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Tenandeho WW Derby


By jstookey - Posted on 08 April 2014

This spring, we were hit with a triple dose of river-filling events, all coming together for one spectacular day at the 2014 Tenandeho White Water Derby. The two lakes feeding the Anthony Kill have an extremely thick layer of ice and a covering of snow after a long and cold winter without any warm spells. Then a week before the race we were hit with extraordinarily heavy rains. With the warm weather beginning to melt the ice and snow, the water level was extremely high making for some tremendous waves along much of the course. And COLD water.

The race course starts out with a swift but calm trip from just below Round Lake towards Mechanicville and builds in intensity all the way to the end where intense rapids drop boaters into the Hudson River. Early in the course I hit a turn with a set of rapids that pushed me up against a rock wall and I barely managed to stay vertical. After these first rapids, I passed capsized boats all along the course. By the time I finished the race, I had seen at least 8 capsized boats, their captains nowhere to be seen. I was the 19th boater to start and I passed a few contestants along the way, so this means more than half of the boats ended up upside-down.

These first rapids were a real wake up call. With half the boaters out of the running, racing no longer seemed important. Surviving was the name of this game. During the second half of the race, the river meanders through tough rapids in Mechanicville. The river goes under trestles, through tunnels, under roads, and eventually into a concrete maze before dropping into the Hudson. The whole while, holding on for dear life, huge crowds of people yell from both sides and all along bridges directly overhead. At first the excited yells from the crowd are uplifting, but with the audible disappointment upon surviving a set of terrifying rapids comes a stark realization. To the fans, the river is the home team, and I am the away team. With everyone rooting against me, it feels like I'm on my own. Except of course for the rescue team lining the shores.

While getting tossed around like debris caught in the surf, paddling like I've never paddled before in my life, three things keep me from pulling over and quitting at the next stop. Firstly I'm so focused on not falling into the water, it leaves little time to think about safe places to pull over. Secondly I know M is watching and waiting for me at the finish, it would be a shame to leave her hanging after spending the day anxiously awaiting my arrival. The other is that there is a huge rescue team ready to pull me out if I get into trouble. If there was ever a time to "see what happens" with the water level so high, this is the day to do it.

By the time I reached the long set of rapids at the end of the race, my arms were completely spent. The only thing keeping them moving was adrenaline supplied by a healthy fear of death. I was yelling at the top of my lungs through the final rapids as though the sounds of my screams would fuel my arms for just a few more much needed paddle strokes. With a facefull of water I crashed through the final set of waves and found myself in the relative calm of the Hudson River. I blinked my eyes a few times and looked to see not only M watching from the side, but a good friend had finished the race and was safely on shore! We're all alive, we made it! That was a close one.

Comparison of Tenandeho Water Levels

Click on the photos for high-resolution images:

Coons Crossing Bridge Rapids
2012 Derby
4/1/12
Mohawk@3,800cf/s

After October Rain
10/17/11
Mohawk@12,000cf/s

Day After Irene
8/29/11
Mohawk@100,000cf/s
2014 Derby
4/4/14
Mohawk@23,000cf/s

After May Rain
5/3/14
Mohawk@18,000/s

After cold snowy winter
5/3/14
Mohawk@8,000/s

Video of the course taken a month later, when the water level was much lower