September 14, 1998
Photo courtesy Marymoor Museum
Boat races, with a lot less horsepower than pictured here, return to the Sammamish River after a 20-year hiatus. Canoeists and kayakers will make their way from Bothell Landing to Woodinville and back again Sept. 26.
by Andrew Walgamott
BOTHELL--Boat races return to the Sammamish River later this month.
But rather than the whine of small hydros, you're more likely to hear the rhythmic dipping of a canoe or kayak paddle into the slow waters or perhaps the chant "stroke, stroke, stroke" if you come down to the Sammamish between Bothell and Woodinville Sept. 26.
Better yet, why not be the one paddling or calling cadence?
The boat races are part of the National Health and Fitness Day which will be held at Bothell Landing between noon and 3 p.m.
Teens, parents and kids as well as guys and gals are invited to race their own kayak or canoe, or rent a kayak through the City of Woodinville for the event.
Though Cindy Shelton, Woodinville Parks and Recreation programmer says this isn't really a competition, prizes will be awarded for first through third place.
The subject of boat races will bring back waves of nostalgia for long-time residents of the area. For those of you who may be in the dark, from the mid-1920s up until the mid-1970s the Sammamish used to come alive with powerboats racing from Kenmore to Redmond the second Sunday in April.
It was a dangerous and exciting day, as remembered in archival material from Marymoor Museum.
"We watched as the boats came under the bridge...because there was a sharp turn unfamiliar to most of the boat drivers," writes Don Fitzpatrick, Jr. in the book Slough of Memories. "The turn was deceptive and many boats would spin out and occasionally some would go up on the bank. This was the excitement we wanted."
After the Sammamish was dredged in the 1960s, some hydros reached speeds of up to 80 miles per hour along straight stretches south of Woodinville, the Seattle Times reported in a reminiscent article from 1994. The daily also said races were called off after an accident involving a spectator in 1976.
Woodinville and Bothell's "Great Pumpkin Paddle Kayak Race," as it's being billed, will be done at a far slower and far safer pace. Racers will paddle from Bothell Landing up the river to Woodinville where they'll pick up a pumpkin, affix it to their craft, then return to the landing. Races begin at 2 p.m.
Where the old-time racers once had to brave logs and bridge abutments, probably the biggest hazard now will be whether there's enough water in the Sammamish.
"We'll see how it goes," says Shelton. "But if boats run aground, we may not want to do it at this time of the year."
National Health and Fitness Day will also involve health checks, fitness demonstrations and kids' activities like a baseball radar station, golf putting and hoop shooting. There will also be fire and police department safety booths there.
Those who register for the boat races by Sept. 18 with Woodinville Parks and Recreation receive a T-shirt. Racers will be required to wear life vests.