The Old Belize River, a 180-mile long waterway that bends and weaves through the country, has long been the aorta of trade and transportation between the coast and inland provinces. In fact, the use of the river dates all the way back to when the Ancient Maya laid sole claim to this land. Stretched across the Cayo and Belize districts, it has been the country’s lifeline for eons, with many depending on its bounty to provide their livelihoods and fortune. Today, other sources of commerce and communication have taken over the use of the Old River, but the historical significance and ecological treasure it represents is not lost. This March, the river will come alive with energy as hundreds of paddlers race along its waters in the 2023 La Ruta Maya River Challenge.
La Ruta Maya 2023 Dates
More than a Race, the river challenge is an ode to history and the perseverance of the human spirit.
Mark your calendars for March 03-06, 2023. The Belikin La Ruta Maya River Challenge is an annual event that captures the entire country’s attention for four exhilarating days. It is a marathon canoe race that runs West to East along the Old Belize River.
Spanish for “The Maya Route”, the race follows the same ancient trading route the Maya used to transport goods. It begins at the Hawksworth Bridge in San Ignacio, and ends at the river mouth of the Belize City harbor. Conceptualized by the Harrison brothers and founded in 1998, it was originally intended to be a marketing event for the launching of their family owned purified water company.
Orlando and Richard Harrison saw the potential of promoting an endurance race showcasing the natural beauty of Belize’s River Valley and the historical significance of the route. Needless to say, the race has since evolved into a major national and tourist attraction with participants both native and international of all ages testing their resolve on the river currents.
Early March Event
Every “March 9th” weekend (a long weekend given in celebration of National Benefactors’ Day), scores of onlookers, including major media outlets, gather along the river bank to witness dozens of canoes dashing down the river. It’s a race to prove who is the fastest and most technically savvy with a paddle.
Months of training, blisters, muscle cramps and sweat go into preparing for the challenge. Comprised of four legs, the marathon begins with an approximately 50-mile stretch to Banana Bank, then a 60-mile journey to Double Head Cabbage. After, there are two shorter dashes to Burrell Boom and finally, the race ends at the finish line at Belize City. The entire journey is some 170 plus miles of grueling challenges. The physical aptitude of the challengers is a feat to admire.
La Ruta Maya River Challenge is a reality that exceeded the dream it was born from. Today, it is one of the longest canoe races in Central America. For paddlers it is a rite of passage, one where every muscle is exhausted and where every mile is felt. For those who dare participate, the physical and mental taxation is nothing compared to the reward of completion. Every team that crosses the finish line is a victor. A victor of will and self, as they have paid true homage to the history and life of the Belize River.
2022 Race Results
Forty-six teams participated in Belikin’s La Ruta Maya River Challenge last year with PACT team winning first place. View the highlights below:
Find out more about the event HERE