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‘Wonderful whitewater’ expected for 45th annual Passagassawakeag canoe race

Kevin Bennett | Bangor Daily News
Kevin Bennett | Bangor Daily News
Brian Wagner of Lisbon picks his canoe from the water after dumping while racing in the Passagassawaukeag Canoe Race near the Poors Mill Road bridge in Belfast on Saturday. Ryan Wirth of Belfast went on to win the 8-mile race with a time of 41 minutes, 22 seconds. (BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY KEVIN BENNETT) CAPTION Brian Wagner of Lisbon picks his canoe from the water after dumping while racing in the Passagassawakeag Canoe Race near the Poors Mill Road bridge in Belfast on Saturday, April, 3, 2010. (Bangor Daily News/Kevin Bennett)

A steady rain fell in central Maine on Wednesday, putting a damper on the outdoor activities of some. But for others, that rain will pay dividends when they head to the river for the second weekend of whitewater canoe racing.

This week’s race: The 45th annual Passagassawakeag River Race in Waldo, where race director Dale Cross expects a wild adventure to unfold for those who enter Saturday’s seven-mile event.

“It has rained pretty good here [in Belfast],” Cross said on Wednesday morning. “I haven’t been out to the river today, but I can tell you, I was on the river last night clearing brush, and it’s nice. It’s at a great level right now. I expect it to be fairly high on Saturday.”

Cross said he expected the river to be near the level paddlers saw on the St. George last week.

“I guess it [will] be high enough to capture a few [paddlers] and have a few people swimming,” Cross said. “I think that’s good.”

Registration for the race, which is the second on the Maine Canoe and Kayak Racing Organization schedule, runs from 8:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. on the Savage Road. The race begins at 11 a.m.

Those “river vultures” looking to check out the action on some challenging rapids will want to head to Poors Mill Road, which offers good access for spectators and photographers. The race finishes on Shepard Road.

Cross said the race presents different challenges than the St. George does.

“The St. George gives you options. You have lanes you can go down,” Cross explained. “Lots of times in the Passy, in parts of the rapids, there’s only one place to go. It may be six or eight feet wide, and that’s it. If you don’t get in that lane you end up going in the bank or if [the water is] really high, you end up going down through the woods, and that’s not good either.”

Cross said the Passagassawakeag can be unforgiving, especially when the water level is high.

“It is ‘pushy’ when it is up. You have to make your decisions way upstream or it’s going to push you out of where you want to be,” Cross said. “It’s a lot narrower in the deadwater, a lot of turns, and a lot of the short boats do better in that race. There’s a lot of 90-degree turns. Then you get into the rapids and you’ve got a mile and a half of really, really, technical stuff. … it’s wonderful whitewater when the water is up.”

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