Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race

Stream Level Predictions And News




Predicting the stream levels of the Kenduskeag on race day is something of a pastime among veteran paddlers.

Seasoned paddler Ray Wirth of Belfast weighs in with his thoughts on the stream conditions for the 2016 race.

Weather forecast for race day? Sunny in the mid to high 50s. In other news, the Kenduskeag race committee has completed its final meeting ahead of the race. All systems are go!

UPDATE: two short news items from WABI-TV5 and WLBZ, respectively:
"Stream levels look good for everyone". (WABI video / WLBZ video)

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Preliminary Stream Report - 4/10/14



(larger view of the photo above)

My, how things have changed in a week!

And things will change even more before the race, so just take this early glimpse of the stream with a grain of salt. A teaser, if you will.

The Kenduskeag Stream is icing out nicely, with a current average height of 9.5 feet. The cfs? That's unclear at the moment as the USGS water gauge at the Kenduskeag currently reports "ice".

Let's put it this way, the water is moving. And there's still a lot of snowpack which has yet to melt.

There were "bergy bits" floating downstream but nothing major, although at one point I mistook a small iceberg for a white kayak. Whoops.

But it's the portage trails and the river vulture (spectator) areas which are troublesome. Seems like the paths and viewing areas are either frozen, flooded, or mushy-muddy.

I'll check back in another week. It was a nice spring day along the stream with a good number of Canada geese along Griffin Road.

PS - here's a short video clip of the area known as the Shopping Cart rapids, closer to Bangor - it gives you a small sense of the current flow: (Quicktime video - 4/10/14)

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Stream Report 2011: Watching The River Flow

Kudos to anyone who caught the Bob Dylan reference in the title of this blog entry. (Last year it was Creedence Clearwater Revival.)

Kenduskeag Stream - photo by Michael Alden
















So here we are again, two middle-aged dudes (but young at heart!) taking a stroll along the Kenduskeag Stream ahead of the big race on Saturday.

I'm referring, of course, to myself and my friend Christopher D'Amico, a twenty-year (plus?) veteran of the Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race. I learn something new every time I see Chris, whether it has to do with paddling or something completely unrelated, and our "stream scouting" (which has become a tradition) is something I look forward to every April.

In the 2010 stream report, which you may check out here, I mentioned that the stream was "bony" and "mellow" and "low" and that the race looked to be "a slog". The Bangor Daily News would go on to characterize that race in much the same way. And for good reason.

The 2010 race really was low and slow. Mind you, people still had a good time on the stream that day, but many were sort of nonplussed to find themselves coloring the rocks of the stream with their red, green, orange and blue watercraft.

I really don't think we are in for a repeat of the 2010 rock garden. Not even close. The water depth at Six Mile Falls (at the time of this writing) is just over 7 feet. Ray Wirth of Water Walker Kayaks reminds me that the stream was around 4.4 feet at this time last year. And it's been raining all day today, so that may only add to the overall stream level come Saturday. We'll see.

The overall flow of the water impressed us this time around too; that could only be said about certain spots along the stream last year; overall it was like molasses. This year the stream has a little more "giddy up and go" to it.

* * *

If you are new to these "stream reports", we start closer to town (Bangor) and work our way UPSTREAM. As a paddler, you'll approach these places DOWNSTREAM. So the order is reversed here. Hey, that's how we roll. Don't ask me why.

* * *

Let's start with an area invariably referred to as "Shopping Cart" or "Washing Machine" or "Thunder Hole". (That last one is a shout out to my Canadian friends in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.)

Shopping Cart, Kenduskeag Stream - photo by Michael Alden
















This area had a nice, zippy current and a decent wave train. (I think the name that I came up with for the wave train following the rapids was "The Devil's Tongue".) Keep your paddle in the water here. As longtime paddler Clayton Cole once told me, "you must paddle with AUTHORITY in whitewater." In other words, work that paddle when things get intense! Keep it in the water. Grabbing the gunwales and bracing for the worst while hoping for the best is a normal human reaction. You may have to fight your natural instincts here.

Anyway. It is very common for people to stick to river right and hug the rocks alongside the rapids at this spot, but heck...we think a paddler could actually clear the rapids on river left if the paddler can manage to get over to the left hand side of the stream without being drawn into the middle of the drop. Normally it's too bony on river left to make this sort of move, but if the water levels hold up we imagine it will be doable!

