90-miler revs up for 32nd running

The 32nd annual Adirondack Canoe Classic kicks off Friday in Old Forge. The event, which attracts about 275 boats and 600 paddlers, finishes Sunday in Saranac Lake.

The event draws some of the best paddlers from the New York Marathon Canoe Racing Association’s circuit and plenty of people just looking for three days of fun. It’s also a fun time for pit crews and spectators.

Spectators interested in watching the race may use vantage points along the course, including the start and finish lines. Day one starts on Old Forge Pond in downtown Old Forge and ends in the hamlet of Blue Mountain Lake. People can view paddlers portaging through Inlet, or at the bridge over Brown’s Tract near the hamlet of Raquette Lake, during the race. Start time is 8 a.m.

Day two starts at Bissell’s Field on Long Lake and finishes at the Crusher State Fishing Access Site on the Raquette River near Tupper Lake. People can also view paddlers from the Route 30 Bridge over Long Lake, or by hiking in to the Raquette River off of Coreys Road. Start time is 8:30 a.m.

Day three starts at the Fish Creek Campground in Santa Clara and ends on Lake Flower in Saranac Lake. You can view paddlers from either place or watch from the DEC Route 3 boat launch or at Second Pond on the Saranac River. Start time is 8 a.m.

DEC marks 30

This year is 30th year of involvement for the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The DEC became involved in 1985 when they featured the Adirondack Canoe Classic as an Adirondack Park Forest Preserve Centennial event.

At the time, DEC employees Terry Healy and Bill White were organizers of the Hanmer Boat Races in Saranac Lake. They were put in charge of coordinating the DEC’s role in the 90-Miler.

In 1984, both Healy and White talked with Adirondack Canoe Classic founder Sue Dyer, who welcomed the DEC’s involvement, to determine how the parties could work together. That same year, White and Healy attended the second annual 90-Miler to learn more about it.

Healy died in 1993 but his enthusiasm, sense of fun and commitment to the 90-Miler is remembered through the Terry Healy Award. The award was established by the DEC and is given out annually to a participant, support team, volunteer or staff member who best exemplify the true spirit of the event.

McDonnells involved in half of 90s

This will mark the 16th year that Brian and Grace McDonnell of Paul Smiths have organized the 90-Miler, meaning they have now officially organized half the races.

I recently sat down with Brian, who shared some interesting factoids about the race. Here’s a few of them:

– The son of 90-Miler founder Sue Dyer will be participating in the 90-Miler. He’s in a two-person guideboat with Joe Markowski. The guideboat class is actually quite big this year and includes 16 boats.

– Andrew Kalil, Inlet’s police chief, has directed car and paddler traffic in the hamlet of Inlet every year of the race. The carry is the first one during the three days and starts as paddlers leave Fifth Lake on their way to Sixth Lake. The first day is generally considered the hardest day of the race because it’s 34 miles long with 3.5 miles of carries.

– There are seven rescue squads that are involved with the race. They include ones from Old Forge, Inlet, Raquette Lake, Blue Mountain Lake, Long Lake, Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake. The organizers make a big effort to make sure that the 90-Miler is a safe race and volunteers such as the people on these squads play a big role in making that happen. The DEC and Adirondack Amateur Radio Association also play big roles in this aspect.

– Ray Morris is back for this 32nd year. The Glens Falls paddler is the only person to paddle every single 90-Miler. He is paddling in the open touring class with family members.

Holly Crouch, of Vermont, has paddled every year but one.

– There are 45 members of The Gold Canoe Club, which includes people who have paddled the race 20 times or more. That number is expected to grow again this weekend.

More information about the race can be found at