Come Race With US – By Rosemary Longo-Nutt
March. Some days its winter and some days its spring! Snow is what we all wish for to fill those rivers and bring the levels up. We like ice because we know that ice will melt and fill those rivers. When the snow and ice leave us they also reveal the winter damage that blocks our path down those rivers. A strong current and a heavy rain are needed to clear the way for the start of the NECKRA Downriver Series.
The opening race: The Scantic Spring Splash in Enfield, CT. Appropriately named, The Spring Splash has much splashing! This race is now in its 25th year with many paddlers coming from afar and also as close as 300 feet up the street from the end of the race. There are some great spectator areas and spectators come from all over to watch the thrills of Chimney, Stockers and Staircase, all appropriately named and all with their own set of challenges.
This race is sponsored by the Scantic River Watershed Association and is run by a great group of volunteers. Now for those who aren’t ready to take on the challenge of the big 3 areas of the Scantic there is a novice race. The novice race is just prior to the Spring Splash on a beautiful section of the Scantic River, 2.5 miles long with curvy flatwater paddling. As soon as the novice race is over the cannon at the finish line sings marking the beginning of the grand race, the race the spectators came to witness. Crowds’ line the river banks sometimes still covered in feet of snow, sometimes just as muddy and slippery as…well, my labs would love to play in that! But yet the spectators come and they always leave in awe of what they’ve witnessed. Oh…did I not tell you what they’ve witnessed?
The Spring Splash is 5 miles of curvy river with three Class II rapids and one mandatory portage. The race starts at the same place as the novice race but has the additional 2.5 miles of challenge. Participants line up their canoes and kayaks and enter the river one at a time and start their adventure. Oh you can tell the locals from the racers: neoprene versus flannel and jeans. There’s always a boat or two decked out in costumes to keep that crowd of spectators laughing. Scenery abounds on this river but who has time to look at the scenery! The goal is to have the best time in your race class. The first area to make it through is actually a portage, yes, and a portage! Heart attack hill is its name and yes, you’ll think you’re going to have a heart attack dragging your boat up that hill. This is the half way point – this is where the novice race ends and the excitement begins. Remember, what does up must come down and back in the river you go! The Scantic has some twist and turns and it gets narrow. There are no straight lines here. The current is swift. Watch out for those rocks! Watch out for that tree…..and oh dam…a dam! The next challenge: Stockers. This is a nice set of rapids, ok – it’s a Class II drop but you have the option to portage it though you may receive some ‘boos’ for taking the portage. Some years have seen the water here raging and other years you’re scraping bottom. Do you like to watch canoes roll over? This is a great spot for that! It’s a challenge to make it through the rocks and the rapids without taking on water. The kayaks can be challenged by this area too and it can become one big ‘traffic jam’.
Tim Nutt – authors spouse and splashmate
After Stockers you get a break for a bit and on to Chimney. Chimney is the site of an old gun powder mill and is small ledge rapid with an S turn. This is another great spectator area and another challenge for canoes and kayaks alike, but what a fun spot! If you make Chimney you have a river split right where that Chainsaw Swim team spends a lot of time. Now you can meander a bit and get ready for Staircase. Staircase is just beautiful, for spectators! Staircase is just like it sounds, you need to come down the stairs and hopefully you don’t go for a swim! This is a series of shallow ledge slides where you need to follow Mother Nature and the water otherwise you will get hung up on one of the ledges. Once down Staircase make it under the South Maple Street bridge in your boat or swimming with your hand on your boat and you’ll be timed as complete and get your name on the board. Join the fun….bring a canned food item for the local food bank. Stay for the awards ceremony and have a hot dog! Check it out at www.scanticspringsplash.org. March 26th is the day!!
Tommy (bow) and Doug Palmer – father/son team
See you in April! But hope to see you at the Scantic Spring Splash first!
Want to join the fun. See the NECKRA downriver schedule as well as membership information at http://www.neckra.org/races/schedule/downriver
Become a member and join the fun. Compete for points and a chance to be a champion!
Rosemary Longo-Nutt – has been a race director for over 10 years. She co-authored the New England Canoe and Kayak Racing Association’s Race Directors Handbook and works with the Downriver series in timing, registration and promotion of Downriver races. She and her husband met “on the river”. They live in Colchester, CT with their 5 ‘fur babies”.