For more than 10,000 years, the Maya used the Belize River, running from the coast up into the Peten, as a water highway for trade. Since the invasion of this Mayan homeland by Spanish from the Yucatan in a constant war since 1510, until the late 1800's the river served as a highway of commerce. After the 1800's pirates and invaders from Scotland, Africa and Jamaica used the highway to gradually take over the territory from it's Mayan owners. The reason in these later centuries was the rich trade in logwood, a much sought after dye product used in the then industrializing island of England across the pond in Europe.
Nowadays, the highway of water, the River Belize, has become a world class sports event carried out annually. The distance is over a 100 miles with the twists and turns. The distance as the crow flies is about 70 miles. Rafts of mahogany logs can still be seen tied up along the banks waiting for the sawmills and farmers going to their farms by dugout canoe. The river is fairly narrow though and has both deep and shallow spots, making it accessible only to shallow draft vessels like dugouts, rafts and canoes.
In 1998 the first race from the western highland town of San Ignacio had 31 entries. With prizes of $7000. In 1999 there were 54 entries and a prize package that had doubled to $15,000. For this Spring, the prize package is expected to exceed $30,000. The entry pool has been limited for the Spring of the year 2000, to the first 108 teams to register.
This river race from the highland hills bordering Guatemala to the Caribbean coast of Belize is fast becoming an attraction of world class competition quality. It is expected, that shortly, the event will be covered by helicopters and international news crews, or local television documentary entrepreneurs, selling the film to the world wide hungry News and Sports television organizations. One can only look forward to interested international competitors and a tourist event to rival that of the famous bicycle race in Europe called the "Tour de la France"!
Make no mistake, this is a grueling race. Those that do not practice will rue the day they entered.