Shopping Cart, Kenduskeag Stream - photo by Michael Alden
















Alrighty - moving further upstream, we come to another spot along the Kenduskeag which often throws paddlers for a loop. There's a good reason for that: a sneaky set of rapids will greet you just after you put in at the (mandatory) Maxfield Mill portage.

Maxfield Mill portage, Kenduskeag Stream - photo by Michael Alden
















A lot of paddlers have told me that this spot gave them trouble because a) they were tired after all of that paddling and b) they were sort of lulled into a false sense of security after completing the portage, where the water starts off calmly enough. The stream seems so innocent. But not for long, baby!

Because of a rock ledge (think of it as a wall), you are sort of forced to go through a narrow channel and it can be sporty! So be prepared for this little stinger once you've shoved off from the Maxfield portage point. Further downstream you'll run into the Shopping Cart/Washing Machine/Thunder Hole rapids.

Here's a shot of the put-in after the Maxfield Mill portage. Notice how serene it appears? (Lover's Leap is in the backdrop).

Lovers Leap, Kenduskeag Stream - photo by Michael Alden
















And here's a shot of the Maxfield Mill take out, which looks good. There's a nice big pool-like eddy on river right which will allow paddlers to "park" if there is a queue for the portage.
Sweet.

Maxfield Mill portage, Kenduskeag Stream - photo by Michael Alden
















Below is a shot (further upstream along Valley Avenue) of the Flour Mill rapids. Don't worry - this is a mandatory portage and you won't go through this. (Unless you really weren't paying attention while cruising down the stream!) No, this area will be marked and there's usually a person there to make sure you know that it's time to pull out and portage. Just wanted to show you the rapids so you'd have an idea as to the stream level this year:

Flour Mill rapids, Kenduskeag Stream - photo by Michael Alden

















Chris and I met two fun-loving young women at the Flour Mill Dam who are going to do the race for the first time this year. They mentioned that they might have SpongeBob Squarepants as their boat mascot. So if you happen to spot these lovelies somewhere along the Kenduskeag, give them a shout of encouragement!

And I would be remiss if I didn't post yet another shot of the sluice pipe at the Flour Mill Dam. I take a shot of this every year; I suppose it's because of my fascination with the fact that in the earliest years of this race - the late 1960s and early 70s - certain paddlers actually shot through this drainage pipe rather than portage the rapids! They were an adventurous lot. (And no, do not even THINK of attempting this; it's roped off anyway.)

Flour Mill sluice pipe, Kenduskeag Stream - photo by Michael Alden
















And here is a shot of the take-out area at the Flour Mill. It's mellow here; you shouldn't have any problem pulling into this spot to portage around the Flour Mill area.

Portage area, Flour Mill Dam, Kenduskeag Stream - photo by Michael Alden
















So now we're going to jump up to Six Mile Falls, one of the most notorious spots on the Kenduskeag. This is where a sizeable portion of "river vultures" will gather to see if you can shoot the rapids or go "ass over teakettle". No worries, though. There are LOTS of rescue people at this spot and they do a great job. You will be safe!


















This spot is where many of the river vultures will gather. Note that the "vulture meadow" is a tad flooded this year. Not too bad though - I've seen it worse going both ways.

On the bridge overlooking this scene, WABI TV5 will have their cameras running from 10am to about noon, so if you come through Six Mile Falls within that time frame be sure to smile for the viewing audience! (Dumping at Six Mile Falls will virtually ensure your appearance on television.)

Six Mile Falls - photo by Michael Alden


















We noticed that there are options when approaching Six Mile Falls. Some years there are more, some years there are less. This year, you can approach from river center or river left. If you are going to shoot the "jaws" (or middle channel) of the rapids, the idea is to line up your boat to ensure a straight shot. You will approach the jaws at an angle. But not too much of an angle or you'll tumble.

This is one of those things which is frustrating for me to describe in words, so I'm going to post a video update to this blog entry on Friday night. Check back at that time to see some examples of how people are shooting Six Mile Falls. The visual demonstration will be much more effective than anything I can write.

And I would strongly encourage you to scout the areas I've touched upon in this blog entry if you have the time. You'll have company - lots of paddlers will be checking things out on Friday afternoon and evening. You might even see me out there.

