Kayakers Vanessa Patenaude (front) and Pierre Patenaude after crossing the finish line of the Aroostook River Spring Run-Off on a cold and windy day in Caribou on Saturday. Credit: Paul Bagnall / The Star-Herald

CARIBOU, Maine — Competitors from Levant and Holden were overall winners in Saturday’s Aroostook River Spring Run-Off canoe and kayak race in Caribou.

Around 31 canoe and kayak racers from around the state took off from the Lower Lyndon Street Boat Launch and traveled 6.2 miles down the Aroostook River, ending at the boat launch across from Main Siding Road in Caribou.

This is the third year for the contest, which resurrects an older race that used to start on the Little Madawaska River. Caribou brought the race back in 2021 after nearly three decades. Organizers wanted to encourage people to appreciate the Aroostook River as a vital resource to the community, said Neal Sleeper, program director of the Caribou Recreation Department.

“We got [this race] back and we are pretty pleased with the numbers we got this year,” Sleeper said. “This is by far the biggest attendance that we’ve had in the three years that we’ve done it.”

Dan Baumert of Levant was the overall male winner, capturing the solo kayaking open class with the fastest time of 45:54. Baumert holds the course record, set in 2021 at 44:18. 

Brighid Lambert of Holden was the overall female winner, taking the female solo recreational kayak class with a time of 1:11:09.

Aedan Bourgoine won in solo recreational class kayaking, coming in at 1:16:30. 

Parker Ouellette and Trevor LaPlante of Caribou won the two-person recreational kayak class  with a time of 1:05:31.

Mark and Cheryl Jones of Presque Isle took first place in two-person open class canoe, coming in at 50:29.

Mitchell Folsom and Corey Woodworth of Houlton won the two-person recreational class canoe at 53:12.

Fran Cyr of Caribou won the open class solo canoe with a time of 54:07.

Brian Foley of Southwest Harbor was the first solo kayaker to cross the finish line.  

Saturday’s strong winds and chilly temperatures, around 48 to 50 degrees, made for the coldest run-off so far, according to Sleeper.  

The kayak and canoe winners of the Aroostook River Spring Run-Off in Caribou on Saturday, from left: canoe recreational two-person, Mitchell Folsom and Corey Woodworth of Houlton; canoe open solo, Fran Cyr of Caribou; canoe open two-person, Mark and Cheryl Jones of Presque Isle; kayak recreational two-person, Trevor LaPlante and Parker Ouellette of Caribou; overall female winner and kayak recreational female solo, Brighid Lambert of Holden; overall male winner and kayak open solo, Dan Baumert of Levant. Absent from photo is kayak recreational male solo winner Aedan Bourgoine. Credit: Paul Bagnall / The Star-Herald

Racers faced a slight head wind at the start of the race, but once they rounded the turn on the Aroostook River the wind was at their backs.

“[The river race] isn’t as big as it used to be, but it seems to be coming back. It used to be really serious back then, but I think more people are just out for fun nowadays,” Cyr said before the race as he prepared his cedar strip canoe.

Cyr has been canoeing for 40 years and has built around 15 to 16 canoes during his racing career, which began in the early 1980s. 

When members of the Caribou Recreation Department decided to start the Aroostook Spring Run-Off three years ago, they consulted Cyr to determine what categories were needed for the race. There are 10 categories for the race, five for canoes and five for kayaks, ranging from recreational to racing and solo to two-person slots.

“The brainchild for this race was to bring back a boating race back to our community that used to happen that had gone away,” Sleeper said.

An award ceremony followed the race, with cash prizes for first-place winners.