New canoe race set in Saranac Lake

Dozens of boats take off from Fish Creek Campground last fall for the final day of the Adirondack Canoe Classic. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

SARANAC LAKE — A new canoe race will cap the end of Celebrate Paddling later this month, as almost-daily paddling activities happen throughout June.

The Celebrate Paddling Invitational’s inaugural run will take place on Sunday, June 30 in Saranac Lake. It will be preceded on Saturday, June 29 by the Tupper Lake 8-Miler, and organizers said they hope the combination will bring more people to the North Country.

Brian McDonnell, organizer of the Adirondack Canoe Classic — better known as the 90-Miler — said the Invitational will provide a culminating event for the month while also offering people the chance to try out a paddle race.

“Tupper Lake has become more active with Celebrate Paddling, and so we thought it would bring in more paddlers if we had a weekend of paddling rather than just one day here, one day there,” McDonnell said. “Historically, around July 4, there used to be the Hanmer Guideboat race. We’re not trying to bring back the Hanmer; we are bringing a community-oriented, fun event to Lake Flower.”

McDonnell said there will be number of events around the Invitational, including a race within a race. There will be 1-mile, 3-mile and 10-mile races, along with an SUP challenge couse.

90-Miler organizer Brian McDonnell speaks to racers before last year's final day of the three-day race. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

“It’ll be a quick, sprint-type course that we’ll set up for youth race,” he said of the shortest course.

McDonnell also said there will be a number of Voyageur canoes on site so people can try out the multi-person boats, and there will be a number of canoe and kayak vendors at the race with demonstration boats.

“People can just bring a team, and we’ll have some Voyageur canoes,” he said. “If we need to do more than one heat, we’ll do more than one. It’s a short race.

“I could see the Kiwanis Club challenging the Rotary Club, or Coakley challenging the other guys. And families can come and jump in.”

McDonnell said experienced paddlers will provide some help in the large canoes, which can hold eight people or more.

“For the 3-mile course, we’re looking at having that as our novice and family race,” he said. “And that will basically be a circumnavigation of Lake Flower. And then the 10-mile course will go out to Oseetah (Lake) and then come back in.

“The difference in that race is we’re going to try and set up a 1,000-meter sprint course along the Kiwassa Road side of Lake Flower, so it’ll be a race within a race. We’ll time the boats as they go through that 1,000-meter course, and we have some local businesses that are putting in prizes for the sprint.

“And that will be very spectator friendly.”

McDonnell said the point is to bring a lot of people who are interested in paddling to Lake Flower.

“The whole idea is to have a lot of activity on Lake Flower that people can come and watch,” he said. “Another thing we’re doing is to have a boat swap, so people that have a boat they want to get rid of they can bring it in and put a price on it.

“Jason (Smith) from Adirondack Lakes and Trails will be there with his boats; Keith (Braun) will be there from MAC’s Canoe Livery; I know Hornbeck is coming, I know Placid Boat Works is coming,” he said. “So there will be different boat reps there and the Northern Forest Canoe Trail will be there and the Adirondack Watershed Institute will be there. So there will be different groups that will be there with their information.”

McDonnell said people interested in the Voyageur canoes don’t have to race, as rides also will be available throughout the day.

On Saturday, June 29, the Tupper Lake 8-Miler will take place, and organizer Roger Gocking said he thinks the combination of two races in two days may bring more people to the area.

Gocking said the 8-Miler used to be held annually between two larger races that are part of the New York Marathon Canoe Racing Association schedule, but he changed the date this year to encourage more participation.

“The Tupper Lake race came in the middle, and I thought that was to the Tupper Lake race’s disadvantage,” he said. “We didn’t have very good turnout, where in the past, when the race wasn’t sandwiched between two events, we were getting 70 people.

“And then what happened as the NYCMR schedule opened up a bit at the end of June … so there was time available to have the Tupper Lake race then, so that was why I changed. Then Brian came along and said he was having this other thing for Celebrate Paddling, and it seemed like a convenient link.

“A lot of races are two-day races, and what it tends to do is it draw slightly different crowds,” he continued. “Some of them come on Saturday and then some of them return on Sunday. But then there’s other people that come on Sunday. So hopefully, this is what will happen with the Tupper Lake 8-Miler and the Celebrate Paddling Invitational.”

Gocking said most of the racers for the 8-Miler come from out of the area, and that the race course will remain the same as it’s been for the last several years, going from the town boat launch on Simon Pond up the Raquette River and back.

McDonnell said he’s still taking business sponsors for the Invitational and businesses can reach out to him for more information. He added that the race is a joint effort with the Saranac Lake Chamber of Commerce and that Stewart’s will provide chocolate milk to all the finishers as a recovery drink.

For the full schedule of Celebrate Paddling activities, including information on how to register for the two races, go to www.celebratepaddlingadk.com.

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