In conclusion, I thought the rapids looked "peppy" and "sporty" and even the flatwater had a decent current, certainly when compared to last year - and this is something just about everyone will appreciate. And I suppose that summarizes my initial reaction to this stroll along the stream (as well as that of Chris): we think this will be a fun race for just about everyone. Kayakers will have a blast on certain areas in particular.

Here's Chris' take (which he posted on the Kenduskeag Stream Facebook Page):

Mike and I reconned the stream Tuesday, like we always do. The water is just off high water, in my opinion. Pretty quick water, lots of choices to negotiate Six Mile Falls; sluice is wicked powerful; lots of snags, in the sluice and just upstream of the Jaws; no hydraulics at Washing Machine. But, it can change by Saturday. I think people who suffered last year will be pleased this year. Newbies should have lots of encouragement to participate and sacrifice themselves (instead of us) to the River Gods!


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Rollin' On The River: Stream Report 2010

UPDATE 4/16: Well, a lot can happen in 72 hours! The stream has dropped almost a foot since I filed this blog entry. It's even "bonier" than I described earlier, and the rapids aren't as forceful now either. There will be some bumps and scrapes this year, and the race looks to be a slog. But for many people, it will be fun race no matter what.
- M.


My Bell solo canoe awaits the water. Needs a bit of outfitting first...

TUESDAY, APRIL 13th, 2010

What a beautiful day to stroll along sections of the Kenduskeag Stream. As in years past, I went to scout out the Kenduskeag with veteran racer Chris D'Amico, who is about to participate in his twenty first Kenduskeag. So if you were born around the time Chris first did the race, you're almost old enough to drink a celebratory beer after a day of paddling. Just saying.

It was a nice, uneventful walk although I managed to get a mild sunburn after it was all said and done. Oh, and we found a deer tick hitching a ride with one of us after shuffling around Six Mile Falls. So you might want to watch out for that - they're out there!



The stream is on the lower, mellower side and at the same time the stream is not too "pushy".

What does this mean? Read on...



We like to start at the Shopping Cart area (the rapids closer to downtown Bangor) and work our way upstream. The water levels seemed about the same as in 2009, although last year the Shopping Cart rapids seemed a bit "tame", whereas this year that section of rapids seems "snappy". There's more force going through that ledge notch, along with a pretty good section of standing waves following.



Keep in mind that these photos do not really give you the full effect of the rapids in terms of size and swiftness. I shot these pics with a relatively wideangle lens, and the perspective sort of flattens things out in such a way as to make the rapids seem almost unimpressive. These rapids are respectable, so don't let these pics fool you!



Certainly the wave train following the drop at Shopping Cart seemed pretty respectable. Paddlers should have some fun negotiating those standing waves! But this is par for the course at the Shopping Cart, really.

Here's another downstream view of the wave train (or "tongue", as I call it) to give you a bit more of an idea. Looks like 40-odd feet of bad road!



One of the interesting things about the Shopping Cart is how benign it appears when viewed from further upstream. We walked upstream and turned around to look back at the Shopping Cart drop, and it virtually disappears:



I had to point out where the Shopping Cart Hole is in this particular photo, because you literally can't see it when you are approaching it in your boat. Little wonder that this area catches so many people by surprise. It's definitely a "gotcha!" section of the Kenduskeag.

So how will you know you're getting close to the rapids if you can't see them coming? Look for river vultures (spectators) on river right! They'll be hovering around the boulders in front of what appears to be a flat space on the stream, but there's a reason they've gathered in that seemingly unimpressive area. You can't see the drop until you're almost on top of it. Just a heads up!



Upstream from the Shopping Cart is an area we call the Washing Machine. It's basically that first set of rapids you encounter in the bend of the stream after you've portaged around the Maxfield Mill area, near Lovers Leap, where you cross the road with your boat. The Washing Machine causes problems for some paddlers - these rapids will wake you up with a little taste of what lies ahead at the Shopping Cart.

Side note: a free paddling clinic will be held on the Kenduskeag on Thursday, April 15th at 4pm. Hosted by the Maine Canoe & Kayak Racing Organization (MaCKRO), this clinic will begin at Six Mile Falls and end downtown. Shuttles will be available for you and your boat. If you'd like to preview these tricky areas at your own pace and and your own comfort level with experienced paddlers, I highly encourage you to try to take advantage of this opportunity! Meet up at the parking lot alongside the Kenduskeag Stream just up from the Mill St. bridge (Harlow St.) The parking lot will be on your right. You can't miss it; there will be other cars with boats already there. You may have to fill out an ACA waiver form (with which there is a $5 fee per paddler) but the clinic itself is free and open to the public.



