The annual Connecticut River Raft Race returns to town Aug. 1. Shown here is one of the rafts used in a previous race, The DaVinci Amazing Rowing Machine, captained by Lydia Brewster and paddled by the kids from Middletown’s North End Action Team (NEAT).

Connecticut River Raft Race Returns

The 35th annual Connecticut River Raft Race will take place Saturday, Aug. 1, starting and ending here in Portland.

The scenic racecourse flows downriver from the Southerly tip of Gildersleeve Island to the Western end of Portland Riverside Marina. Some points of interest along the route include the Brownstone Quarries, Wilcox Island, the Arrigoni Suspension bridge, and an old railroad swing-bridge. The journey affords views of forest land, meadows, and diverse riverbank ecosystems which are home to many living things. The prospect of sighting a Great Blue Heron foraging in the shallows, an Eagle soaring in the sky, or a family of Mergansers frolicking by the riverbank are frequently seen here.

You don’t even need a boat or engine to participate in this annual summer event. All you need is a homemade raft.

Inventive participants use backyard engineering to make a floating vessel cobbled together from whatever floating materials are on hand, while others will opt for a more traditional vessel such as a canoe or a kayak. Then there are the seasoned veterans who have a refined creation that is a high tech, high speed racer. No matter what type of vessel is used all craft must be self-propelled. There are a variety of racing classes that group together similar vessels, and awards are presented to the fastest participants in each category.

All skill levels are welcome. Serious raft racers have been known to traverse the 3.6 mile racecourse in just under 45 minutes while the majority of the other participants take a more leisurely pace. This tempo is well-suited to those who are just out for the ride and want to experience and enjoy the river. The raft race is a family event involving participants from 10 years to more than 60. All participants must comply with specific safety requirements and obey the race rules. Elapsed race times are adjusted for those providing assistance to fellow competitors.

The Connecticut River Raft Race, Inc is run by a 501C3 approved and recognized non-profit corporation. The race committee organizes and governs the oldest, largest, self-supporting raft race in America. Each year the group donates a portion of the race proceeds to designated children’s charities and other organizations which have included the North End Action Team, Kid City Children’s Museum; I Have a Friend Youth Center, Thomaston Food Bank, the Maritime Education Network, the Portland Volunteer Fire Department, Portland Library, Russell Library, and the WDRC walk for food. The funds contributed are raised through entrance fees, T-shirt sales, and donations.

Post-race activities will take place on the sandy beaches at Riverside Marina. The finish area is accessible to the public and has a picnic area where “The Sonics” will be providing musical entertainment prior to the awards program. There will also be volleyball, horse shoes, and more.

If interested in the event, visit to view pictures, race-course maps, event rules, raft building information, and more. If you don’t have a computer handy, the race committee will mail you a free 30-page raft race booklet; call 860-707-3691 and provide your name & mailing address.

Also, there will be a Captains’ meeting on July 18th, 10:00 am at the Portland Riverside Marina located at 37 Riverview St. This is a pre-race get-together for all new & veteran participants and marks the final day for registration (which costs $16 per crew member.) All raft Captains are required to attend. Crew members, volunteers, and any interested parties are also welcome. Safety requirements, raft race rules, and any last-minute instructions will be presented and all questions will be answered.

For more information, visit the website listed above or call Bob Niland at 342-4473.

Copyright © 2009, Rivereast News Bulletin

MLA citation: Malboeuf, David. "Connecticut River Raft Race Returns." Rivereast News Bulletin 10 July 2009, Volume 34, Number 16.: 12. Print

MLA in-text citation: (Malboeuf 12)

NOTE: This article was submitted by David Malboeuf to Rivereast News Bulletin.