Firecracker Race

At the Mississippi Earthtones Festival

Your favorite race has returned! After more than four years, the Firecracker Race will again be held on the Mississippi River on September 16th 2023. Paddlers will race on a 15 mile downriver course from Grafton to Alton riverfront (see map below). The race will end at the Mississippi Earthtones Festival with live music, lots of food and drink options.

Register to Compete

The cost to race is listed on the registration below (both racers of a tandem team must register separately). All racers must agree to abide by the race rules, sign a liability waiver and understand that this race is a fund raiser for The Mississippi River Water Trail Association. All funds raised will go to support that cause. Your registration is supporting a worthy initiative to increase recreational access and use of the Mighty Mississippi River. All racers receive a “goody bag” at START that includes a raffle ticket, race t-shirt, and drink coupon to be used at the festival.

Buy Tickets

Event Date & Schedule

  • Sept 16 2023
  • 7:00 to 9:00  – Racer check in booth – START (Grafton Access)
  • 8:00 – Shuttle Bus leaves Alton access for Grafton Access
  • 9:00 – Racer Meeting – Orientation and Safety
  • 9:30 – RACE START  (Grafton Access)
  • 2:30 – RACE Finish  (Alton Riverfront Park) Take out just pass the finish at Alton Access
  • 3:00 – RACE raffle items
  • 3:30 – Award Ceremony at Mississippi Earthtones Festival

Race Classes

Kayak Classes

  • Mens Kayak Solo (K1 Men)
  • Womens Kayak Solo (K1 Women)
  • Mens Kayak Tandem (K2 Men)
  • Womens Kayak Tandem (K2 Women)
  • Coed Kayak Tandem (K2 Coed)

Canoe Classes

  • Mens Canoe Solo (C1 Men)
  • Womens Canoe Solo (C1 Women)
  • Mens Canoe Tandem (C2 Men)
  • Womens Canoe Tandem (C2 Women)
  • Coed Canoe Tandem (C2 Coed)

SUP Classes

  • Mens Stand Up Paddle Board (S1 Men)
  • Womens Stand Up Paddle Board (S1 Women)


  • Solo non-ACA member: $50
  • Solo ACA member: $40
  • Team/Tandem non-ACA member: $40
  • Team/Tandem ACA member: $30

Optional Shuttle

Racers are encouraged to drop off their boats at the Grafton access and drive down to the Alton access to take advantage of the 8am shuttle bus. The complementary shuttle bus only holds 20 passengers, first come first serve.

Safety Meeting and Race Start

All racers must fully check in by 9:00 am in order to sign a race participation waiver, receive race numbers and instructions on staging boats.  A mandatory race safety meeting will occur at 9:00 am.  Note: those registering the day of the race should come even earlier.  The race will begin at 9:30 am and depending on the number of racers, the start may be staged by boat class or race experience at the discretion of the race director. Race organizers will have the check-in booths set up by 7:00 am.


All paddlers will complete an online waiver at this link:

Age of Racers

Anyone paddling solo in the main race event must be at least 18 years of age on September 15, 2023 or at least 16 years of age if part of a tandem team accompanied by their parent or legal guardian. (Note that the parent or legal guardian must sign the liability waiver for the 16 or 17 year old.)

Rent Equipment

Have you paddled on the big river before but don’t own your own equipment? We can provide a kayak, PFD, and paddle to you at the START for an additional $25. We can only offer this to approximately 10 individuals given our limitation of gear, and there are some tandems available. We will shuttle all the gear for you to the START and haul it away from the FINISH. Email me at if this is something you are interested in.

Our goal was to design this short race for the race community but also for big river paddlers that haven’t raced before but have always wanted to. We are providing an entire on water safety team in addition to a USACE safety motor boat patrolling the entire race route to insure the safety of everyone.

Race Cancellation, Reschedule and Refunds

If an unknown factor or event should occur such as dangerous weather it will force a race cancellation (high winds, thunderstorms with risk of lightning strikes or floods). Then an attempt to offer a make-up race date will be organized. All racers are responsible for monitoring the race website for updates on the race. If the race is postponed, any racer is welcome to attend the make-up race date or alternatively can receive a voucher for a race entry for the next year. NO REFUNDS will be offered within seven days of the race. Keep in mind that the race is a fundraiser for the Mississippi River Water Trail Foundation, so if you find out that you can’t make the race at the last minute…your registration will go to a good river-worthy cause.

Race Rules

Each race craft must be propelled exclusively by paddle power (double or single blade) while on the water. No rowing configuration is permitted. No sail or kite is permitted.

All participants agree to appear in event related media coverage free of charge. Infractions of any rule during the event will be grounds for time penalties or disqualification to be reasonably and fairly determined by the race director.

Deliberate littering of the river is illegal. Racers must keep their trash in their canoes/kayaks and go ashore themselves to properly dispose waste.

All team members should understand there are serious risks involved in this endeavor. All racers should yield to larger vessels and be prepared for wakes from large commercial and recreational boats. Constant vigilance, clear thinking, and quick reaction will be essential at all times. All racers will enter this race at their own risk and will not hold this event’s organizers, judges, officials, and sponsors liable for accidents to personnel or damage to any property.

All participants in this Event must agree to the “American Canoe Association Waiver and Release of Liability”. This waiver is required by the American Canoe Association for participation in this event.

Each racer must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life preserver at all times while on the water. A whistle and an emergency chemical night light must also be attached to each life preserver at all times. A PFD must be worn at all times while on the water. This is per the United States Coast Guard as part of our race permit.

Craft Requirements, there are no restrictions on the design of the canoe/kayak. Paddlers using a ONE blade paddle are in a canoe, paddlers using a TWO blade paddle are in a kayak. The original craft must be paddled from start to finish. Repairs may be made to the craft during the race, but other alterations are not permitted. Any part of the craft (rudders, outriggers, etc.) which will be below the water line during any portion of the race must be “on board” from start to finish. Bib’s with pins will be handed out to racers prior to the race start and must be pinned to the front and back of each racer. Tandem and team members will have the racer in front with a front bib and racer in the rear with a bib on the back. Racers should ensure that our finish timers have identified bib numbers after finishing.

In formulating the rules that govern this event, every effort has been made to foresee all situations and problems that may arise, however, officials of the Firecracker Race retain the right to change or amend these rules at any time without liability or recourse from any party regardless of the circumstances. Should such changes or amendments be made, every effort will be made to notify all entrants.


The Firecracker Race serves as a fundraiser for the Mississippi River Water Trail Association and funds raised will be used to help increase recreational access to the Mississippi River.