Abandon hope, all ye who enter Shopping Cart Alley! Just kidding. Weird tree trunk, huh?

Moving right along. Now we'll take a quick look at the Flour Mill Dam area (a mandatory portage) before heading to Six Mile Falls:



Looking at the picture above (the remnants of the Flour Mill Dam) - wouldn't it be nifty to be able to take a shortcut through that sluice tunnel if the water was just a bit higher on the exit? Well, that's just what some of the racers did in the earliest years of the Kenduskeag! In the late 1960s this tunnel was an alternative portage. Alas, it isn't nowadays. But you probably wouldn't want to break the back of your boat trying it anyway.



Walking further upstream, this is the take out area ahead of the Flour Mill Dam, and as I mentioned earlier this is a mandatory portage. It will be marked and flagged and a rescue person will be on hand to make sure you pull out. As you can see, the water is sedate. This photo is virtually identical to the shot I took in the same spot in 2009.



And now we move on to big, bad Six Mile Falls. The favorite stomping ground of media trucks and river vultures. Guess what? The report I wrote up last year mostly applies this year as well.

So rather than reinvent the wheel here, I'm tempted to say that you could direct your attention to the stream report of 2009 (see the archive links to the right. look under April 2009). But there is one notable difference: the options for lining up are a little bonier this year and some areas are blocked by dead trees and other wooded debris.



Lots of "stairstep" ledges will make things a little trickier (at least for canoes) on the approach to Six Mile Falls this year. It seemed to Chris D. that the best approaches might be from river left, which is fairly typical if the water is high enough.

When we looked at the area, the water was doable. But given a few days of water levels dropping off, what will it look like come Saturday morning? You'll have to check it out for yourself (always a good idea anyway) or ask around to find out. Some people wait until the eve of the race to scout out the stream for that very reason.

Here's the photo map overview of Six Mile Falls I posted last year:


So what's the big difference this year? You can pretty much take out that middle arrow, for one thing. We found that between the ledges and the downed trees, the middle approach to the falls would be virtually impossible. We've never seen so much piled up crap ahead of the falls. It almost looked like some Godzilla-sized beaver built a dam in the area.

Going river left and then either setting up in front of the "jaws" of the falls (the chute area) is one option. Another would be to try river right, hitting that horseshoe-shaped sluice and spilling out in front of the weedy "red willow island" just ahead of the falls.


Dick Hanson, Earl Baldwin and Chris D'Amico "strategizing" at Six Mile Falls

Overlooking the "stairstep" action ahead of Six Mile Falls, Chris D. thought that kayakers might have an easier time taking a centerline approach to the falls than the open boaters, but even a couple of seasoned kayakers we spoke with on site felt that they would likely approach the falls from river left or right, and not through the center. For what it's worth.



The US Geological Survey installed a brand new water gauge at Six Mile Falls back in January. This gauge measures the depth of the water (among other things). Interpreting the data is another matter, but several people who live near the stream have told me that in their experience, anything below four feet (in terms of depth) translates to "rock garden" paddling. As of this writing, the stream has a recorded depth of a little under five feet at the Six Mile Falls station.



Check out the realtime date online on the USGS water gauge page. Also, note that while the cfs (cubic feet per second) data isn't yet available, I'm told that it might be added in the near future.



One of the things that kept cropping up while Chris D. and I scouted the stream was the term "pushy water". Newbies should be pleased to note that the stream isn't too "pushy" this year. The water isn't high enough or swift enough to hurtle you towards a tricky situation without giving you at least some opportunity to prepare.

What this means is that you can take a moment in the calmer eddies and pools to choose your lines, prep your paddling partner(s) if you aren't going solo, and orient your boat the way you want to before taking the plunge, so to speak. It was a much different picture in 2007 and even in 2008, when paddlers were rushed into situation after situation.

In closing, scout out these areas for yourself ahead of the race, and do keep in mind the MaCKRO paddling clinic on Thursday if you feel you need some pointers or some confidence-building skills. That's what it's there for, and the experienced paddlers at MaCKRO are glad to help.



