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Covered Bridge Regatta is set to make a splash at Dexter Reservoir

Water with lane markers and boats in the foreground, and a covered bridge and treed hillside behind.
Dave Horton
Oregon Association of Rowers
Race Director Christine Shirley said the lane markers are attached to a rigid, underwater wire net.

This weekend and next, Dexter Lake, east of Eugene, will be teeming with activity as racers and spectators gather for the 28th annual Covered Bridge Regatta.

Saturday is the collegiate competition, which features 12 west coast club teams, including the University of Oregon, Oregon State University, and Southern Oregon University. There will be 24 events over the 2,000-meter course.

Race Director Christine Shirley said the event will go on, rain or shine.

“The only thing that cancels it is wind," she told KLCC. "If the wind comes up and makes whitecaps on the lake, it’s dangerous for the boats to row. We go out if it’s cold, if it’s rainy, if it’s hot. But wind (is a) killer.”

Shirley said the sport is growing and the junior and masters races the following weekend will be three times bigger than the college competition. On April 13, races will start at 7:30 a.m., and run until 6 p.m.

Shirley said the best place to watch is from Lowell State Recreation Site near the boat ramp. Spectators should park at Lowell High School. Next weekend, there will be a shuttle to the course, but this week, fans should be prepared to walk. She said the walk is about a mile, but drivers can drop off passengers near the water.

Oregon Association of Rowers (OAR) board president Mike Peixoto said local groups have put tens of thousands of dollars into adding lanes and improving the course. Both he and Shirley emphasized that Covered Bridge is a world-class course with gorgeous scenery. Peixoto said a national championship is a distinct possibility in the not-too-distant future.

According to Travel Lane County, last year these events generated nearly $800,000 in spending in the region, with approximately 2,000 individuals participating as athletes, officials, or spectators over the two weekends.

In June, OAR is hosting the U.S. Masters Regional championships.

Karen Richards joined KLCC as a volunteer reporter in 2012, and became a freelance reporter at the station in 2015. In addition to news reporting, she’s contributed to several feature series for the station, earning multiple awards for her reporting.