Yukon 800
World's Toughest Riverboat Race

The Yukon 800 Marathon is considered to be the world’s toughest riverboat race.

The misfortunes are as memorable as the victories of the event which runs out and back from Fairbanks to Galena along the Chena, Tanana and Yukon rivers.

Nature is rarely kind to the three-person crews of the homemade, 20-foot and flat wooden boats which are powered by outboard motors.

It’s not uncommon for crews to encounter such challenges as sand bars, 6-foot waves or driftwood as long and as wide as the boats themselves.

Crews also can be exposed to smoke from wildfires if any are burning along sections of the course.

Determination rises in the race like the front end of a boat taking off from the starting line at Pike’s Landing on the Chena River in Fairbanks.

Tom Kriska, on the way to five Yukon 800 titles, has crossed the finish line with quarter-sized holes in his boat.

Harold Attla owns a race-record 10 titles in the event that has been contested for more than 60 years.

The race also possesses a transitional quality. Some participants who were navigators or engineers on crews eventually become Yukon 800 boat captains.

— Danny Martin