Have a safe and enjoyable race.
And remember, keep your paddle in the water!
- Mike

Compiled by Christopher D'Amico and Mike Alden.
Thanks also to D. Hanson and E. Baldwin


PS - here are a few snapshots of some concrete canoe remains near Six Mile Falls. The engineering department at UMaine would hold student competitions to see which team could build (and race) the lightest concrete canoe. Looks like these particular boats made it as far down the stream as Six Mile Falls before wrecking on the "shoals".







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2010 Stream Report - Coming Soon



I should have the full stream report for 2010 posted here by tomorrow evening. Look for thoughts on water levels, possible lines of approach to some of the trickier areas, and more.

Also, if you're a beginner at paddling or if this is your first ever canoe race, there will be a free paddling "clinic" held on the Kenduskeag this Thursday at 4pm.

You'll start at Six Mile Falls and head to town from there (no need to paddle the first 10 miles of the race as it is mostly flatwater).

This is a very nice arrangement offered by the Maine Canoe & Kayak Racing Organization (MaCKRO). Paddle at your own pace and at your own comfort level alongside veteran paddlers who really know their stuff. Ask questions! It's all about making you feel safe and confident on the water so that you can learn to make the right choices while enjoying the race.

Shuttles for you and your boat will be provided; I will post more details about all of this (along with the stream report) tomorrow!

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Kenduskeag 2009: Nice & (Mostly) Mellow

The Kenduskeag looks good and should be a lot of fun this year for a broad spectrum of paddlers. Here are some of my impressions and I hope you will add yours here as well.
(Click thumbnails for larger images)

Keep in mind that stream conditions will change between today and Saturday morning. For one thing, the stream should be a bit lower than it is as of this writing.

The photo above shows what the area of rapids variously known as "Shopping Cart", "Washing Machine", "Thunder Hole" (and a few other names) looked like on Tuesday. Enlarge the photo for a better view. Compared to last year and certainly the year before, this area isn't quite as scary looking, but that should not be taken to mean that the stream won't provide any thrills or challenges this year. Far from it!

Let's start closer to Bangor and work our way upstream to Six Mile Falls, because that's how I roll on these walking tours.

The area known locally as the Shopping Cart isn't nearly as hairy as it was last year, and nothing at all like it was in 2007. That's not a bad thing, as these rapids tend to surprise a lot of people who think that the worst is behind them.

Chances are, you'll be pretty much spent by the time you reach the Shopping Cart rapids, so I wouldn't want to give you the impression that you can just sail on through without difficulty.

Here's a closer view of the "tongue" of the rapids. Note the standing waves, which do tend to throw people for a loop. You have to be alert, and I'm thinking that river right is going to be the line most people will take when they approach this area. The shelf on river left (see photo) was somewhat passable on Tuesday but will likely be too shallow on race day, certainly for many canoes.

They don't call it the Shopping Cart Hole for nothing! Which reminds me, I'm pretty sure there is a Kenduskeag cleanup event scheduled soon (perhaps the day after the race) by Keep Bangor Beautiful, and the cleanup relies on the efforts of volunteers. For more information call 990-1201 or email Keep Bangor Beautiful. Or just do what we did and pick up the junk as you come across it.

OK, moving on. Let's take a quick look at the two mandatory portages on the Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race. Maxfield Mill Dam, and (further upstream) the Flour Mill Dam.

Chris D'Amico, who scouted the stream with me on this walkabout, pointed out an interesting thing with regard to the "mellow" waters and the mandatory portage at Maxfield. There's a nice little rocky "beach" available for landing. This is usually submerged under a few feet of water. Also, the calm "coves" on river right can be used as a rest stop for paddlers who need to take a breather or bail their boats. Nice!


Looking to river left at the Maxfield portage, there is another option for take out. I've never really understood the benefit of taking out here as the bank is quite steep. It might cut down on the distance of the portage across the bridge a bit, but most paddlers take out river right. Not sure where the Maxfield Mill Dam portage is? Here's a map


Now we move on upstream to the Flour Mill Dam. This is also a mandatory portage and if you didn't portage at Six Mile Falls (which is optional), this is the first portage you're going to hit. The remains of the Flour Mill Dam are just upstream from the I-95 bridge. There's a nice walkway and lookout over these rapids if you are walking along on the Kenduskeag pathway.

