Kayakers race Columbia rapids in Millrace Massacre and Iceman Championships

Allen Wallace photos.

Saturday was unseasonably warm for January even in Columbia, but the water in the Saluda River remained frigid. Still, it wasn’t nearly enough to slow down the men and women who took part in the 19th Annual Millrace Massacre and Iceman Championships.

The annual kayak race began with the Millrace Massacre time trials, as one paddler at a time raced the clock through the rapids near Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, following markers to stick to the required path, with the fastest finishers earning cash prizes.

A crowd gathered on the riverbank to watch during the sunny and warm afternoon, with the Palmetto Paddlers club serving up food and drinks for the occasion.

“My husband does the race sometimes, but he’s out of town, so I thought I’d just bring the kids to watch,” said Lila Snell as she and her children sat on the bank with snacks, waiting for the Iceman to begin. “They love seeing the kayaks and they’d probably jump in if I let them.”

After the time trials, the contestants took a break before returning to the water for the Iceman, a free for all race with everyone starting at once and testing the strength and endurance of all the men and women involved.

The racers paddled through Millrace and down to the Zoo Bridge, then back to the sandy beach. From there, they hiked back up the portage trail to above the rapids, where they relaunched and ran Millrace again. Finally, all were required to go into the cold water below the rapids and swim to shore, towing their kayaks by hand.

Categories: Arts & Entertainment, Columbia, Richland County