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Popular ‘90-Miler’ paddling race canceled for this year

Paddlers surge to the finish line in Saranac Lake on the third and final day of the 2019 Adirondack Canoe Classic. (News photo — Justin A. Levine)

SARANAC LAKE — The Adirondack Watershed Alliance, in cooperation with the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, has decided to cancel the 2020 Adirondack Canoe Classic, originally scheduled for Sept. 11-13.

The decision is based on the uncertainty of the direction of the COVID-19 pandemic and its potential effects on the small-town populations of the Adirondacks.

Historically, the event attracts about 1,500 paddlers and supporters to the 90-mile paddling event, following the water route from Old Forge to Blue Mountain Lake on day 1, from Long Lake to “The Crusher” boat launch near Tupper Lake on day 2 and from the Fish Creek campground through the Saranac Lakes chain to Lake Flower in Saranac Lake village on day 3.

A significant amount of planning, preparation, promotion and permitting goes on in the months leading up to the “90-Miler.”

“We rely on numerous volunteers, organizations, municipalities and local businesses to pull off the three-day paddling extravaganza, and we can’t ask them to prepare for an event we are not certain will be allowed to take place,” AWA Events Coordinator Brian McDonnell said in a press release.

“The AWA and NFCT will monitor the guidance surrounding the reopening of the North Country from the pandemic,” McDonnell added. “Should conditions and state and local government permit, we may be able to offer one or two days of canoe and kayak racing on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail on our traditional date in September.”

AWA and NFCT expect to make formal decisions about alternative events by Aug. 1. More information will be shared on the AWA and NFCT websites, adirondack90miler.com and northernforestcanoetrail.org.

“We know people are anxious to be on the water and connect as a community, and we hope we can host an opportunity to support this,” said Karrie Thomas, NFCT’s executive director. “In the meantime, we encourage you to get out and paddle as physical distancing is easy while people are in canoes, kayaks and guideboats.”

The NFCT is in the process of buying the Adirondack Canoe Classic and other events from Brian and Grace McDonnell’s AWA.

The plan was for AWA to manage this year’s events, with NFCT assisting, and then for the McDonnells to assist NFCT after it fundraises for the $90,000 purchase price and acquires all aspects of AWA, which is planned for 2021.

The McDonnells, who live in Paul Smiths, have managed AWA for over two decades. In addition to the 90-Miler, they run the ‘Round the Mountain Canoe and Kayak Race in Saranac Lake, the Celebrate Paddling Invitational in Saranac Lake and the Long Lake Long Boat Regatta, all of which have been called off for this year, too.

The NFCT maintains and promotes the 740-mile water trail that runs from Old Forge to Fort Kent, Maine, and connects New York, Vermont, Quebec, New Hampshire and Maine.

It is the longest inland water trail in the nation, consisting of 23 rivers and streams, 59 lakes and ponds, 45 communities and 65 portages.