Note the calm conditions here at this portage. Again, it's a nice thing to have a "mellow cove" for paddlers because these portages can become congested. The grassy area is often submerged under a few feet of water. The take out at the Flour Mill Dam is river left. Here's a map of this area.

It's a good thing the Flour Mill Dam area is a mandatory portage. This area is otherwise quite scary. You won't have to worry about the toothy rocks as seen in this photo because you'll avoid it altogether. As you can see, these "molars" would chew your boat up and spit you out. And these rocks are just upstream from some nasty rapids. It wouldn't be pretty.



Just as an aside: I had to include this shot of the large pipe which runs through the remains of the Flour Mill Dam. This was taken from the Flour Mill overlook. In the earliest years of the Kenduskeag race (circa 1966, 1967) it was possible for paddlers to portage the Flour Mill Dam by sluicing their boat through this large pipe! Don't try to do this now, however. Note the spillway and the drop. Bill and Fern Stearns wrote about this rather unusual portage option in their book "Tales of the Kenduskeag", at a time when only a couple of dozen paddlers braved the stream for the inaugural races.

Now we head upstream once again to the infamous Six Mile Falls. Let's cut to the chase: people want to know how things are looking and what approaches (lines) to think about. Here goes.

This sat map isn't the best for this example because the water levels were at summer low when the big bird snapped the photo, but generally there are three main approaches taken by most paddlers when lining up for Six Mile Falls. You might want to enlarge this image for a better look. Portage here is optional, not mandatory. Here's a map.

Based on our observations, going the river left "loop" is definitely passable at the moment, but it might not be so easy on Saturday. We'll see. As the stream level drops that left hand loop will become bony. On the other hand, this can be a VERY nice route to take to move you out into a position ahead of the falls so that you can line up nicely and cruise on through. Scout the left side loop on Friday night if you can. (See note about MaCKRO clinic below).


Click the image above to enlarge. See the island of red willows in the middle of the stream (left hand side of the photo)? It seems to us that whether you take the river right loop or the "bony left" loop, you'll want to sidle up to this island if possible and line yourself up for the center of the falls from there. Easier said than done, but the current isn't as ridiculous as it has been in recent years (2007 being one of the worst in recent memory).

I'll leave you with a comment from veteran racer Jeff Owen of Orono:
Six-mile Falls gets difficult if the water is too low--sharp ledges all over the place, particularly in the section at the top of the falls. If we're going to run the falls (meaning the water is not too high or too low), we always begin on river left and work our way down through the little islands over there--then move out to run the main chute at the bottom. There are several options up top on river left, the best being dependent on the water level. It'll be fun to look at it on Friday afternoon.
If you have any thoughts on Six Mile Falls this year, by all means share them with us in the comments! Would love to hear from you.

And keep this in mind: There will be a paddling clinic hosted by MaCKRO (below Six Mile Falls) for anyone who is interested in testing and "previewing" the stream on Friday afternoon. Here are the details.

- Compiled by Mike Alden and Chris D'Amico

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Stream Conditions Report Coming Soon
















UPDATE 4/14:

I walked along portions of the stream today and will post photos and comments tomorrow. I simply ran out of time this evening! But in a nutshell, I would say that the stream is on the low side of medium, and I would characterize the flow as "mellow". The water levels are certainly good enough for a fun race and at the same time the conditions are mild enough to appeal to first time paddlers looking to take part this Saturday. An easygoing stream this year in many respects, and we can expect it to drop even further before race day. More on this tomorrow.

* * * *

If you have scouted the stream (especially the rapids) please write in the comments area about your impressions and observations. People from out of town - in fact, out of the country - will be grateful.

PS - the shot above was taken at the Marsh Stream Canoe Race near Frankfort/Winterport. Nice race on an Easter Sunday. It was the second leg of the "Maine Whitewater Weekend", with the first leg being the Souadabscook Stream Canoe Race on Saturday. Keep it in mind for next year if you weren't there!

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Kenduskeag Water Lookin' Good For All Paddlers!

Over 700 paddlers are registered for the 2008 race, not counting race day registrations!

Powerhouse paddlers Robert Lang (eleven time winner of the Kenduskeag) is returning to the Kenduskeag this year, and Trevor McLean will be participating in this year's race as well.

