Meduxnekeag River Canoe Race was a challenge due to low water level

3 weeks ago

HOULTON, Maine – For many of the paddlers in Saturday’s  Meduxnekeag River Canoe Race it was a combination of portaging and paddling to the finish. 

“We took on about 10 gallons of water when we went aground,” said race expert Peter Blood, who along with his paddling partner Clint Cushman has been tackling the Meduxnekeag river race for nearly 40 years. “The water was the lowest I have seen in the 38 years I have been doing it.”

Blood and Cushman won first place in the 1996 Down River Point Series and on Saturday they placed first in the age 72+ division with a time of 2:06:57.

The eight-mile race from New Limerick to Houlton is the seventh in the Maine Canoe and Kayak Racing Organization Down River Point Series

Sixty paddlers braved the tough race. Low water and bony (rocky) conditions meant lots of maneuvering and portages to get around the obstacles in the river. Some paddlers said they had to get out of their boats multiple times and the first finishers were about 45 minutes later than last year. And three racers did not finish the course.

HOULTON, Maine — May 4, 2024 — A legendary paddling duo at the finish of Saturday’s Meduxnekeag River Canoe Race on Saturday in Houlton. Peter Blood, left, and Clint Cushman have been racing together for nearly 40 years. The two men won the 1996 Down River Point Series along with a long list of other wins.  Blood and Cushman placed first in the 72+ division with a time of 2:06:57 on Saturday. (Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli | Houlton Pioneer Times)

The best finish time was in the Open Canoe-1 short division, Jim Park, who came in first in 1:50:32. 

This year’s racing season poses challenges for racers and some noted events, like the Kenduskeag Slalom in Bangor, were canceled due to low water levels.

Aaron Cross and Chad Robertson placed first in the Law Enforcement division with a time of 1:52:16. They came around the last bend before the finish line just before noon.

Rounding the bend in less than a minute behind the first finishers, Maine Canoe and Kayaking Racing Organization racer Mark Ranco from Bangor said that the low water made the race more challenging. When they hit rocky conditions, Ranco told his paddling partner, Chip Loring,  who was in the bow, to stay in the canoe and he jumped out to push the boat over the rocks. 

“It was great to be outdoors and meeting all these people,” he said after the race. 

HOULTON, Maine — May 4, 2024 — This young paddler presses on to the finish in the Meduxnekeag River Canoe Race in Houlton on Saturday. (Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli | Houlton Pioneer Times)

Ranco and Loring came in first in the Century Experienced Recreational division with a time of 1:53:03.

This year’s numbers were down from 97 racers last year. Organizer Jane Torres said that the low water conditions affect the number of racers. Over the years they have had high water as well as low water but it doesn’t seem to make a difference in the great experiences enjoyed by the paddlers, she said. 

In the racing results: K-1 short, Brian Foley, first, 1:51:54; Dan Baumert, second, 1:53:45; Larry Merrill, third, 2:06:09. In the OC-1 short, Jim Park, first, 1:50:32; Emma Eckert, second, 1:59:02. In the OC-2 short, Terry Wescott/Bob Martin, first, 1:58:34; OC-2 medium, Allison Risinger/Mark Risinger, first, 1:53:43; Cooper Power/Cliodhna O’Malley, second, 2:04:33.

HOULTON, Maine — May 4, 2024 — These paddlers came flying to the finish despite low water conditions for the Meduxnekeag River Canoe Race on Saturday in Houlton. (Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli | Houlton Pioneer Times)

The race began at 10 a.m. at Lynwood Wellington’s house on the Station Road in New Limerick and finished at Houlton’s Gateway Bridge and Riverfront Park. Most years the last finishers are in by 12:30 p.m., but at 1:30 p.m. Saturday some were still battling the conditions.

There was a Maine red hot dog and hamburger barbecue at the park for racers. 

“Despite the low water it was once again a lot of fun for everyone involved,” Torres said. “The memories made are what matters.”