Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race

2011 Race Photos Are Out

Gorilla capsizing in the Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race - photo by Michael Alden

My photos for the 2011 Kenduskeag are now online.
Check out the galleries here

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In addition, many photographers have posted their own shots from the race (and at different locations). Here are links to their galleries:

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2011 Race Results Are Out

Robert Lang at the Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race - photo by Michael Alden

Bangor Parks & Recreation released the 2011 results (by class) for the Kenduskeag. You may download the PDF file here!


Lost & Found Box 2011

Dog paddle rescue - photo by Michael Alden

If you have lost something during the Kenduskeag this year, or if you have found something, this is a way to connect! Please leave your comments here.

Many people over the years have helped each other out through this Lost & Found Box.

Thank you for being good humans.

- Mike

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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Occupational Hazards

Camera rig by the side of a stream - photo by Michael Alden

So I had a good time at the Souadabscook Stream Canoe Race today, snapping photos of all the paddlers who had a rather tough time negotiating a tricky (but fun) set of rapids.

There's always an element of risk involved whenever a photographer brings expensive camera gear close to a body of water. A paddler cruised by and carelessly threw a gallon or more of water all over me and my camera rig while bailing his canoe. As a result, my 300mm telephoto lens isn't working, and it will have to be sent to Nikon for repairs.

(The photo above is of my actual camera rig by the stream - I took this snapshot just minutes before being completely doused.)

It was a honest mistake, of course. The paddler didn't even see me and so he has no idea that he totally ruined my day. And I should have placed some sort of protection over my lens to make it a bit more waterproof. I know better, but oh well. Live and learn.

By the way, check out my website for Maine whitewater races,, and you'll find photo galleries from these whitewater events leading up to the Kenduskeag!

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WABI-TV Bangor To Cover Kenduskeag

Kenduskeag on WABI TV5

WABI-TV in Bangor (CBS, Channel 5) will broadcast the 2011 Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race on April 16th.

Programming times and notes will be added here as they become available.


Water Gauge And Stream Levels

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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Maine Whitewater #2: Passy River Race

The Passy River Race is scheduled for this Saturday, April 2nd, at 11am.

And so is an early April nor'easterner! Good thing I didn't put my snowplow into storage; we could see several inches of snow or rain (or both) on Saturday morning. It won't stop a bunch of people from having a good time on the water, however.

The Passy is hosted by the Waldo County YMCA, where you can find more information. But here's the rundown:

Passy River Race 2011

11am start

Savage Road, Littlefield Farm in Waldo, Maine (outside of Belfast)

Course: Race starts at the Littlefield Farm. The first mile is flatwater with many curves. Course passes under a cement bridge to another mile of flat water followed by a short stretch of Class II rapids. A two-mile stretch of flat water to the Rolerson’s bridge, then Class I, II and III whitewater for a mile and a half, leading to a flatwater stretch to the finish.

Call (207) 338-4598 to register, or stop by the Waldo County YMCA. Cost per paddler is $20, first 180 registrants will receive a t-shirt. Register for the race and be entered in a drawing for a brand new Old Town canoe!


Maine Whitewater #1: St. George River Race

St. George River Race - photo by Michael Alden

UPDATE:Race results from the St. George may be viewed here.

The 2011 Maine whitewater season is upon us. Woo-hoo!

The St. George River Race kicks things off this Saturday, March 26th, at 11am.

The St. George is one of two races hosted by the Waldo County YMCA, where you can find more information. But here's the rundown:

St. George River Race 2011

11am start

Searsmont, Maine (Rt. 131 bridge)

Course: Race starts at St. George Bridge in Searsmont Village. Three miles of dead water, 1 mile of rapids, 2 miles of dead water and curves with one Class III drop. This race has Class II – III rapids (plus or minus depending on the water level.)

Call (207) 338-4598 to register, or stop by the Waldo County YMCA. Cost per paddler is $20, first 180 registrants will receive a t-shirt. There will also be a drawing for a brand new Old Town canoe!

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Paddle Smart 2011

paddle smart or die sticker

It's that time of the year again!

The 2011 Paddle Smart Symposium (always fun and interesting) will be held this upcoming weekend, Saturday AND Sunday, at the Bangor Auditorium.

This is a change of venue for Paddle Smart; it is going to be held in conjunction with the Bangor Boat Show. So now you have TWO good reasons to attend!

MaCKRO (Maine Canoe & Kayak Racing Organization) will host a "Prep For The Kenduskeag" workshop once again, on Saturday from 1-3pm. If you'd like to have some tips from race veterans with regard to outfitting your boat or general questions about getting ready for the race, you'll want to sit in on this popular discussion!

Unfortunately I will miss out on Paddle Smart this year as I will be out of town this weekend. Bummer! I think one must be present at the drawing to win the sea kayak, but I plan to buy a couple of tickets to show a little support for the venue anyway.

Full schedule and info is available via Castine Kayak.

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