And from today's Bangor Daily News, quoting Bangor Parks & Recreation director Tracy Willette:

"I think the stream is at a pretty good level for everybody. Not too low, not too high," Willette said. "I think it’s going to be a pretty good course for everybody. I think the technical paddlers, the experienced paddlers, will enjoy it, and I think the beginners and recreational paddlers will have a good course to run."

Read the rest of John Holyoke's article here for more information and last-minute tips!

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Stream Conditions Report #1 - Kenduskeag and Souadabscook

Here's a stream levels report which can be taken with a grain of salt, but I've decided to post it anyway as I am receiving many queries from out-of-towners looking to do the race. They want a general idea as to what they can expect this year, so here goes!

Much can change between now and April 19 as we know. There's still a good amount of snow and ice to melt off, and we may be in for a rainy weekend. We'll have to see how much rain we get during the week leading up to the race. It's worth noting that many veteran paddlers do not even bother to scout the stream until a day or two before the race. Yup, it can change that quickly. Therefore, a final stream conditions report will be posted on the eve of the race (Friday). Stay tuned!

But just for kicks, here are some videos of the Kenduskeag stream as of Thursday, April 10:

Six Mile Falls Video - My initial observation is that it's looking good. Not quite as high as last year, although as with last year, there is some noticeable flooding in the field near the Hudson Road where the vultures usually gather. While the flooding is not as bad as it was last year, it could limit spectator access. Lots of ice chunks coasting through. (Pat Davis could probably give us a better insight as he lives nearby and knows the stream well).

Shopping Cart Video - Water level is high enough that you can't stand on the banks easily, and there's a good swift current at the Shopping Cart but not as much of of that "hungry hydro scary water" that we saw last year. (Here's a photo from last year to give you an idea). As a side note, I'm told the Valley Stream bridge is undergoing renovations and will be out of service until June. Also, the parking area closest to the Shopping Cart (down the road from the Harlow Street Bridge) is torn up and closed off - so parking is not available there. Keep this in mind if you need someone to pick you up in that area after a trial run of the stream.

Flour Mill Video - This is a mandatory portage, so it's nothing a paddler would worry about. I just thought I'd toss it in here for the heck of it. Note that the boulder in midstream in this video was completely submerged at this time last year, so the water levels, while very good, are not as high this time around. For now, anyway!

Souadabscook Stream Video - Last but not least, if you are doing the Souadabscook Stream Canoe race (aka "The Sou") the day after tomorrow, I've included a short video from the Emerson Mill bridge. Lookin' good! I think this will be a fun race. A lot of the rocks are covered nicely, seems to be a good strong current there. There was a choppy section just downstream from the bridge with some decent standing waves. Can't remember if it was like that last year or not.

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A Quickie Video of Water Levels

I visited the Shopping Cart area and Six Mile Falls today and took some video footage.

Click here to watch the 2-minute video. (Nothing fancy, but it gives you some idea of the volume and swiftness of the stream.) Will be interesting to see how much this changes by race day.

The fellow standing near the Shopping Cart is Bob Martin, who thought it would be wise to stick to river right and hug the bank going through the Shopping Cart. If you get sucked into the Shopping Cart hole....watch out!
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Six Mile Swamp

Pat Davis is right: the stream is high and fast and swollen. In addition to his pics, here's another one from the Six Mile Falls area.

This is the area where spectators normally stand to watch the paddlers go through the falls.

As you can see (click photo to enlarge) the "vulture" area is completely flooded. The water goes all the way back to the Hudson Road!










UPDATE 4/18/07: Here is a closer shot of Six Mile Falls (taken today).
Where did the "jaws" go? (Click photo to enlarge)



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Race Day Weather Lookin' Good

The weather forecast for race day is "nice with sunshine and patchy clouds, high: 60 degrees". Maybe Old Man Winter is finally taking a hint. Should be a GREAT day for paddling.

Pat Davis sent in a couple snapshots of Six Mile Falls today.
Thanks, Pat!
(Click photos to enlarge).

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Water Levels & Weather Reports















If 10-day weather forecasts are to be believed, we could see a decent amount of precipitation on many of the days leading up to the Kenduskeag race.

I'll post stream photos and conditions beginning next week.

