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Robert Kennedy’s Hudson River kayak at local museum

Senator competed in 1967 White Water Derby

This kayak was used by Robert F. Kennedy in May 1967 on the Hudson River near North Creek.

This kayak was used by Robert F. Kennedy in May 1967 on the Hudson River near North Creek. Photo courtesy of the Adirondack Museum

Plenty of visitors take advantage of New York state’s wilderness and mix business with pleasure during working vacations in the Adirondacks. Yet, when it comes to the annual Hudson River White Water Derby, you’ll find more pleasure than business in North Creek, North River and Riparius.

In May 1967, U.S. Sen. Robert Francis Kennedy, D-NY, traveled to the North Creek region to take part in the 10th Annual White Water Derby and sample the wilder side of the upper Hudson River. He and his wife, Ethel, and most of his children stayed at the Garnet Hill Lodge in North River for the weekend of May 6-7. His entourage included two nephews, niece Caroline Kennedy, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Stuart Udall and Freckles, the family dog.

On the business side, the senator was interested in research and marketing. At the time, he was supporting a river conservation bill in the U.S. Congress (the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act) and headed north to the Adirondacks to check out the wildest sections of the Hudson River for himself. His visit would also help publicize the proposed legislation; the popular Hudson River White Water Derby was a perfect stage for Kennedy’s political views on the environment.

On the pleasure side of his trip, Robert Kennedy and his active family members climbed into watercraft and sampled the Hudson River rapids in rafts, canoes and kayaks. By all accounts, it was a successful weekend getaway, which included several trips down the river.

“Secretary Udall wanted to dramatize river sports, water pollution control, and the pending Wild Rivers bill (kind of a corollary to the Wilderness Bill) which had hung up in the House Interior Committee last year,” William G. Prime wrote in the Autumn 1967 issue of American WHITE WATER (reprinted from the KCCNY News).

This story was previously published in “New York State’s Mountain Heritage: Adirondack Attic, Volume 3,” by Andy Flynn.

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