About 600 paddlers will hit the waters between Old Forge and Saranac Lake this weekend in the 34th annual Adirondack Canoe Classic. The event starts Friday morning at 8 a.m. on Old Forge Pond and finishes up Sunday afternoon on Lake Flower. This year’s event has attracted about 250 teams, which will be paddling canoes, kayaks, and SUPs and rowing guideboats.
The 90-Miler is organized by Brian and Grace McDonnell, who run Mac’s Canoe Livery and Adirondack Watershed Alliance in Lake Clear. The couple has run the race for 18 years.
A large portion of this year’s participants will be in the non-competitive open touring class, which consists of people looking simply to finish the course and not compete with the racers. However, the class is often full of people with interesting stories. For instance, Tom and Theresa Standing, who are from the Old Forge area and paddling a tandem canoe, will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this weekend.
“There’s a lot of local boats from the Adirondacks,” said Brian McDonnell. “There’s a lot of Old Forge people, Long Lake people, Saranac Lake people. That’s been our intent: to maintain it as an event that’s friendly to people who live here.”
Susan Storch and Mary Duk, of the Saranac Lake area, will make up another open touring tandem team. The pair recently finished paddling the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail. “Part of my past training for the Adirondack Canoe Classic has been swimming a mile,” Duk said. “This year I guess it was thru-paddling the NFCT!”
Every year, the McDonnells organize the race in collaboration with area organizations, including the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Central Adirondack Association, which are co-hosts of the event. Old Forge and Saranac Lake Kiwanis clubs, Mac’s Safe Ride, Central Adirondack Search and Rescue, Adirondack Amateur Radio Association, local rescue and fire departments, Northern Forest Canoe Trail, Old Forge Visitors Center, and the Saranac Lake Chamber of Commerce are just a some of the organizations that support the race. Dozens of volunteers do everything from handing out water at pit stops to operating safety boats.
Spectators interested in watching the race may use vantage points along the course, including some of the start and finish lines. Day one starts on Old Forge Pond in downtown Old Forge and ends in the hamlet of Blue Mountain Lake. People can view paddlers portaging through Inlet, or at the bridge over Brown’s Tract near the hamlet of Raquette Lake, during the race. Start time is 8 a.m.
Day two starts at Bissell’s Field on Long Lake (not good for spectators) and finishes at the Crusher State Fishing Access Site on the Raquette River near Tupper Lake. People can view paddlers from the Route 30 Bridge over Long Lake, or by hiking in to the Raquette River off of Coreys Road. Start time is 8:30 a.m.
Day three starts at the Fish Creek Campground in Santa Clara and ends on Lake Flower in Saranac Lake. People can view paddlers from either place or watch from the DEC Route 3 boat launch or at Second Pond on the Saranac River. Start time is 8 a.m.