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Cast Canoe Races: A Disney Tradition of Paddles Up Before Dawn

Kathleen Prihoda

by , Manager, Communications & Public Affairs

Tradition means a lot to us at Disney Parks and today we’re sharing a glimpse at one of our Cast favorites – canoe races. Canoe Races of the World, also known as C.R.O.W., is a beloved annual Cast Member event that dates back to 1963 at Disneyland, 1973 at Walt Disney World Resort and is now at Disney Parks worldwide.

Team competing in Canoe Races of the World

Scores of Disney Cast Members will arrive at the Magic Kingdom before sunrise this month to participate in the friendly competition. By July 23, a total of 79 teams (each has 10 people on board) will compete on the Rivers of America in the Magic Kingdom before park open in canoes that were part of the original Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes attraction. Teams that row around Tom Sawyer’s Island with the best times, averaging around five minutes, advance to the finals and get a chance to race against the clock in a championship round.

Team competing in Canoe Races of the World

Fans line the shoreline to cheer on their favorites. The atmosphere is festive; the competition is fierce, yet all seem to have fun. Click to view some highlights:

Event organizer Paige McCalmon says that “steering is the key to winning the race.” To that end, they hold a steerers clinic every year to give everyone an edge going into the races. You can definitely see a difference in the teams that choose to take advantage of it.

This year’s C.R.O.W. champion will be crowned on July 23. Besides earning bragging rights, the winning team will get their name inscribed on an award plaque that is treated much like the Stanley Cup; they get to keep it until next year’s canoe races.


  • Will you cover the Disneyland one too??

  • This was one of my favorite experiences while I was on my Disney College Program back in 2007 — we had awesome shirts and even though it was SUPER early mornings, it was a lot of fun 🙂 Really hoping I can participate again one day.

  • My daughter works at WDW. She had a blast competing, but the team was disqualified because they ran into the island.

  • How fun! I like the creative team shirts…the Incredibles logo extended to include an oar. = )

  • How much longer is the river at Magic Kingdom than the one at Disneyland? Otherwise, I like the idea of interpark competition.

  • As a Cast Member, I volunteered to be one of the people to set up the WDW CROW practice and competition events. We would meet at 4am to retrieve the canoes from their storage location backstage, pump out the inevitable volumes of water from the previous day’s storms, and row them to the starting positions for the Cast Member’s use. My compliments go to the Cast Activities Support Team members who wake up even earlier than the competitors to make the event such a success!

  • My boyfriend is actually in that video!! He’s in a yellow shirt when they show the team practicing on land!! This is an event that all the cast members love because they get to be outside and enjoy the fun of this activity with their co-workers!!! It’s really a lot of fun to watch!!

  • They stopped running the canoe ride at WDW over 20 years ago. But the canoes run year-round at Disneyland, and the Disneyland Canoe Races have been an annual event since 1963. Something tells me that the Disneyland Cast Members are a lot more skilled at these races than the WDW Cast Members are who have no operating attraction to practice with. The kids who work on the Disneyland canoe ride are always looking in great shape!

    Does Disneyland ever send out a team to compete at WDW? Or would that be a total slaughterfest for the WDW Cast Members if that happened?

  • I can’t help but think of alligators yanking someone into the water… if they can find their way in to Splash mountain then I would definitely not trust the surrounding waters…

  • Please reopen the Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes!

  • Wow, one more fun reason to work at Disney World!

  • Can guests watch the race and see the champion crowned? We will be at the World and think this would be a fun and unique experience.

  • That is so cool! How fun!

  • I would love to participate in this. Guess it’s another reason I need to get a job at Disneyland at some point. Any openings on the Jungle Cruise?

  • Because anyone who paddles at 6AM has the right to crow!
    Pony Express … 1984 Disneyland Canoe Olympics

  • I wish they would let patrons compete too! How fun.
    I love the canoes. If anyone is ever at Disneyland, make sure to ride in CM Ben’s canoe. It will be a true workout, but so much fun!

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