Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race

Stream Level Predictions And News

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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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Kenduskeag Roundup: Insights & Video

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John Holyoke's recent "Kenduskeag Rages" post in the BDN pretty much says it all.
Compared with the runoff of recent years, it's safe to say that the Kenduskeag is raging. Truly. (Although 2007 seemed even "rage-ier" to me somehow, if that makes any sense.)

There's more.

Ray Wirth of Water Walker Sea Kayaks (Belfast, ME) paddled the Kenduskeag from Six Mile Falls to an area known as the Shopping Cart, and he shot an exciting helmet-cam video while doing so. Anyone who has (or will) sign up for the 2014 race should appreciate this.

During his stoke-worthy ride, Ray provides many insightful comments as he demonstrates what paddlers can expect on Saturday. It's an inspired way to preview some of the trickier parts of the Kenduskeag.

My own thoughts? Steer clear of strainers. Those overhanging or overreaching branches, brambles and bushes. You do not want find your boat snagged up in "the sticks" with such a forceful current. I always get a bit anxious when it comes to streams or rivers that have overflowed their banks.

Also, the mandatory portages require attention, especially Maxfield Mill. The rescue personnel will be on top of this, not to worry - and the mandatory portages are well-signed and managed. Still, if you aren't 100% sure what I'm talking about here, check out the mandatory portage points that I have mapped out on my website.

PS - I think Ray's paddle is best viewed in full screen. You can almost feel it:



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Souadabscook A Preview Of Things To Come?

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WABI posted this video from their evening news about last Saturday's Souadabscook Stream canoe race in Hampden.

The water is pretty high and pretty fast. A full stream report will be posted here on Thursday afternoon, so be sure to check back!

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Water Levels, Weather & Preregistration

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How is the water level looking this year? In a nutshell: not bad and certainly better than last year.

It would be nice to have some steady rains ahead of this Saturday, but that doesn't appear to be in the cards according to WLBZ.

Still, at 5+ ft. of water and a flow a bit under 600 cfs (according to current readings from the USGS stream gauge), the 47th Kenduskeag looks to be a fun race for paddlers! There are reports of a few bony spots here and there, but nothing out of the norm.

I am out of town at the moment and so I do not have any photos of the stream to share here, but if you happen to have any digital snaps of the stream (Six Mile Falls, Valley Stream, Shopping Cart, etc.) by all means feel free to share them. The Kenduskeag Facebook Page would be an ideal place to post your pics!

Last but certainly not least, you have until this Friday at 1pm to preregister for the Kenduskeag. Preregistration is HIGHLY recommended - it saves you time and money. See the Bangor Parks & Rec page for more info.

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Water Level Low, No TV Coverage For 2012 Race

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WABI-TV5 will NOT be covering the Kenduskeag this year. Normally WABI broadcasts live from the bridge at Six Mile Falls, but with low water levels and the expectation that many paddlers will likely portage the area altogether, they've pulled the plug.

Reports are filtering in with regard to the stream today. Some are saying it's "runnable" but "bumpy". Prepare to scrape some rocks. Jumping out to pull your boat through certain sections seems unavoidable. And with little rain in the forecast there's little reason to think this will change before Saturday.

Which isn't to say that people won't find way to have a good time. They will!

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April Showers (Yes, Please!)

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USGS water gauge - Kenduskeag















Some people are expressing concern about the water levels of the Kenduskeag (and other streams) this year. Which is understandable, because most of Maine has seen a very mild winter with what seems like very little precipitation. Especially lately!

But the stream remains passable as of this writing. And water levels fluctuate rapidly on the Kenduskeag going one way or the other, so for now I suggest that we relax, keep an eye on things, and hope for the best. And don't believe any wild rumors you might hear about the race being cancelled. It hasn't been cancelled.

It might help to know that several long-range weather forecasts call for rainy days leading up to race day. According to one forecast, it might even be rainy on race day itself! I usually take these long-range forecasts with a grain of salt, but who knows?

Let's keep an eye on it and keep our fingers crossed for rain if the stream continues its downward slope. There's no way to know how much rain we will get, if we will get any at all, or how it will affect the stream at this point. I'll post updates here as well as on the Kenduskeag Facebook page as we get closer to race day.

Here's the link to the USGS water gauge for the Kenduskeag


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Water Gauge And Stream Levels

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St. George River ice, Maine - photo by Michael Alden













We've seen a fair amount of snow here in Maine this winter (and we may be due for even more this Saturday - yep, it almost always snows in April here!)

It is difficult to say how this will affect stream levels for this year's Kenduskeag. I usually do not bother to check on the stream conditions until a few days just before the race. To do so now would be pointless as the water levels change from day to day, let alone week to week.

There is a water gauge at Six Mile Falls, however. The USGS installed a new water gauge last year (the old water gauge had been deactivated for many years due to budget constraints). You may view the data online on this USGS water gauge page for the Kenduskeag.

Heavy rains just ahead of the race always seem to help; we'll see how things are shaping up in about 12 days, when I post the walking tour "stream report".


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Rollin' On The River: Stream Report 2010

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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

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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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Eve Of The Race Updates

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UPDATE @ 9:02PM
From a photographic standpoint, the stream is too low and too slow! From a paddling standpoint, it depends on who you are.

Experienced paddlers might be nonplussed by the lower water levels this time around, but at the same time, people who have never tried the race because of anxiety over the high and fast water in recent years should be able to relax this year. It's a good year to get your feet wet, so to speak.

PS - Partial race results will likely appear in the Bangor Daily News on Monday; full results usually do not come out for two to three weeks. You can sign up for the race results email list on the contact page of my site.

Here's to a fun race and a pleasant weekend for all!

* * * *

Paddler Steve Markwith did a trial run of Six Mile Falls & Washing Machine/Shopping Cart yesterday and he posted this web page with photo stills, videos and his thoughts on the conditions there.

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