Photos and story by Mike Lynch
For the first time in more than a decade, Adirondack Canoe Classic (aka 90-Miler) organizers had to cancel a race day of the popular three-day event when high winds shut down the action on Sunday, Sept. 11, the event’s final day.
Organizer Brian McDonnell said large waves on the Saranac lakes were too much for many of the paddlers.
"We had safety boats on the big lakes, and there were 20-mile-an-hour winds and two-foot waves, and there was a big cell of wind coming, blowing out the rain that we had last night," McDonnell said. "In the interest of keeping everybody safe, we canceled the last day of the race."
The 34th annual 90-Miler canoe and kayak races attracted about 250 canoes, kayaks, rowed guideboats, and SUPs this year. Roughly 600 participants raced the first two days. The three-day race generally starts in Old Forge and ends in Saranac Lake. In this case, it ended on Saturday on the Raquette River near Tupper Lake.
It's been more than 10 years since organizers had to cancel one of the days, but it's happened in the past.
"We've canceled at least one day of the 90-Miler at least five times in the 34-year history," McDonnell added.
Participants still gathered at the finish line in Saranac Lake Sunday for festivities afterward. A few took to the waters and finished up the third day on their own. "It would have been hairy," said one paddler after completing the route.
Racers have hit the waters in tough conditions in recent years. In 2010, paddlers fought tough winds on Upper Saranac Lake and numerous boats tipped over on the water. In 2012, paddlers battled stiff winds and high waves on Long Lake. Once again, many paddlers got wet after their boats were upended.
Weather during the first two days of the event was relatively benign when compared to Day Three. The first day was hot and humid while the second day did feature some strong winds on Long Lake and the Raquette River as a cold front moved into the northern Adirondacks.
Good conditions during the first two days led to some fast times: tandem kayakers Jim Malloy and Matt Skeels, of northern New York, finished the 35-mile first day in 5 hours, 9 minutes and 30 seconds, then came back for a time of 4:07:16 the next day, for a total of 9:16:46 to set the pace.
More than 55 paddlers have now completed the race at least 20 times.
— Read more on paddling in New York's Adirondack Park, advice on an Adirondack escape to the Saint Regis Canoe Area, as well as our latest review of Adirondack-style pack canoes.