2014 marked the 48th annual running of the Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race, and L.L.Bean employees Dave Beahm and Andy McClelland finished third in the corporate class with a time of 2:27:09 – moving up from a fourth place finish last year.
This annual race, held on the third Saturday of April every year, is the largest paddling event in New England. The 16.5-mile race draws hundreds of paddlers from Maine and beyond, not to mention the spectators who come to take in the excitement. The participants are as big a draw as the course; every year, the race is filled with outrageous costumes (including wigs, suits, lab coats, Gumby and at least two red-and-white-striped Waldos) and colorful craft (including canoes, paddleboards, kayaks and even concrete molded canoes built by engineering students at the University of Maine).
Despite the costumes and funny boats, the Kenduskeag is definitely not a race to take lightly. While 10 miles of the course are relatively flat, the other 6.5 miles are made up of Class I, II and III rapids. Six Mile Falls is the most treacherous set of rapids, and high waters meant this year’s race was running particularly fast. Six Mile Falls is where many paddlers end up soaking wet – either in their canoes, or tossed out.
Andy and Dave managed to stay in their boat all day – and it’s a good thing they did, because winter was still holding on at the end of April. “The morning of the race was chilly – it was snowing on our drive – but once we were in the boat the paddling kept us plenty warm,” said Dave. “Not ending up in the drink helped, too!”
Andy credited the encouragement, coaching, advice and gear they received from friends and colleagues as a big part of their finish near the top, in a field of almost 20 corporate teams. “Dave and I are passionate about L.L.Bean’s core values and rich sporting heritage,” said Andy, “and we feel strongly that L.L.Bean should be represented in the corporate class of this iconic white-water paddling event.”
The Kenduskaeg Stream, which begins northwest of Bangor, Maine, has been through a lot of changes since Henry David Thoreau hiked along it 150 years ago. Saw mills have come and gone, and it’s survived lumber booms and urban renewal projects. Luckily, the Kenduskaeg Stream Canoe Race seems to be here to stay.