The Connecticut River Raft Race

With all the decorum of a college fraternity on house party weekend, the annual Connecticut River Raft Race will celebrate its 50th anniversary on July 20, 2024. “Race” is a bit of a misnomer. Boats must be handmade, powered by humans, and self-propelled using mechanisms such as poles, oars, paddles, paddle wheels, sails, or flippers. The name of the game is creativity. The main object is fun, hijinks, and laughter; the race rules tamp down any temptations to overdo it with common sense safety precautions.

The race is real, though, with the current course 3.6 miles from Gildersleeve Island near Portland, Connecticut, (opposite the Petzold Marina) downstream to Portland Riverside Marina. With a casual start time around 10:00, the rules call for the race to end at 2:00 (for those boats that travel at less than one mile an hour with a current that travels at roughly that same speed, though some watercraft designed by killjoys purposely for speed run the course in half an hour, averaging 8 miles per hour).

This race has caught the attention of local authorities in the past, for example, when the course ran from Deep River to Nott’s Island opposite Essex. The course has shifted several times before winding up at its current Portland location.

At its peak, over 100 boats registered for the race, some having a crew of 15–20 persons. River Raft Race president Dan Otto Pritchard is hoping for a good turnout for the fiftieth, however. Interested parties can check out the website for the event at

Image Credit: Courtesy of Ed Wilson.

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