AWA to transfer events, activities to NFCT

The Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT) and the Adirondack Watershed Alliance (AWA) are working towards a transfer of AWA events and activities, including the Adirondack Canoe Classic, to NFCT’s care by the launch of the 2021 paddling season.

AWA, managed by Brian and Grace McDonnell for over two decades, currently coordinates the ‘Round the Mountain Canoe and Kayak Race and the Celebrate Paddling Invitational in Saranac Lake, the Long Lake Long Boat Regatta, and the Adirondack Canoe Classic, known more commonly as the 90-Miler.

“We’re excited by the prospect of this transition, and we’re confident that NFCT’s board and staff will provide a promising future for paddle sports in the Adirondacks,” said Brian McDonnell. “NFCT’s focus on stewardship, promotion of paddling and celebration of paddling culture make them a perfect fit for carrying on the legacy of AWA and its tentpole events.”

The Northern Forest Canoe Trail is a nonprofit organization that maintains and promotes the 740-mile water trail that runs from Old Forge, New York, to Fort Kent, Maine, and connects New York, Vermont, Quebec, New Hampshire, and Maine. The trail showcases the mix of landscapes and communities currently lining the traditional routes used by indigenous peoples, settlers, and guides. It is the longest in-land water trail in the nation and consists of 23 rivers and streams, 59 lakes and ponds, 45 communities, and 65 portages.

“For 20 years, it’s been our mission to steward and promote the Northern Forest Canoe Trail and support the communities along our route,” said Karrie Thomas, NFCT’s executive director. “AWA’s work in inspiring paddlers, promoting the region’s natural beauty, and giving back to communities aligns seamlessly with our goals. Brian and Grace’s contributions to paddling in the Adirondacks is immeasurable; it’s an honor to carry their legacy forward.”

“As a nonprofit organization, NFCT will be in a position to reinvest event revenues into maintaining the New York sections of the canoe trail,” said Anne Brewer of the NFCT’s Board of Directors. “We will also use event proceeds to support Northern Forest Explorers trips, getting more kids outside to experience paddling in the Adirondacks. Ultimately, revenue from these activities will allow us to create a source of funds to improve access to paddling routes between Old Forge and Saranac Lake and mitigate environmental impacts, while also freeing up our other resources to enhance work along the remaining 650 miles of the canoe trail.”

AWA and NFCT will work together to achieve an efficient transfer of operational information. This year, AWA will continue to manage events, with NFCT staff and volunteers observing and engaging in all aspects of operations, with a particular focus on AWA’s marquee event, the 90-Miler. NFCT seeks to complete fundraising and officially acquire all aspects of AWA in 2021, taking on correspondence, registration, marketing and sponsorships. Brian McDonnell will continue working with NFCT to ensure the events and activities are implemented in keeping with the expectations of partners and participants.

NFCT will also work closely with Adirondack host communities and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation during the transition.

“Thanks to the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, the Adirondack Canoe Classic will continue to be enjoyed by New Yorkers and visitors alike,” said DEC Regional Director Bob Stegemann. “Like DEC, the NFCT is committed to promoting outdoor recreation and protecting our natural resources, and we look forward to a safe and enjoyable 90-miler this year and in the years to come.”

NFCT currently operates a number of longstanding, successful events, including Waterway Work Trips along the 740-mile canoe trail, the popular Missisquoi Paddle-Pedal in Richford, Vt., annual Paddling Film Festival screenings and the Northern Forest Explorers program. NFCT has worked with AWA for a number of years, providing stewardship support before and after the 90-Miler, as well as aid station support during the race.

“With our 20th anniversary in full swing, we’re already working with business and corporate partners, foundations, municipalities and private funders to ensure a smooth transition with AWA, and to make sure we meet the high standards set by Brian and Grace,” Thomas said. “We will need to engage the broad community of paddlers, pit crew teams and supporters who love this event to help us ensure it continues for the next 40 years.”

For more information on Adirondack Watershed Alliance events, please contact Brian McDonnell at To learn more about the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, visit, or contact Karrie Thomas at