Canoeing All Night Long
July 28, 2015
By Marcia Bradford
I was visiting relatives at their vacation home near Grayling, Mich., when I saw a sign for the AuSable River Canoe Marathon, which took place July 25 – 26. I learned that this annual event, dating back to 1947, is a non-stop canoe race that starts at night with a thrilling LeMans-style running-start to the river in Grayling. It ends 120 miles later near the shores of Lake Huron in Oscoda, Mich.
Contestants must navigate the narrow, winding upper stretch in total darkness, as well as stump-filled ponds and the blazing July sun in the lower stretch. Organizers stress that this race is not a recreational canoe float, but a professional, ultra-competitive race with the very best professional paddlers from North and Central America.
“Contestants must be in peak condition in order to complete the race in the allotted time, and to endure the grueling and strenuous physical and mental strains the marathon demands of the paddlers,” the guidelines state.
More than $50,000 in cash and prizes is awarded to more than 40 of the fastest canoe teams.
Statistics gathered over the years show the fastest time achieved thus far was 13 hours, 58 minutes and .08 seconds, which was accomplished by a team in the professional division in 1994.
Used by recreational paddlers throughout the year, the AuSable is one of Michigan’s scenic rivers. The stretch from Grayling to Lake Huron offers breathtaking scenery as well as excellent wildlife viewing opportunities. Bald eagles, wild turkey and deer are seen throughout the year. Panoramic vistas from high bluff overlooks, long wooden boardwalks over spring-fed streams, and miles of quiet, undeveloped shoreline all can be found along here.
For more information, visit www.ausablecanoemarathon.org