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Build a Cardboard Boat for the Mermaid Festival

canyon lake fiesta day cardboard boat raceDo you want to be a captain of your own ship in the 4th annual Canyon Lake Cardboard Boat Race?

This is your handy guide on how to build the most seaworthy craft that not only could win the race, but hopefully gets you back to shore dry.

A little history on cardboard boat racing.  Cardboard boat racing goes all the way back to the ’60’s and it’s believed that it started as a college project at Southern Illinois University.  Since then, it’s become a staple at events all over the world particularly in lake communities like Canyon Lake.  It’s a serious deal in some areas like Heber Springs, AR where the World Championship Cardboard Boat Races are hosted each year for the last 24 years.  Here’s a great video from the 2012 Lake Sacajawea Annual Cardboard Boat Race that will help get you thinking about what’s possible when building your corrugated cardboard yacht.



This year’s boat race, is being held again in conjunction with the Mermaid Festival on August 26, 2017.
Prizes are being offered
Here are the most important rules of the competition:

  1. Boats can only be constructed of corrugated cardboard and duct tape.
  2. Boat must remain afloat with everyone inside for the full race to qualify for 1st place.
  3. Human propulsion only using only arms hands, or paddles.
  4. Coast Card Approved Personal Flotation Device required for all participants.
  5. All boat materials and debris must be removed by participants at the close of the event.

Lake MonsterIf you haven’t come up with any ideas about boat design yet or you’re unsure about how to construct your boat, there are some great online tutorials and downloadable plans for cardboard boats.  But really how hard can it be?  Just lay out your cardboard and go crazy with man’s greatest invention – duct tape.If you seriously want to crush the competition, then might consider going to boat building school online.  The City of Arlington actually has an online video of a two hour boat building class they offer to all their annual regatta participants (some people take this stuff too seriously).

Here’s a few simple tips to help with the boat construction and with getting across the finish line.

  • First, before you start building, seal all the edges of your cardboard with a strip of duct tape and reinforce all the cardboard seams.
  • Use double cardboard on the boat bottom for added strength and support and even consider building cross braces across the bottom for strength.
  • Cover every inch of your boat with duct tape inside and out.

Now for the obvious…

  • Try not to get water in the boat.
  • Paddle as fast as you can.
  • Wear swim trunks.

There’s still time to pick up a race application             Click here for More Information

One more thing… don’t forget boat length limit is 21′ in Canyon Lake so don’t get too carried away with your yacht or you may get pulled over by the Marine Patrol.

canyon lake cardboard boat race 

*images from Casey Lessard on Flickr and Heber Springs Area Chamber  

(This is just a sample picture, here in Canyon Lake it can only be cardboard and duct tape)