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

Prime, a member of the 1963 U.S. World Championship Kayak Team, helped guide the senator through the Hudson River Gorge on Saturday, May 6, 1967, from the Gooley Landing to North River.

“My job was to lead a group of five kayaks, provide Senator Kennedy with a boat and the latest safety equipment, and to ‘bring him back alive,’” Prime wrote.

The boat Robert Kennedy used was a kayak owned by David Binger, of Mount Kisco. It is artifact No. 1968.224.1 in the Adirondack Museum’s collection in Blue Mountain Lake. In 1968, Prime was the agent who sold Binger’s kayak to the museum, according to the artifact’s accession file.

Binger, in another kayak, made the trip down the Hudson with Prime and Robert Kennedy. His detailed account of the trip was published as a sidebar to Prime’s article in the Autumn 1967 issue of American WHITE WATER. It is written in log format and explains that there were about 60 people in the party, which was divided into four groups.

Binger was in Group 3. The trip leader and organizer of the expedition was Bob Harrigan, a former national canoe champion from Washington, D.C. Ethel Kennedy and several children piled into a raft and were in Group 4 with members of the press. (The media covered the trip from all angles: on the river, on the shore and in a helicopter.)

“1045 hrs.: We’re off. The day is sparkling, warm and beautiful,” Binger wrote. “I am a bit nervous, as I always am before going down the gorge, but console myself with the knowledge that the water level is low, and that the Senator undoubtedly has worse butterflies than I do, or should have.”

The party stopped at 1 p.m. for lunch at the O.K. Slip.

“1410 hrs.: Harris Rift upsets Senator R.F. Kennedy, D., N.Y. No wonder; it’s rough! Rubber raft pins his kayak to a rock during rescue operation. Nothing serious. On we go.”

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

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