Canoe race watchers: things to consider

Get ready. This Saturday, April 21, people will pack the shores of the Kenduskeag Stream for the annual Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race, and it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Photo by Aislinn Sarnacki. Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race 2010.

I like to paddle a kayak, and some day, I may pin a number onto my life jacket and launch into the churning stream with hundreds of other participants, but not this year. I’ve got some practicing to do, and quite honestly, it doesn’t seem like best year to test my skills on the Kenduskeag. The water is a bit low (which means the rocks are a bit high), and all I can remember from last year is watching the tip of a green canoe, just a piece of the bow, float down the Shopping Cart rapids … to be soon followed by the rest of the canoe, in pieces.

I’m being dramatic, I know, but this year I think I’ll stick to being a race spectator, as I have been for the past few years. If you’d like to join me in watching the race, here are a few things I’ve learned to bring for a comfortable watching experience.

Photo by Aislinn Sarnacki. Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race 2010.

1. It looks like it’s going to rain this weekend, so bring a rain jacket. Umbrellas tend to tick people off. Everyones packed together to watch the race at Six Mile Falls and The Shopping Cart, so don’t obscure everyone’s view.

2. Something soft to sit on. People don’t sit on bleachers to watch a canoe race (though bleachers aren’t particularly comfortable either). Here’s your choice of seats: pointy rock, lumpy rock, wet rock, lots of little rocks, muddy grass or plain mud. Whatever you bring to sit on, plan to get it dirty.

3. Snacks. You can buy stuff from the Six Mile Falls Meat Market & Deli, but from my experience, this spectator event is kind of like a relay race. You don’t have much time to buy food along the way. You’re trying to find parking in a long line of cars, then you’re trying to find a seat, then as soon as the person you’re cheering for paddles (or swims) by, you’re off to the next spot. I remember running a lot to make it from Six Mile Falls to The Shopping Cart to the finish line in Bangor.

Photo by Aislinn Sarnacki. Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race 2010.

4. A camera (protected from the rain or waterproof). Even if you aren’t proudly watching a friend or relative paddling in the race, you’re going to want to take a photo of the ridiculous costumes that some of the paddlers are wearing. Don’t feel bad about taking their photo. Why else do you think that person dressed up like Gumby … Donald Duck … a toothless pirate?

5. Warm layers. It’s still April. I don’t care if it has been unseasonably warm. You might be sitting for hours at Six Mile Falls while you wait for the first paddler to come around the bend. It’s a long slog from the starting line to the exciting part (and by that I mean the rapids that tend to upend boats).

6. A good CD. Traffic might be pretty miserable.

7. Rain-friendly entertainment. Um… the only thing I can think of is a person. Watch the race with a friend so you’ll have someone to talk to while you wait on the shore. (Just don’t call them “rain-friendly entertainment.” That might not go over too well).


Aislinn Sarnacki

About Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn is a Bangor Daily News reporter for the Outdoors pages, focusing on outdoor recreation and Maine wildlife. Visit her main blog at