It takes a region for the 90-Miler

The 90-mile Adirondack Canoe Classic was held for the 35th year the weekend of Sept. 8 to 10. Two hundred sixty canoes, guideboats and kayaks started in Old Forge and over three days paddled their way through the Adirondack Forest Preserve to the cedar tree marking the finish line on Lake Flower in the village of Saranac Lake.

The Adirondack Canoe Classic, “The 90-Miler,” was conceived by a small group of people in Saranac Lake looking for an event that would celebrate the historical mode of transportation in the region — human-powered boats. The inaugural planning meeting emphasized the concept of “community”: the paddlers, volunteers and followers, the people in the towns and villages connected by the waterways, and the businesses supported by the people coming to explore the waterways.

The original organizer, Sue Dyer, was looking for “something physically challenging, naturally gorgeous and positively memorable after the pain went away.” Bill Hulshoff, who had paddled the Adirondack waterways as a camper, suggested following the route from Old Forge to Saranac Lake. The idea turned into reality when Sue pitched it to the Saranac Lake Chamber of Commerce board. According to Dick Lyon, the president of the chamber at the time, “We had a great group of people with a ‘We can do anything we put our minds to’ attitude. Sue came up with the crazy ideas, and we figured out how to make them happen!”

In the second year, Terry Healey and Bill White of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation got involved to check out the 90-Miler as a possible New York Forest Preserve Centennial event. The DEC has played an integral safety and communications role ever since.

The 90-Miler experience has featured beautiful sunny days, occasional rain, gale-force winds and even snow and hail in its 35-year history. The course has been adapted several times to accommodate the growing field and the mood swings of Mother Nature.

The Adirondack Watershed Alliance would like to thank our 2017 90-Miler sponsors and supporters:

¯ Sponsors: the Central Adirondack Association, SMP, NRS, the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, Pepsico, Paul Smith’s College, Placid Boatworks, Krapf Coaches, Long Lake Recreation, Adirondack Bank, Adirondack Experience, Hyde Fuel, Hornbeck Boats, Southern Tier Canoes, Adirondack Lakes and Trails, the Adirondack Watershed Institute, New York Marathon Canoe Racing Association, U.S. Veterans’ Rowing and Kayak, Oarsman Boats, Northern Forest Canoe Trail, Wenonah Canoes and MAC’S Canoe Livery.

¯ Supporters: the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Town of Webb Visitor Center, Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Saranac Lake, the Open Space Institute, Propelled by Torque, Regen Cycle, the Blue Moon Cafe, Old Forge Camping Resort, Clark’s Beach Motel, Christy’s Motel, Rivett’s Marina, Water’s Edge Inn, VIEW, the Wild Center, Old Forge Hardware, Souvenir Village, the Adirondack Hotel, Shaheen’s Motel, Raquette River Outfitters, Park Motel, Adirondack Motel, Ampersand Bay Resort, Lakeview Deli, Mark Kurtz Photography, Curtis Lumber, Darrah Cooper Jewelers, St. Joseph’s Addiction Treatment and Recovery Centers, Adirondack Amateur Radio Association, the New York State Police, the Old Forge, Inlet, Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake village police departments, Herkimer and Hamilton County sheriffs’ departments, the New York State Department of Transportation, Raquette Lake Navigation Company, the Bissell family, Curry’s Cottages, the Trading Post, MAC’S Safe Ride, HIS Delivery Service, Saranac Lake Kiwanis, Old Forge Kiwanis, Central Adirondack Search and Rescue (CASART), Search and Rescue of the Northern Adirondacks (SARNAK).

It has been an exhilarating journey. The community that has developed around the event has inspired several songs, poetry and even a couple of books. Millions of photos, magazine articles, radio pieces and a two-hour video have attempted to capture the essence of what has been described by many as the highlight of their paddling year. The New York Marathon Canoe Racing Association has voted the 90-Miler its race of the year twice.

Congratulations to all of the members of the Gold Canoe Club for their dedication to the Adirondack Canoe Classic. There are now more than 50 people who have completed more than 20 90-Milers. (That’s a lot of gold canoes from Darrah Cooper Jewelers!)

We could not do the 90-Miler without the many civic groups, local businesses and public safety organizations who support the Adirondack Watershed Alliance along the 90-mile route. Finally a sincere THANK YOU to all of the volunteers, past and present, who have given their time to make the Adirondack Canoe Classic the positively memorable experience it has become. You are truly the greatest!

Happy paddling.

Brian and Grace McDonnell live in Paul Smiths and are event coordinators of the Adirondack Canoe Classic.