Kenduskeag raging as canoe race looms

When hundreds of paddlers head out to participate in Saturday’s 48th Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race, one thing is certain.

They’ll have plenty of water to help flush them down the 16-mile race route.

Cliff Raymond, left, of Gorham, Maine and Jim Minner, right, of Summerville, South Carolina dump their canoe at Six Mile Falls in Bangor during the Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race on Saturday, April 17, 2010. (Bangor Daily News/Kevin Bennett)

Cliff Raymond, left, of Gorham, Maine and Jim Minner, right, of Summerville, South Carolina dump their canoe at Six Mile Falls in Bangor during the Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race on Saturday, April 17, 2010. (Bangor Daily News/Kevin Bennett)

“It’s flowing pretty good,” said race director Tracy Willette, the director of Bangor Parks and Recreation. “Last year and more recent years we’ve had more instances of low water rather than high water.”

And if the weather cooperates — weather forecasts predict Saturday’s high temperature will be about 50 — a sizeable crowd of participants is likely.

“Weather conditions are probably the biggest factor that people consider [when deciding whether to race or not],” Willette said.

As of 9 a.m. Wednesday, the Kenduskeag was running at 4,670 cubic feet per second at the U.S. Geological Survey monitoring station at Six Mile Falls, and the gage height was 10.55 feet. The water level has been steadily rising for the past 24 hours or so.

That’s nearly four times higher than the mean April 16 flow on the stream. Even without any more rain, racers will find some wet and wild fun when they head out beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday.

Willette said high water may discourage some beginners from taking part, but could attract thrill-seekers.

“Potentially, it might encourage folks to say, ‘I want to take this on. I want to try it,’” Willette said.

Race organizers are accepting pre-registrations until 1 p.m. Friday, either in person at the Parks and Recreation building on Main Street, or on the web at www.BangorParksandRec.com. Those who register before that cutoff pay $20 per paddler. Those who wait will pay $40 each.

Willette said the water level, while on the high side of normal, shouldn’t lead to any changes in race management, and needn’t discourage participants.

“I think it’s going to be a good level for everybody on Saturday,” he said. “It’s going to be quick. It’s going to be chilly. And we certainly always encourage participants to prepare for that.”

Over the years thousands of paddlers have taken part in the event, and thousands more have watched from shore, sometimes rooting for family and friends, other times rooting for the stream itself.

Willette said the timing of the race helps the event serve as a celebration of warmer weather ahead.

“Now that we really start to gear up for Kenduskeag Canoe Race week, the weather starts to improve, it looks like spring is finally here,” he said. “It always seems like it’s that time of year when we can say, ‘We’re finally making the turn.’”

Where to watch:

If you’ve never watched the race or want to find a new “river vulture” perch, Willette has a few suggestions:

“If you’re new to town, the most popular place to watch is at Six Mile Falls,” Willette said. Just go out Broadway (Route 15) in Bangor until you see the line of parked cars. “Certainly it’s busy out there, because it’s the most popular place to go and watch. And when you’re parking, make sure you park safely and appropriately.”

If you’re looking for another spot to watch the thrills and spills, Willette suggested moving closer to town.

“Down along Valley Avenue where the stream runs parallel to Valley Avenue is a popular spot,” he said. “There’s plenty of action to see and folks can spread out a long way.”

For a more urban experience, Willette suggests rooting for the paddlers as they get close to the finish line.

“We get folks downtown on the bridges and at the finish line,” he said. “What’s unique about that is if it’s a good day, people can cheer those folks on as they finish, stroll around downtown for awhile, come back and watch some more and spend an afternoon in downtown Bangor.”

Recommend this article
John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.