Canoers to race through Northeast Michigan for 70th year


NORTHEAST MICHIGAN –– More than 10,000 people are expected to gather on the banks of the AuSable River in Grayling as teams race their canoes down the river for the start of the 70th annual AuSable River Canoe Marathon Saturday, July 29.

Marathon Week activities will start Tuesday, July 25, and will continue until the conclusion of the race July 30.

The AuSable River Canoe Marathon is organized by a non-profit organization, AuSable River International Canoe Marathon, which was formed in 1983 and is made up entirely of volunteers, according to the race’s Facebook page.

Heather Tait, chairperson of the Grayling committee of AuSable River International Canoe Marathon, said this year 79 teams have signed up and the 120-mile race usually includes anywhere from 70-90 boats.

“It’s the 70th race this year so we’re celebrating that, which is kind of a cool thing that it’s gone on so long,” Tait said. “I'm very excited to be a part of this year's event. We have 79 teams entered and it should be an interesting race.”

Tait said many of the competitors this year are from outside of Michigan, and some are from outside of the U.S.

“It's awesome to see how far the reach of the Marathon has grown over the past few years,” she said. “We couldn't be successful without the support of the communities along the AuSable, as well as the wonderful group of volunteers we have working on the committee this year, and I'm grateful to have such a great team.”

The teams will travel 120 miles of the river from Grayling through Mio, eventually finishing in Oscoda nearly 20 hours after the start.

This year, the second annual Rabaska/R-9 Race will be hosted July 29-30 and will begin at the Mio Dam at 10 a.m Saturday morning with viewing areas at the Mio Dam, Camp 10 Bridge and Oscoda County Park. Teams of nine will compete in 25-foot voyageur canoes.

The public is welcome to join in on the “The Rabaska Experience,” which will take place Saturday from 8-9:30 a.m. Participants will be able to paddle a Rabaska canoe with experienced paddlers for a $5 donation to the Oscoda County Park.

The pre-race program for the marathon will begin at 6 p.m. at the business loop bridge over the AuSable River in Grayling, and paddlers will enter the water at 9 p.m. to begin the race. Canoers will have to race through a majority of the river in the dark and into early Sunday morning.

Racers are scheduled to arrive at the Mio Dam between 2 and 4 a.m. Sunday morning and the Alcona Dam between 5 and 7 a.m. The Rabaska/R-9 Race is scheduled to finish at 10:30 a.m. while the AuSable marathon winners should finish at approximately 11-11:30 a.m.

Spectators, race officials, law enforcement, timer crews and feeder crews will all be following the race as the canoers go by, but for those who can’t attend, the race will be streamed live from 20 radio stations around Michigan, including local stations 98.5 WUPS and HITS FM 94.9 and 103.3.

The marathon will conclude at 4 p.m. Sunday. For more information, visit or call ARICM at 989-348-4425.


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