Samantha and Dan Swallow compete in the Meduxnekeag River Canoe Race in Houlton Saturday. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times

HOULTON, Maine — Perhaps it was the brisk morning temperature or the fast-moving and chilly water conditions.

Whatever the case, a field of just 26 boats, featuring 40 paddlers, showed up Saturday morning for the 2022 Meduxnekeag River Canoe and Kayak race.

That figure is exactly half the number of participants in last year’s race.

“Our numbers are down this year,” said Jane Torres, executive director for the Greater Houlton Chamber of Commerce. “I think the weather was a factor. The cold temperatures, of the air and the water, stopped a lot of the less serious people from coming this year.

“And we also lost a few of our regular participants to COVID this past year,” she added.

The event typically draws more than 100 paddlers from across the state as it falls near the beginning of the state’s canoe race schedule, with paddlers coming to earn points in the Maine Canoe and Kayak Racing Organization (MaCKRO) standings.

Fast and cold were a recurring theme for paddlers to describe the icy water conditions for this year’s race. The river was buoyed this year by rain and snow that hit the area Thursday and Friday.

Clint Cushman (left) and Peter Blood are veterans of the Meduxnekeag River Canoe Race in Houlton. The two have participated in the race for decades. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times

Beginning near the Station Road in New Limerick, some racers paddled for nearly two hours before crossing the finish line at Houlton’s Gateway Crossing Bridge in Riverfront Park. Both participants and spectators alike were also treated to hamburgers, hot dogs and other refreshments. Participants were also enrolled in prize giveaways and received gifts such as bags of locally-grown potatoes.

Some years, the water levels are so low that paddlers have to exit their boats and walk along some of the rockier sections of the river, but that was not the case this year.

Although the number of entries may have been down, spectators for the event were plentiful. Many lined the Gateway Crossing Bridge and filled Riverfront Park to see paddlers cross the finish line.

Others picked out spots along the Meduxnekeag River to park their cars and watch the action from the warmth of their vehicles.

The Meduxnekeag River got its name from Maliseet Indians in the area. Its name means “rocks at its mouth.” The river is 35 miles long and flows east from Drews Lake to Woodstock, New Brunswick, where it enters the St. John River.

The duo of Jeff Owen and Ashton Mabee were the fastest racers to cross the finish line. Competing in the two-person open canoe medium division, the two paddlers completed the race in 1 hour, 9 minutes and 52 seconds.

Jane Torres fills in the results on poster board at Riverfront Park during Saturday’s annual Meduxnekeag River Canoe Race. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times

The complete results for racing division were as follows:

Kayak (one-person) short – Mark Bamford, 1:18.32; Brian Foley, 1:18.38; and Larry Merrill, 1:33.31.

Open Canoe (one person) – Damon Galipeau, 1:22.42.

Open Canoe Short (two person) – Terry Wescott and Bob Martin, 1:20.41.

Open Canoe Medium (two person) – Owen and Mabee, 1:09.52.

Results for the recreational division were:

K-1 Short (women) – Suzanne Hiltz, 1:52.51.

OC-1 – Wambli Martinez, 1:53.07.

OC-2 Short – Chris Logue and Robert Spinney, 1:42.11; and Gage Finnemore and Dylan Finnemore, 2:!8.03.

OC-2 Medium – Mitchell Folsom and Corey Woodworth, 1:30.08; Ryan Johnston and Andrew Johnston, 1:32.17; and Thomas Quinlan and Andrew Bouchie, 1:55.09.

OC-2 Mixed – Kelsey MacDonald and Brian MacDonald, 1:42.43.

Century – Peter Blood and Clint Cushman, 1:23.28; and Ted Sussman and Michael Sussman, 1:24.03.

Open – Beth Poliquin (paddleboard), 1:56.35.

Law Enforcement – Jim Fahey and Chad Robertson, 1:24.37.

High School – Camden LaBree and Gabriel McIntosh, 1:30.47; and Mason Hartery and Ryder Drinkert, 1:35.03.

Stock Mixed – Dan Swallow and Samantha Swallow, 1:25.54.

OC-1 Student (boys) – Jack Burke, 1:25.21; Sam Jenkins, 1:25.29; and Evan Smith, 1:38.45.

OC-1 Student (girls) – Ella Allan Rahill, 1:28.36; and Emma Eckert, 1:41.00.