Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race

  • April 1967

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    Lew "Spook" Gilman and Ed "Sonny" Colburn came up with the idea of a springtime canoe race on the Kenduskeag Stream at a time when Bangor Parks & Recreation, reeling from a failed bicycle race, needed a new fundraiser. The rest, as they say, is history.
  • May 21 1967

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    The first Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race is held on May 21, 1967. Twenty seven boats are entered in the inaugural race; Sam Stoddard and Jim Robbins finish with the overall best time of 2:52:53 in the 2-Man Canoe class.
  • May 21 1967

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    During the first canoe race, a Sunday, there were lines of cars which caused traffic jams between Six Mile Falls and Bangor. Sonny Colburn worried he couldn't drive from the race start to the finish line in time to jot down the paddler timings. (He made it.) It's likely that more than a few of the AM radios in those cars blared out "Groovin" by the Young Rascals which hit #1 on the US pop charts that very week.
  • April 18 1970

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    Zip Kellogg makes his debut at the Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race. He becomes a longstanding fan favorite and in 2016 Kellogg is acknowledged as one of the Legends Of Paddling, a special award presented by Bangor Parks and Recreation.
  • April 15 1972

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    Most paddlers bump into submerged rocks, logs or even other canoes. Walter Abbott reports that he and his paddling partner bumped into a different sort of obstacle during the 1972 race: a dead cow in the stream, hung up on a tree somewhere in the vicinity of the Bullseye Bridge. "It was there pretty near all spring."
    (Question: so where were the ACTUAL river vultures?)
  • April 20 1974

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    Concrete canoes, built by University of Maine engineering students, make their debut at the Kenduskeag. Some of the canoes are relatively light, weighing in at a svelte 150 pounds. Personal floatation device required; hernia truss optional.
  • April 20 1974

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    Not to be outdone by the streaker who ran across the stage during the 46th Academy Awards a few weeks earlier, two streakers go through Six Mile Falls wearing nothing but life jackets. The two put on clothing somewhere downstream before paddling on towards Bangor.
  • April 17 1976

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    War canoes make their debut at the Kenduskeag in the Open Class. Although ab official definition was never given during the early days, a 'war canoe' is generally assumed to be around 28 ft. An official class for war canoes begins in 1983.
  • April 16 1977

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    Tony Trafton, one of the participants in the 1967 inaugural race of the Kenduskeag among others, attempts to do the race in a bathtub. (Tony throws in the towel after finding the portages too cumbersome.)
  • April 17 1982

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    Often plagued by traffic management even in the early years of the race and with registrations increasing annually, the Town of Kenduskeag designates Riverside Park as the launch site to accommodate the growing crowds. The memorial at Riverside Park is dedicated to veterans of the Vietnam war.
  • March 26 1983

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    An arsonist burns down the Morse Bridge, which once spanned the Kenduskeag Stream near Valley Ave. Many in the Bangor area are heartbroken over the meaningless loss of this historic covered bridge which was built in 1882.
  • April 20 1985

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    Bill Green, a former broadcaster at WLBZ-TV, refers to spectators at Six Mile Falls as "River Vultures", reminiscent of Larry Mahoney's vivid description of the race in an article he wrote for the Bangor Daily News in 1977. This time, the name sticks.
  • April 18 1987

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    Two paddlers in a canoe somehow manage to time their arrival at Six Mile Falls with a pizza delivery, which they lunch on before continuing down the stream towards Bangor.
  • April 16 1988

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    Mainers are a hardy lot. While there have been at least four races held during cold and snowy weather since 1967, the Blizzard of 1988 stands apart. Paddlers described the snow-covered trees alongside the stream as "incredibly beautiful" but the conditions cause problems with frozen limbs, hypothermia, slipping and sliding on portages and problems with timekeeping. "It's hard to time a paddler's finish when you can barely see where they are."
  • April 21 1990

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    Two paddlers portage their canoe the entire length of the race, according to Dale Theriault, a former director at Bangor Parks and Recreation. "They didn't put their canoe into the water once." Therefore, the two hikers who burdened themselves by carrying a canoe between them for an arduous 16.5 miles are notified of their disqualification upon their arrival at the finish line in Bangor.
  • April 20 1991

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    The 25th "Silver Anniversary" Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race is held. 700 boats with 1,387 paddlers are registered. Robert Lang is the overall winner with a time of 2:04:57
  • April 18 1992

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    Seven Penobscot paddlers from Indian Island participate in the 26th Kenduskeag, and all seven go home with trophies: Scott Phillips, Troy Francis, Mark Ranco, Chris Francis, Barry Dana, Neil Phillips and Nedabeh Wilcox.
  • April 18 1992

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    The Gumby Boat debuts at the Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race, quickly becoming a fan favorite. Along with Zip Kellogg, the Gumby Boat achieves iconic status. Spectators and broadcasters alike anticipate the appearance of this crew each year.
  • April 16 1994

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    1994 sees the highest numbers of registered boats and paddlers of any Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race (as of this writing in 2021). 745 craft and 1,529 paddlers are registered. This tops the previous record set in 1992 with 745 craft and 1,476 paddlers registered. (PDF file of overall registrations by year)
  • April 19 1997

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    Robert Lang of New Brunswick, Canada sets the record time of 1:50:08 in a kayak. An overall top speed record which (as of this writing in 2021) still stands.
  • April 21 2007

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    Testing the strength of the notion held by some that "only kayakers can succeed in this canoe race", Jeff Owen and Steve Woodard set a new 2-man canoe record with a smashing time of 1:52:30. As of this writing in 2021, this is the third fastest time ever recorded on the Kenduskeag. Owen and Woodard are roundly applauded for their showing on the stream by fellow racers, many of whom are kayakers.
  • May 8 2010

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    William Stearns, paddler, boatbuilder and principle founder of Penobscot Paddle and Chowder Society (1931-2010)
  • August 18 2011

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    Lewellyn Gilman, co-founder of the Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race (1929-2011)
  • January 23 2012

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    Earl Baldwin, legendary paddler and boatbuilder (1924-2012)
  • April 21 2012

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    2012 sees some of the lowest water levels ever recorded on the Kenduskeag Stream in springtime with just 104 cubic feet per second of water flowing by the stream gauge at Six Mile Falls on the eve of the race. But this doesn't dampen the spirits of paddlers - and the race goes on even it is described by some as "a slog".
  • April 19 2014

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    The canoe race is shortened by 1 mile due to high water levels combined with a rising tide which causes clearance problems under the bridges in Bangor. The race ends before the Maxfield Mill portage. Paddlers do not run any of the rapids closer to Bangor which disappoints some race veterans. As one paddler put it, "shame really, looked awful sporty."
  • April 26 2015

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    For the first time in race history, the Kenduskeag is postponed due to water conditions including ice in the stream. Originally scheduled for April 18, the race is held one week later.
  • April 2016

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    The 50th Anniversary Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race is held.
  • April 2019

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    Trevor MacLean claims his 11th victory with a time of 1:52:53. The race was shortened by a half mile due to high water levels. Even with the full 16.5 miles of the race, his time likely would have been well under the two hour time limit required for the "Sub 2-Hour Club".
  • April 18 2020

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    For the first time since it began in 1967, the Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race is cancelled. The COVID-19 global pandemic ends the streak of 53 consecutive races.
  • April 17 2021

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    The 54th Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race is reactivated, this time with a pared down number of paddlers, special guidelines and only seven race classes. Six Mile Falls is closed off to spectators. But you can't keep a good race down: Lew Gilman and Sonny Coburn's dream of a springtime canoe race on the Kenduskeag endures.