A brand-new race for water recreation enthusiasts will debut July 22 to raise money for the Ogeechee Riverkeeper.

The inaugural Moon River Race is open to contestants in kayaks and on stand-up paddle boards who are ages 16 and older.

"We actually have two races," says Luke Roberson, Ogeechee Riverkeeper outreach and water quality specialist.

"The Moon River Race is about four miles. There's no way of getting lost. If you keep going up the Moon River, you run into mud.

"The Butterbean Beach Race is a beginner race of just one mile," he says. "It goes from Butterbean Beach to a piling in the Wilmington River and turns around on the Intracoastal Waterway."

Competitors in the four-mile race will start at Butterbean Beach and travel up Moon River through a well-marked course to cross under the Moon River Bridge.

In addition to awards for the top race finishers, there also will be an award for the best-dressed racer, who will receive a gift certificate to Savannah's House of Strut vintage clothing store.

Volunteers are needed to help time races, to aid racers with equipment and to keep racers hydrated. To volunteer, email info@ogeecheeriverkeeper.org or call 866-942-6222.

The addition of a new race is exciting, Roberson says.

"There are not many paddle races around Savannah, which is a shame," he says. "We're trying to get more people on the water.

"We do a lot of paddle trips around our watershed, and talk about our history. Sometimes the pace is too slow for some folks.

"Our expert paddlers can feed their competitive side with this race," Roberson says. "The money will go to the operation of the Ogeechee Riverkeeper."

The mission of the Ogeechee Riverkeeper is to protect, preserve and improve the water quality in the Ogeechee River basin. It also provides educational programs.

"We go to schools and speak," Roberson says. "We did a paddle trip with Savannah State students. We educate people about the connection from the river down to the marsh, how we all live downstream and what it means to protect the river.

"We do paddle trips to get people on the river. We have a lot of events in Savannah, Statesboro and Claxton.

"We were at Earth Day," he says. "We also do advocacy. When the legislation is in session in Atlanta, we make sure they know what is going on."

This important mission is conducted by a very small office.

"We have only two people in our office," Roberson says. "We live and breathe by our residents and volunteers.

"We're a local group, but part of a worldwide network of waterkeepers," he says. "We fight for everyone's right to fish, swim and drink the water."

The race will be limited to 75 people.

"We want to make sure people are experienced swimmers out there," Roberson says. "Race marshals will be provided. We'll have lots of people in the water making sure it's a safe race."

Registration closes July 21.

"This morning is going to be filled with fun competition for a great cause," Roberson says. "We are incredibly excited for this Moon River Race and the opportunity to get even more people involved in our mission."


What: Moon River Race and Butterbean Beach Race

When: Check-in at 6:30 a.m.; races at 8 a.m. and 8:15 a.m.

Where: Rodney J. Hall Boat Ramp, 25 Diamond Causeway

Cost: $40, includes T-shirt

Info: paddleguru.com, ogeecheeriverkeeper.org