The race begins at Ampersand Bay on Lower Saranac Lake. There, kayaks and canoes of all types will depart in a staggered format. You’ll see avid races with tight-fitting shirts and sleek, tippy racing canoes, guideboats, kayakers of all stripes, and canoes ranging from 1 to 8 people.
After the race begins at 11 a.m., competitors head through Lower Saranac Lake, down the Saranac River to a short but slippery portage. From there, the race traverses the left side of Oseetah Lake to the finish line — only a few miles from the start.
The race is the first of a half-dozen regional races, culminating in the famous three-day 90-miler in September. You’ll recognize the serious competitors by their odd-looking racing boats, and their various time-saving techniques (such as taping energy food to the side of the boat, or attaching a tube to a water bottle to make for instant access to a drink).
Those who don’t expect to win might want to take a breather now and again to enjoy the fantastic views, along with the sheer thrill of being part of a racing pack.
When I joined a team of four last year, rain was threatening and the wind was blowing hard. On Oseetah Lake, we made the mistake of following a lost kayaker into the middle of the maelstrom. It was only by divine providence and a well-slapped paddle from the experienced racer in the bow that kept us from being knocked over in the huge waves.
Eventually, we turned around and made it safely to the other side, passing several other dumped boats whose former occupants were not so lucky.
For those who have never canoe-raced before, it’s a great way to try out the sport — and you can rent a local, lightweight boat if you don’t have one. The race begins at 11 a.m., and entry is $25.
For more information on the race, click here.