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Canoe Races

The Raritan River Festival’s Cardboard Canoe Races combine creativity and engineering with friendly competition, as registered participants build and race canoes in the Raritan River!

Trophies are awarded to the first canoe to win the race by successfully paddling out and back as well as to the canoe deemed by our judges to have the best design.

Participation in this family-friendly activity is FREE. Children of all ages may help build canoes, but anyone wishing to race the canoes on the river must be at least eight years of age.

Registration can be completed two ways:

Online registration form

  • Same-day registration is available at the festival at the cardboard canoe build area, which is located behind the main stage area, along the canal.

Please note that race spots are limited, so early registration is encouraged!

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Cardboard Canoe Race Rules (Day-of Build)

  1. Each team will receive two large pieces of cardboard, one utility knife and one roll of packing tape to use to build a cardboard canoe. One paddle will also be provided to each team.
  2. Each team will receive ONE HOUR to build the canoe at the Raritan River Festival before the race begins.
  3. Markers will be available for teams to use to decorate or name their cardboard canoes.
  4. Each team will select one person, age eight or older, to race inside the canoe. This person MUST wear a Personal Flotation Device (to be provided by festival staff) and MUST be a good swimmer. The New Brunswick Police Department will be on-site with its Marine Unit boat to supervise all participants while in the water.
  5. Each cardboard canoe race will consist of the best time from point A (the dock) to point B (the buoy) and back to point A (the dock).
  6. Once the race begins, participants MUST be inside the canoe – no towing it, holding it between your legs, swimming or allowing the life jacket to provide flotation of the vessel.
  7. Throwing water on another canoe is reason for disqualification, unless said water comes from the incidental splash of a paddle. This is a friendly race!
  8. Awards will be given for the fastest canoe to complete the race as well as the canoe with the best design.
  9. No outside materials will be provided. All participants must build their canoes with the materials provided.
  10. Have fun and be creative with your designs!


Any behavior that is deemed to be detrimental to the event or other participants will result in team disqualification.

Pre-Built Cardboard Canoe Races
The pre-built cardboard canoe race pits the staff of local restaurants are bars against each other to see who has the fastest and the best designed canoes! The winning team gets to take home our special rotating trophy for a whole year!

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We wish to extend a gracious THANK YOU! to our longtime sponsors at Colgate Paper Stock for providing the cardboard for all races!