Race Preview: Willamette River Relay in Albany

Are you stuck in the doldrums of running right now or really just want to try your hand out at something new? Check out this unique multi-sport event hitting the Willamette Valley on August 9th – Albany’s Willamette River Relay!

This unique take on the “tri” will have participants tackling not only cycling and running, but also paddling in a kayak! This is the perfect opportunity to get out there and learn a new fun skill if you don’t already kayak. But fear not, in addition to an individual version, you can also register in teams of 2 or 3 to complete the events. The events will take place in and around Historic Downtown Albany, an accessible and manageable drive from most big cities in the Valley .

All participants will receive:

  • Limited edition Willamette River Relay T-shirt
  • Calapooia Brewing pint glass
  • Race medal
  • Free entry into Race After-Party at Calapooia Brewing Company
  • Post-race fuel including BBQ from Bo-Macks

The relay starts at Hyak County Park, which is just west up Highway 20.  This appears to be a great starting area as it has a variety of family picnic tables and restrooms to get you started off right. There will be a shuttle to take you from the transition area at Monteith River Park up to Hyak so you won’t have to worry about how to get back after the race! The 2.4 mile paddle is a straight shot down the Willamette and you can use ANY man-motored device (it doesn’t have to be a kayak). A description from the website:

The paddle portion of the race follows the Willamette Water Trail – Flowing through forests, meadows, parks, farms, and cities large and small, our nationally recognized water trail connects communities and visitors to Oregon’s celebrated Willamette Valley, and provides an accessible adventure in the heart of the Pacific Northwest. So go ahead, soak it up!

Following the paddle, participants will gear up for the 15.2 mile bike portion. This is an out-and-back route that heads SW out-of-town and nearing Corvallis. The bike course is called both fast and flat. In fact, it gains no more than about 50 feet at it’s peak. The course is on a low traffic country road section, but is not closed off. Intersections will be monitored for safety. From the website:

Cyclists will pedal along a portion of the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway,  Relive Oregon’s history, sample the agricultural bounty of the Willamette Valley, pedal through tranquil scenery and make your own history by riding the first official Scenic Bikeway in the United States. The Bikeway follows its namesake river as it winds through the Willamette Valley, shaped by the Coast Range to the west and the towering Cascade Mountains to the east.

Following the bike, runners will then head out on the 6.2 mile run.  The course is also out-and-back and starts out East on the Dave Clark Trail and then:

…through the Historic Albany Waterfront, past Simpson Park restoration efforts and the Cox Creek Dam Removal project, and around Talking Water Gardens, before heading back to the course finish at Monteith River Park.

I’m pretty sure that this may be one of the more beautiful events the Willamette Valley has to offer. I mean, the courses of each of the three legs passes through some historic and scenic areas. You can’t beat that!

In addition to the Willamette River Relay, there is also a second option called the Paddle Me Plunge. This is for those just looking to get out on the river and soak in the sun on the water. This is a 2.4 mile river excursion and there will be prizes for best costume, best floatation device, and most innovative paddle.

Following the event, there will be a post-race celebration at Monteith River Park and an after-hours mega-party at Calapooia Brewing Company! Holy smokes – I am ready to start learning how to kayak NOW!  Check out the schedule of weekend events here. Proceeds benefiting the restoration efforts of the Calapooia Watershed Council.

This event has all the makings of being awesome! For a first-time event, they appear to have a solid plan laid out and I expect this to be one rip-roaring good time. I am hoping to try to make it down there and see for myself!


Willamette River Relay (Albany)
When: Saturday, August 9 at 10a ; Plunge Me Plunge at 3p
Where: Hyak County Park
Register: Online here;

Open Individual $85
Willamette River Relay Individual $85

Open 2-Person Team $120
Willamette River Relay 2 Person Team $120

Open 3-Person Team $140
Willamette River Relay 3 Person Team $140

Open 4-Person Team $25

Paddle Me Plunge $25



About Author

Matt Rasmussen lives in Keizer, Ore. with his wife and three daughters. He enjoys watching hockey, going to as many breweries (618) and wineries (152) as he can, and all things Canada (he was born there). Matt was raised as a baseball player and officially transitioned over to running in 2010.

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