The 55th edition of the Kenduskeag Canoe race is back, and will return to a more familiar format this year.

The paddlers took off at about 10 a.m. Saturday morning. The race start time has been adjusted since previous years to allow racers to make it under the low bridges in Bangor. The races also will do away with the stagger-start that was in place last year, with all paddlers taking off at the same time.

The race will also run the full course, as the water levels are expected to stay steady. The race was shortened in 2019 due to extremely high water levels.

This year, race organizers expect to see around 800 paddlers turn out for the iconic canoe race. Last year, 220 boats and 423 paddlers showed up to take on the challenge.

Six Mile Falls, a popular spectator spot to watch as competitors race by — and sometimes capsize — will be open to the public again this year.

The Kenduskeag is back up to a water level of about 6.5 feet this year after a record low level last year made areas like Six Miles Falls and Shopping Cart harder to navigate for paddlers.  

As of Thursday afternoon, the gage near Bangor was registering the flow at about 1190 cubic feet per second, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Water Information System. Over the 23 years that the gage has been in operation, the lowest the flow has ever been on April 15 is 171 cubic feet per second in 2021.

Although Maine got some rain over the past week, it isn’t expected to make much of a difference in the stream’s levels or flow.

We’ll share more photos from the race and full results later today.

Updates from BDN’s outdoors editor:

Water levels significantly higher this year; Flow measured at 1,040 fps just after 10 a.m. That’s still below the average flow of 1,110 fps, but a significant increase from last year’s race, when there was ~209 fps at Six Mile Falls.

15-time race champion Trevor McLean of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, is among the competitors in today’s field. He could not participate in the 2021 race because of border restrictions put into effect because of the pandemic.

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Leela Stockley

Leela Stockley is an alumna of the University of Maine. She was raised in northern Maine, and loves her cat Wesley, her puppy Percy and staying active in the Maine outdoors.