For the third time in as many years, Maine will host the American Canoe Association (ACA) Whitewater Nationals on a historic section of the Penobscot River reborn after the removal of dams.
The 2017 Penobscot River Whitewater Nationals Regatta will be held June 28 – July 2 in Old Town. Racers will maneuver down a 9.5-mile section of the river from Old Town to Eddington restored after the removal of the Veazie and Great Works dams through the Penobscot River Restoration Project.
Race Chair Scott Phillips, a member of the Penobscot Nation and a champion whitewater racer, said the race is a celebration of a much healthier river and the partnership that worked to remove the dams.
The Penobscot Nation and the American Canoe Association are the race hosts. Major sponsors include Old Town Canoe and Penobscot Indian Nation Enterprises.
The public is invited to watch all four days of the race (Wednesday, June 28 is a practice day).
The full course will be raced June 29, June 30 and July 2. Phillips said Saturday, July 1, the day of the sprint races, may be the most exciting day to watch. On that day racers will paddle a short (roughly .6 miles) but exciting course through the Great Works rapids beginning in Old Town. Racers will start one minute apart beginning at 9 a.m. with the last racer expected to start at about 1 p.m.
The full 9.5-mile course includes three sections of rapids. The first is the Great Works rapids, a long section of challenging rips between Bradley on the east side of the river and Old Town on the west. The second is the Basin Mills rapids in Orono, which is shorter but features big waves. The third is the Veazie rapids, near the finish line at the Eddington Salmon Club.
Good vantage points are available in Veazie, about a half-mile upstream from the finish line of the full course. There are also good places to watch from French Island and Milford.
Clayton Cole, President of the New England Chapter of the American Canoe Association, said he expects canoe races to continue on the Penobscot even after the ACA nationals move on to a new river. The Penobscot has good flow during the summer and offers a beautiful environment close to population centers.
Additional information about the race, including details of the course can be found at the regatta website: penobscotriverwhitewaternationalsregatta.com.
Anyone interested in volunteering, particularly if they have training and experience in white water rescue, is encouraged to e-mail Phillips at email@example.com.