BY ERIC ADSIT / PHOTOS BY SCOTT MARTIN
Although there is no official festival designation, paddlers all over North America mark their calendars for "Beaverfest" on Labor Day weekend in New York, and there is no shortage of festivity. At any given moment a casual observer might witness hordes of club boaters lining the banks of the Beaver River, pros throwing 'brown claws' while running laps on massive slides, carnage, and (sometimes excessive) beer drinking.
It's been likened to Christmas "but better," and for a dedicated whitewater paddler it just might be true. As the masses descend on this lonely corner of northwestern New York, the intermediate paddlers head to the Taylorville section for the epitome of Class Fun and the more experienced (or perhaps just bolder) paddlers rendezvous at the Raquette River for a full-on Class V racing experience.
This year's Raquette race — event No. 2 in the four-race Whitewater King of New York series — featured significantly less carnage than last, and Geoff Calhoun edged out the Quebecois crowd and last year's King, Jared Seiler, with a time of 5 minutes, 48 seconds. [Click HERE for full results]
Racers gathered at the finish line both to heckle and cheer on fellow athletes before finishing the remaining quarter-mile to the takeout in party float fashion.
While race organizer Kenny Unser diligently analyzed results, the crowd slowly dispersed to meet the Class Fun crowd at the Taylorville put-in for a night of partying, story swapping, and camping.
Beaverfest veterans took it easy Saturday night in preparation for the Beaver's Moshier section release the following day. The three-mile segment features a massive spillway slide run by only the most daring, two incredibly clean waterfalls, and climaxes with what this reporter considers to be the best single rapid in the Northeast. More importantly, there is only one five-hour release per year, so it draws a huge crowd. Those willing and able to pry themselves away from the Moshier section early are rewarded with unusually vacant eddies on the Eagle section just 15 minutes down the road. This half-mile stretch drops more than 200 feet over three slides and a final 10-foot waterfall. Most of it is less than a boat-length wide, making the late-coming crowds a more significant hazard than the rapids.
Nonetheless, the Eagle section is home to the shortest of the King of New York races, and also the most popular with spectators. Upwards of a hundred people line the river-left bank in the natural amphitheater, cheering, jeering, and in the case of the non-paddlers, wondering what exactly is going on.
Calhoun took the title in this third race of the series as well with a time of 1:25, just three seconds short of his previous course record.
With back-to-back wins and no competition from early points leaders at the Black River race, the first KONY race of the summer, the crown is Calhoun's to lose. "In previous years, the winner of the Raquette race has always gone on to take the crown," Unser noted. "Calhoun would have to either not race or perform really poorly in the Moose River race this October to not win." Racers without the points to support a bid for the crown still have plenty of incentive to participate: Every time you race, you are entered in the grand prize lottery, which includes a brand new Dagger Greenboat.
The final race of the KONY series will take place on the Bottom Moose in Old Forge, N.Y. on Oct. 18.