The first Karelia Rowing Tour was organized in 1985. The organization team also included the father and inventor of this rowing tour - Niilo Komu from Liperi, representatives from the municipalities that are along the route as well as personnel from 'P-K:n Matkailu', which used to exist at the time. The number of participants in the first rowing tour was quite modest, but it was considered to be very interesting with potential to become a significant event.
The third rowing tour in 1987 had over 1,000 participants. The announcer and leader of the second Karelia Rowing Tour was Rainer 'Rosse' Rosenius, who developed the event and even served several years as the chairman of the association until 1998. His input in expanding the event and improving its atmosphere has been significant, and these days he influences the rowing tour as an Honorary Chairman of the association.
In 1994 the first Rowing Counsellors were named. This valuable title can be obtained by completing the entire Karelia Rowing Tour ten times. The first Karelia Rowing Tour Counsellors were Jouko Tuovinen, Pentti Kiiski and Aulis Huikuri. Since then new Counsellors have been named every year, 51 in total, including both church boat and small boat rowers. The title of Counsellor has also been given to officials and safety boat crews who have taken part in the entire event ten times. The Rowing Counsellors can be distinquished by their rowing vests. There were two rowers in the 20th anniversary rowing tour, Aulis Huikuri and Pentti Kiiski, who had completed all twenty rowing tours held at that point. They were appointed as Rowing Masters. Also participants who have completed the event four times (and thus have rowed for a thousand kilometers) are decorated with the golden medal of the rowing tour.
Church boats and small boats were separated in 1990, in such a way that the small boats depart from Ilomantsi and proceed along the Koitajoki River to Pielisjoki River, where they join the church boat route. The small boats are a couple of hours ahead of the church boats from Pielisjoki until the end of the route.
The record for the number of participants was achieved in 1996, with over 2,600 rowers taking part. 2004 was the 20th anniversary of the rowing tour, and the organizers paid special attention to entertainment with the evening entertainment having a theme of "Row for the day, go wild at night." The number of participants grew by 150 compared to previous years, being 1,860. The practice of selling individual church boat rowing places was introduced, which was a success and it will be continued and continually improved. The annual meeting of the rowing tour invited commercial counsellor Eino Tenhunen as its second honorary chairman.