Hundreds of collegiate rowers from six states will spend their week-long spring break in Natchitoches, training on Cane River Lake from dawn to dusk.
The head crew coach at Northwestern State, Jason Stelly, says Natchitoches is a haven for collegiate teams.
“We have 33 miles of dammed up river, so there’s almost no boat traffic. No current. It’s protected by the wind, just the way the course is set," Stelly said.
The University of Texas and the University of Charleston arrive Sunday. The University of Colorado, Kansas State, Oklahoma City University and Wichita State will be in Natchitoches from March 16-22. Drake University held its spring training earlier this month.
Stelly says these teams have dozens of rowers, and they make a significant impact on the local economy. They appreciate the Southern hospitality and ideal water conditions. He says rowers will be on Cane River for three practices a day, and they come with a lot of equipment.
"They’re like a small army. They’ll travel down and come in 15-passenger vans and charter buses. It’s a whole stage production, we like to say. Teams will average between 10-15 boats each. So they will have a fully loaded trailer," Stelly said.
This year marks a resurgence for Natchitoches as a spring training destination. Over the past few years, the collegiate teams stayed away due to the drought. Stelly says he made an extra effort to recruit teams this year because the water level has recovered.
Spectators can watch two races set for March 12 at 4 p.m. and March 22 at 8 a.m. Three universities in Louisiana have rowing teams. LSU, Tulane and NSU all plan to race against the visiting teams.