Spectators look on as hundreds of amateur and professional paddlers participate in the 2015 General Clinton Canoe Regatta. The 70-mile canoe race—the longest single-day canoe race in North America—is held each year on Memorial Day weekend. Teams begin in Otsego Lake in Cooperstown, New York, with the first finishers reaching Bainbridge, New York, in about eight hours.
First held in 1963, the General Clinton Canoe Regatta started as a way for the Chamber of Commerce in Bainbridge, New York, to promote community and tourism. The event is named after Revolutionary War figure Brigadier General James Clinton. As part of a campaign, General Clinton had his men dam the Susquehanna River—allowing waters in Otsego Lake, the river’s source, to rise. They then destroyed the dam, flooded the river and rode in canoes on the high waters to surprise their adversaries downstream.
Originally just a single, one-day canoe race, the regatta has grown to a four-day spectacle full of live music, a 5K run, carnival rides and fireworks. But the canoe races are still the main event, with close to 1,000 participants in the 2016 regatta.