Red Mo Race History


Red Moshannon Downriver Canoe/Kayak Race

by Jon Nelson

The Red Mo race was begun in 1967 by the Penn State Outing Club (PSOC) Canoe Division, and this organization ran the race from 1967 to 1980. Early races were generally held in mid- to late-April. Depending on other race dates, the PSOC events attracted 40-80 paddlers, mainly in the wildwater, slalom kayak, and open canoe categories. The largest turnout was 77 boats in 1970. In 1976, no race was held due to low water, the only cancellation to date. The best race times during this period were set in 1970 by Herman Kerckhoff (40 minutes, 59 seconds) and 1978 by Glenn Johnson (40:21). Both racers paddled K-1 wildwater boats. In 1981, PSOC and Tussey Mountain Outfitters (TMO) jointly ran the race, and thereafter the event was run solely by TMO. Races during the 1980s and early-1990s were mostly open canoes. The high water year of 1993 saw a new race record set by Brad Nelson at 39:29, which is still the fastest time by any boat or paddler. The 1994 race was held at probably the highest water level ever (approx. 3 ft. on the current gauge). Beginning in 1995, the race date was fixed at the last Saturday in March. In 1997, the race attracted 86 boats and accelerated after that year. Race numbers grew to a record number of 163 in 2008, with a much greater diversity of boat designs. Faster race times during recent years have generally been in the 45 minute range, but a higher water level in 2011 saw a time of 41:36 set by Kurt Smithgall, which is the fastest time since 1993 and fourth fastest overall. In 2008, I compiled a history of the Red Mo race through correspondence with John Sweet (race chair, PSOC), Ed Bowman’s records at TMO, and visits to the newspaper office in Clearfield. I also began collecting water flow readings (in cubic feet per second or cfs) for the West Branch, attempting to find a good correlation with the Red Mo gauge. At this time I learned about a method for estimating the flow level by Don Frew, which accounts for both upstream flows on the West Branch and the drainage area of the Red Mo. Frew’s method is now in use by CCCC paddlers. A complete history of Red Mo race winners by boat category is located on the TMO web site. Read the entire newsletter