College rowing teams are flocking back to Cane River Lake this spring to practice in pristine conditions with championship season just around the corner.
Teams from nine different schools, including household athletics names like LSU, Alabama, Texas and Georgia put their paddles in the water in March.
Northwestern State rowing coach Jason Stelly said steady water levels are bringing teams back to Natchitoches, a nod to the days when scores of rowing teams would dot the 35-mile oxbow lake that used to be a stretch of the Red River.
“We have been very lucky to have great water conditions for rowing,” Stelly said. “The river is beginning to get a reputation again.
“Inconsistent water levels caused teams to hesitate in the past, but now the water levels are more stable and the riverbank construction project is complete.”
A water pump project that directs water from Hampton Lake into Bayou Possiant, which flows into Cane River Lake, is complete. The project has helped to stabilize water levels.
Pair that with calm water in an affordable location, and Cane River Lake is a destination for rowing teams to perfect their craft.
“Cane River Lake is a natural haven for rowing teams, especially for spring break,” Stelly said. “Teams can build up their speed and focus on rowing technique in the calm water.
“It’s a great setup because the city is willing to work with these teams. They don’t charge fees for using the river, and they can get deals on food and hotels, so it’s affordable.”
Texas coach Peter Rosberg called Cane River Lake a “hidden gem of a training center.”
“I love it because you can go so long in one direction,” Rosberg said. “There’s so many miles, and you’re protected from the wind.
“I also love the setting with houses on the bank. Everybody is really friendly on the river and will wave at you. It’s really special. For the money we spend, it’s best deal I’ve encountered.”
Northwestern State isn’t an unknown on the national rowing stage.
The NSU women won the program’s first conference championship two years ago and first medal in the American Collegiate Rowing Association National Championship Regatta by placing second.
Stelly is always looking for new rowers, even with little knowledge of the sport.
“The NSU rowing teams are doing great,” Stelly said. “We have a small, close-knit team that works hard and represents the school proudly.”
Students interested in joining can contact Stelly via email firstname.lastname@example.org.