Russell Fork Finish Line

We had a few moments to get with Matt Wallin, first time Race Director of the Lord of the Fork, here is what he has to say.

Russell Fork Race - Lord of the Fork

The love I have for the Russell Fork Gorge is hard to deny. It has easily become one of my favorite runs through the past few years due to the hidden dangers, but yet beautiful scenery. It is as if nature is luring you in with its charm, almost like the story of Hanzel and Gretel. You start eating staring at the falling leaves with changing color or feeling the peace of the serene gorge. Before long you are lured to complacency on what feels like a rather easy and fun run. However, one mistake and mother nature “throws you in the oven” or under the rock known as “fist”. Or maybe she takes it easy on you and gives you a beat down in the final hole at Triple Drop. Either way, the Russell Fork almost has some sort of ironic script to its being.

Adriene Levkecht embracing the Russell Fork Gorge

Last year was my first long boat attempt at racing the Fork. It comes with the challenges of weaving your way through Maze, making it through the final drop hole, and making the all-important move in Climax at “Hey Diddle Diddle”. Let's not forget just getting to the race by taking on the fire escape at Fist. Once again one wrong move can send you splunking into the fist rock caverns. However, if you escape the dangers, it makes for one of the best long-boat races around.
The “Lord of the Fork” race pays homage to the late Mr. John Lord who unfortunately lost his life on his beloved home river in the early 2000s. It has seen many great paddlers through the years, such as Dane Jackson, Sage Donnelly, Isaac Hull, and Adriene Levknecht just to name a few. The competition has been fierce, and it gets hotter every year. Who will it be this year (pending who sings up)? Will Mutton return? Will Kaelin take the top spot? Or Will Dane retake his men’s crown? Can Shane Simoneaux shock the world? The women’s division is also shaping up to be a barn burner as Adriene, Sage, and Ava go head-to-head. Up-and-comer Alex Horne looks to also be in the mix as she comes off a win in the Animal Upper Gauley Race. The Juniors are always a surprise, so it will be interesting to see who comes out on top there. But who knows, it could be someone no one is even talking about. That’s the awesome thing about racing!

Matt Wallin And Curtis England Pre-Race 2022

I will also be curious to see what everyone will be racing with. We now have the new Dagger Vanguard in the mix, along with the long boat staples of the Pyranha 12R, Liquidlogic Stinger, Jackson Karma UL, and Dagger Green Boat. What boats will take all the top spots? Do boats matter or is it all in the paddler? Only time will tell!

Read more on the history of long-boats here.

Jonny Ortiz zipping through El Horrendo

"One of my favorite runs through the past few years due to the hidden dangers, but yet beautiful scenery." - Matt Wallin

I am hyped to see everyone at the race and festival. Speaking of the festival. It will be held at Thunder River campground this year and once again put on by the Russell Fork Rendezvous. Get ready for some great music, vendors, and a great time. Big thanks to Bob Larkin for always taking the time to put that on. Don’t forget to register by Wednesday, October 25th by 10 pm. There will be NO exceptions after this date. Big thanks to the Great Falls Foundation for hosting the race and to our sponsors: Zet Kayaks USA (Title Sponsor), Verus Kayaks, Arca Works, Downstream V Creations, CKS Online, Ace Adventure Gear, Watershed, Jackson Kayak, and Level Six. Thanks to those who have already signed up to volunteer, the race could not happen without you.

See you soon on the River!

1 comment

Wes Prince

Wes Prince

Being a resident of KY I consider the Russell Fork my home run and it’s all you describe and more! Many seemed surprised to learn that the Russell Fork Gorge is a nearly year round run! The local boys meet at high noon most weekend days at the Ratliff Hole takeout. Fun levels range from 300 – 1100+ (It has been run much higher by those with the skills and nerve). Check out the Russell Fork FB group for up to date information if you’re in the area outside of release season. At 300 – 500 it’s a lot like the Upper Yough at Summer flows – Eastern technical creeking at it’s finest!

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