Paddling race season kicks off Saturday

The paddling race season kicks off Saturday with the annual ‘Round the Mountain Canoe and Kayak Races in Saranac Lake.

The race usually attracts a mix of local paddlers and people from around the state. The event should get a boost this year because it is part of the New York Marathon Canoe Racing Association’s points series.

“There’s a local contingent of paddlers that’s been paddling on the Saranac River and getting teams together, and I know a group of folks are coming out of Rochester,” race director Brian McDonnell said.

Saranac Lake High School will also have a team led by coach Randy Young.

The 10.5-mile races start on Ampersand Bay on Lower Saranac Lake, then continue down the Saranac River to Lake Flower in downtown.

The water is high this year on the river, so that could lead to slightly faster times for the participants. Part of the reason for the high water is that ice-out wasn’t until late April. In fact, signs of winter can still be found on the route.

“The cool thing is, there’s still a patch of snow at the lower locks,” McDonnell said.

McDonnell organizes a number of canoe and kayak races every season. Other staples include the three-day, 90-Mile Adirondack Canoe Classic from Old Forge to Saranac Lake in September and the Long Lake Long Boat Regatta later that month. Last summer, he also organized a race during the Adirondack Challenge weekend in Indian Lake.

In addition to McDonnell’s races, there are a few others taking place in the near future. One is the Tupper Lake 9-Miler, which will take place June 14 on Simond Pond and the Raquette River. The race returns after a one-year hiatus under the direction of Roger Gocking and Chas Billingsley. The race had previously been organized by AWA.

The event is being combined with the Saranac Lake Flatwater Challenge, which takes place the next day on the Saranac River in the town of Saranac. The two races are being called the Tupper-Sara Challenge.

For those planning to participation in the ‘Round the Mountain races Saturday, registration is from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. at Ampersand Bay Resort. The race starts at 11 a.m. Cost is $20 per person for AWA members and $25 for others.