It’s an annual event that sees teams get creative, build a raft and race down the North Saskatchewan River. The Sourdough Raft Race has been a staple in Edmonton for 60 years but the event is being postponed this year due to the high streamflow on the river right now.
“It’s about safety. We want to make sure that everybody has fun on the river and they’re not trying to avoid hazards. It’s about the flow rate,” said Ken Evasiw, president of the Sourdough Raft Race Association.
The Sourdough Raft Race was originally scheduled for this Sunday, but organizers made the decision Wednesday night to postpone the race due to potentially unsafe river conditions.
A high streamflow advisory is currently in place for the North Saskatchewan River from downstream of Edmonton to the Saskatchewan border. River levels are falling, but Alberta Environment warns they remain high.
“Typical flow rates during summer could be 300 to 350 cubic metres per second. In a slower period of lower water, it could be 200 to 250 cubic metres per second. As of last night, it was 470 so it’s significantly over our averages, what people are used to,” Evasiw said Thursday afternoon.
“Three weeks ago it was as high as 1,050 cubic metres per second. Two weeks ago it was 800. So it’s changing rapidly, significantly over the average at this time and so that’s the real concern, is the flow rate.
“We’re being cautious and following that guidance. We don’t want to put anybody at risk.”
Last weekend, about 300 passengers on the Edmonton Riverboat had to rescued after the boat became stuck on a sandbar at Accidental Beach. Evasiw said the incident played a role in their decision to postpone the sourdough race.
“The riverboat, that was certainly an eye-opener for everybody,” he said. “I think that brought the issue to everybody’s awareness when the Queen couldn’t navigate into the rafter’s landing dock.”
Watch below: More than 300 Edmonton Riverboat passengers were rescued by firefighters overnight after the boat was unable to get back to its dock because of the strong current in the North Saskatchewan River.
The association has tentatively rescheduled the race for Sunday, Aug. 18. Updates will be made on the event’s website.
The Sourdough Raft Race started in 1959 and is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. About 50 people have signed up for this year’s race, but Evasiw said there’s still time to register or come down on the day of the event and join in the fun.
“We want folks to come out and enjoy the river in a safe way,” he said.
“We call it a race. It’s not really a race. It’s about getting teams of neighbours, co-workers and friends together, working creatively to build a raft using your imagination. We’ve had everything from trucks to airplanes — looking rafts — not the actual trucks and planes.”
This year’s race admiral is a familiar face in Edmonton, Corus Radio’s Bryan Hall.
© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.