MR340 builds awareness for Missouri River - KCTV5

MR340 builds awareness for Missouri River

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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

If drivers cross over the Missouri River on their morning commute Tuesday, don't be alarmed if one sees hundreds of people floating down the river.

They will be in canoes and boats, paddling in the largest nonstop canoe race in the world.

Racers arrived at Kaw Point for the Missouri American Water MR340, a 340-mile race down the Missouri River.

The race is one of the biggest events building awareness for the river, mainly because it gets thousands out here to appreciate it.

When Vicki Richmond pictures Kansas City, she sees the Missouri River first.

"That was our first conduit to Kansas City. You came from the river to the trading posts in Westport and that became Main Street," said Richmond, executive director of Healthy Rivers Partnership.

For her, the city's history is steeped in the muddy waters.

"At some point in time, we just started driving over it and not being connected in a tangible way to the river anymore," she said.

The nonprofit Richmond leads works to preserve the river.

Fifty percent of all people in Missouri drink water from the Missouri River, and nine in 10 people in Kansas City drink the water.

"And we think that is a reason for people to come down and pay attention," Richmond said.

A first step is getting people to care about it.

"Trash is a great leveler. Nobody wants the trash. So that has been an easy way to get people out," she said.

Richmond said the river is clean. Her group buses people out in boats to pick up trash not only along the river's banks but also in it.

"We pull tons and tons and tons of trash out of the river each year. Our biggest was 210 tons out of a river in a day," she said.

The hope is people come down to do a service and leave with an ethic.

"You can't come down here and pick up that trash and not leave the same. You're not the same. You leave changed, and we see that over and over again," Richmond said.

It also gets people to take a second look.

During the MR340, there are about 350 boats and about 1,000 participants. It starts at Kaw Point and ends at St. Charles near St. Louis.

The leaders will complete the race in 40 hours, for others it will take up to 88 hours.

The race is also one of National Geographic's top 100 American adventures.

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