70th Roy Webster Columbia River Cross-Channel Swim

70th Roy Webster Columbia River Cross-Channel Swim

At 91 years old, Roy Webster was still cheering on friends and family as they participated in the annual Columbia River Cross-Channel Swim.

Webster, a local orchard owner, began the event 70 years ago when he challenged himself to swim across the Columbia River between Washington and Oregon at Hood River. Today close to 500 brave swimmers cross the 1.1-mile stretch in the early dawn on Labor Day September 3rd.

Participants board the famous Sternwheeler paddleboat on the south shore of the Columbia at the Hood River Port to be ferried across the river to the Washington shore in the early morning. When signaled, swimmers jump off the Sternwheeler into the Columbia River and head back for Hood River. To help them find their way, a special swim lane lined with volunteers on paddleboards, in sail boats, and in power boats are there to guide, encourage, and protect swimmers as they cross the channel.

This experience is unlike anything you’ll see elsewhere. The excitement people feel when they are here is so great,” said Kerry Cobb, Executive Director of the Hood River County Chamber of Commerce. “We draw groups, friends, families, and teams to this swim—we even have one person who has taken part in the event for 39 consecutive years.”

Although Webster passed away a few years ago, his local orchard has evolved into The Fruit Company, now owned by his children and grandchildren who still carry on the tradition of support for the Cross-Channel Swim by sponsoring the event. “Critical to the success of the event are the more than 150 volunteers,” commented Nancy Carlson, the Chamber’s Event Coordinator. “We also rely on dozens of kayakers and support staff who help swimmers from registration all the way through to the end of the swim. It is truly a community effort—and a whole lot of fun.”



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