Photos and text by Justin Kennedy

It is a cool, overcast morning and paddlers are slowly making their way to the edge of the Yukon River with boats in tow. By 11:30 a.m., on Wednesday, the banks are packed—support crews, boats, fans and officials—for the start of the 13th annual Yukon River Quest, a 460-mile paddle down the Yukon River. This year, there are 73 teams, in kayaks, canoes and voyaguers, all eager to leave Whitehorse, Yukon, and make it to the finish line in Dawson City some 40-plus hours later.

Teams have traveled from around world for the event: Austria, Australia, Finland, France, Great Britain, Japan, Latvia, Sweden, and the U.S. They’ll be navigating Class I and II rapids along the route, nothing too serious, but other potential challenges lurk: the chance moose or bear encounter; chilly 41-degree forecasted evening temperatures; howling winds on Lake Laberge; hypothermia, injury and/or fatigue after paddling 19-21 hours in daylight.

One of the returning contenders this year, “The Texans,” are out for a third-straight win. Finishing last year in 40 hours, “The Texans” yesterday were 30 minutes ahead of last year’s pace at Policeman Point en route to the dreadful Lake Laberge.

Check back for Day 2 & 3 coverage from the Yukon Quest.