using photos from past races and events. https://youtu.be/zkBsGIrosHQ)

What different paddle distances, crafts and categories will there be?

We welcome a variety of craft, including kayaks, surfskis, canoes, outrigger canoes as well as standup and prone paddleboards.

Paddlers can participate solo or as teams – multiple paddlers per boat or relay.

There will be two classes – adventure and competitive. The adventure class will start at 6am and the competitive class will start at 7am.

California River Quest

What are some logistic tips we should know about to ensure a great experience?

The biggest logistical challenge is shuttling from start to take out, if paddlers do not have on-ground support. To address this, a shuttle service is available. Paddlers will leave their vehicles at the start then the shuttle service’s drivers will drop them at the designated take-out.

Can paddlers without whitewater experience participate?

The course has class one and two rapids that can be navigated by an experienced paddler. This is not a race for novices. (See above.)

California River Quest

Anything else you would like to share with our tribe?

Come out and play with us! It’s a gorgeous course AND the celebration lunch will be held at the Sierra Nevada Brewery in their Big Room.

For more information, go to californiariverquest.com. If anyone has questions, please email us – info@californiariverquest.com.


For someone who tackled the original 100 mile race before, please check out this great recap from Cali Paddler John.

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