South Bend’s East Race Waterway is now open for summer

Published: Jun. 3, 2023 at 11:56 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - Kayakers and whitewater rafters rejoice as the East Race Waterway in South Bend is now open for the summer and all the family-friendly watersports fun that comes along with it.

For nearly four decades, The East Race has served as a great outdoor getaway right in the heart of the city.

“This is a level II whitewater rafting facility, so there’s whitewater here,” says East Race Lifeguard Emma Creviston. “People can go down on the rafts, up to six people, or you can go down single, or you can bring your own kayak and kayak down the race.”

The half-mile watercourse is not just for watersports enthusiasts; it’s for families, co-workers, and tourists alike.

“We had four or five different families out today, and they had a blast,” says Kelli Notteboom, Aquatics and Ice Manager for South Bend Venues Parks and Arts. “We had a birthday party out here; we will get Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts troops out. We have a couple of church groups that come out, so it’s just a wide variety of people, and we have a ton of fun with it.”

First-time kayaker Aidin Redmon tells 16 News that this course is excellent for beginners.

“It was really fun, actually,” says Aidin Redmon, a Grayson County, Kentucky resident making her first trip to South Bend. “I was a little scared at first because I’ve never actually done something like this, so it’s good for beginners. It’s a good place to take your family, even if you don’t know how to kayak.”

And if you do fall out of your raft, lifeguards are standing by to help you get back to the rapids.

“The water is not too cold right now,” Creviston said. “It’s like the perfect temperature to get in, so if you fall in, you don’t have to be worried; the race is only three to five feet deep, and there are lifeguards every 200 to 500 feet along the race to catch you if you fall in, so it’s a pretty safe activity.”

The East Race Waterway has been a local kayak and whitewater rafting spot for 39 years.

It will be open from June 3 until September 17, 2023, extreme weather permitting.

“We will run in a light drizzle as long as there is no thunder and no lightning,” Notteboom said. “The only time we would have to close is if we get extremely high winds; it’s just not safe to transport our rafts.”

Tuesdays and Wednesdays are also potential days to hit the East Race, but those days are reserved for private rentals, which could make for a great business or group outing.

Notteboom also tells 16 News Now that canoes might be challenging, even if they are whitewater rafting canoes, and no innertubes are allowed in the East Race.

The drop-in area is near Seitz Park, on the east bank of the St. Joseph River.

Each person will need a pass to go down the East Race. And on the topic of water races, the East Race Whitewater Festival and “Boatercross” race takes place from June 9-11.

Click here to register for the race and click here to get day or season passes for the East Race Waterway.

The u93 Duck Drop is also part of the opening weekend festivities, which will help raise money for child abuse prevention.

Around 1,000 rubber duckies will be dropped in the East Race, and the first 93 ducks that make it to the finish line will win prizes (for those who sponsored that duck).

The Duck Drop kicks off at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday.