Date Of Event: April 16, 2016
Location: Knightville Dam, Huntington, MA
Each year hundreds of kayak and canoe racers come to the Western Massachusetts to test their mettle against the rapids of the Westfield River.
The Westfield River, one of the longer rivers in Western Massachusetts, runs 78.1 miles and has a 497 square miles drainage area consisting of several tributaries. It attracts enthusiasts, recreational competitors and people who just like to challenge themselves. It also attracts an array of boating fans.
The Westfield River Whitewater Races, which have been held every year since 1953, are the oldest consecutively run canoe races in the US. People come from all over New England and farther to participate in the races. The races consist of novice and expert divisions. The novices race lasts 8 miles and the experts race for 12 miles. The participants race in two person canoes or one person kayaks. As if the rapids weren’t challenging enough, the race officials have the water behind the dam held for three days before the race to give more momentum to the current.
I never knew how popular kayaking, canoeing and boating was in Western Massachusetts. It was hard enough to find a good place to pull over or park along the route of the race. I was able to find a place on the side of the road to catch some of the novices who had already started.
Since the river wasn’t very active here, we drove to the Knightville Dam, the launch point for the race. The area was very pretty and the river was more active here. I even caught some enthusiasts who weren’t participating in the race.
At the main parking area, one of the racers let me photograph his boat.
Still not happy with my location, I found a better spot along the side of the river past a precarious rocky decline. Watching the racers expressions was fascinating. Some were determined. Others looked focused and even a bit bewildered. Others just looked like they were having a grand time. Then, there were others who didn’t seem to be having fun at all.
Not every racer made it to the end.
Eventually, they were able to wade across the river to the other side, no easy task given the strength of the rapids.
Monty, an 8 year old Siberian Husky, came along to watch the race.
Below is a video of a canoe racing tandem fighting the rapids. You can hear the strength of the tide. Rumor has it that it gets even rougher farther down the river.
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