By the way, remember to preregister before 1pm on April 20. The registration form can be downloaded right here.

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Springtime in Maine (UPDATED)

Rain, sleet & snow today. I couldn't be happier. People in town are giving me strange looks when I tell them how great it is that we're having this weather. We need all the water we can get for April 15th.

UPDATE 4/5/06: I went by Six Mile Falls today. The stream was noticeably higher than it was just a few days ago. The rain and snow seemed to help things a bit. Given a few more days like that, I would think that we'll be good to go!

If you were part of the Gumby race crew last year, you will find your smiling faces...well, not on the cover of the Rolling Stone, but at least in the pages of the April issue of Bangor Metro magazine. It's in stores now.

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A Couple of April Fools Scout The Stream


(Click on thumbnails to enlarge images)

On the morning of April Fools Day, I scouted different parts of the Kenduskeag with my neighbor Chris D'Amico, a seasoned vet of the canoe race. As a paddler, I'm a hopeless novice. I work primarily as a photographer. So it was good to scout some sections of the stream with someone who could actually "interpret" the water. This we did by car and by foot - not by boat.

It doesn't take a seasoned veteran of this canoe race to see that the stream levels are quite a bit lower than in years past. But I felt a need to know just how bad the damage is. Would a seasoned race participant take a look at sections of the stream and abandon all hope? Recent race cancellations in Maine (all due to low water) have some people sitting on pins and needles. Is it possible, they ask me, that the race could be cancelled altogether this year? It is a question which has popped up in the back of my mind as well.

It's important to note that up until now, there has been absolutely no mention of a pending cancellation by the race committee. And today's estimation from Chris was one of cautious optimism: "The stream is low, yes...but it certainly appears to be doable. At least for now. Some sections will be rough going, but it appears to be passable."



I'll have to leave it up to other paddlers to determine whether "passable" is good enough for them. But in any case one thing seems certain: Six Mile Falls looks to be a dicey proposition. With such low water levels, a paddler's options are limited. We walked along both sides of the stream in the area of Six Mile Falls, all the while amazed at how much more exposed the banks of the stream are this year.

Tree stumps, knifelike slices of ledge, spits of grassy land - all of which were submerged under several feet of water last year and in years past - were completely exposed. Stairsteps of rocks and boulders riffled the stream.

Chris lined up some possible approaches to Six Mile Falls and again, he felt that it seemed passable. But tricky. He figured that lining up for a run into the low-level falls may require considerably more technical skill and finesse of paddlers this year. He also wondered if most people might decide to portage the falls altogether to avoid such a problematic obstacle. Then again, there's an outside chance that Six Mile Falls will be designated a mandatory portage.

That about closes it for our April Fools Day stream and race speculation. For whatever it is worth. Stay tuned!

UPDATE 4/5/06: Stream levels have risen in just a few short days thanks to rain, sleet and light snow. Things are looking much better. So, no more hand-wringing! I would be VERY surprised if the race were cancelled at this point. I don't think 2006 will be a year of record race times, but I don't think this race will be cancelled. Just my 2 cents, take it or leave it.

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Sixteen Miles of Bad Road

How low can it go?



The Kenduskeag is so low that, in places, I could walk halfway out into the stream without getting my shoes wet. However, I have heard from a couple of different paddlers that the sections of the stream they tested were passable.
(Click thumbnails to enlarge)



If you know how to do a raindance, this might be a good time. The St. George River Race in Searsmont was postponed for a week due to low water levels. Things can turn around quickly given some steady rain. But at the moment, the Kenduskeag looks like sixteen miles of bad road. As my neighbor put it: "Looks like we'll be painting the rocks with our boats this year."

PS - Here's a good story by John Holyoke (Bangor Daily News) with regard to the St. George River Race and the low water levels.
PSS - Long range forecast calls for rain next weekend and on some weekdays after that. So don't let the low water observations deter you from registering for the race.

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Iceout: Slowly But Surely


Stopped along the stream during lunch break today. The fog set a nice mood. A couple of years ago I snapped an iceout sequence (in case you haven't seen it).

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Lover's Leap - 03/02/06



Beautiful snowy day in Bangor - just had to get outside with the Nikon. Cabin fever and whatnot.
Here you can see that the Kenduskeag Stream hasn't completely frozen over as in previous years. Lover's Leap is visible in the background.
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