Ledyard Canoe Club Celebrates 100 Years of River Adventures

Events include 100 trips, conservation work, an explorers' symposium, and Riverfest.

The Ledyard Canoe Club is celebrating 100 years at Dartmouth with 100 river trips, a celebration of storied expeditions, and river conservation work at its annual Explorer's Symposium in April 2020. There will also be special events and alumni trips during the 2019-20 school year.

Since its founding by students in 1920, the canoe club has been dedicated to building community around canoeing and kayaking and conserving the world's wild rivers. The club took John Ledyard for their namesake, a man who, in 1773, as a Dartmouth student, grew tired of his studies, felled a pine tree, dug out a canoe, and set off down the Connecticut to become an explorer.

Gretta Pickett '21 says Ledyard's traditions, like the annual trip to the sea following Ledyard's route, started in 1921, combined with the strong sense of community, make the club an important part of her Dartmouth experience.

"It's an awesome community and a really great place to get outside and push myself," she says. "Most of my best friends are in Ledyard, and it's been a place where I've felt included and happy and feel like I'm growing as a person."

Just before the fall term, the club sponsored Pickett, Alana McClements '22, and Clara Goldberger '22 on a trip to the Madawaska Kanu Centre in Canada, where they paddled the Riviere Rouge and the Ottawa River and earned their whitewater paddling certifications. They will now be able to lead Ledyard whitewater kayak trips, a goal the women embraced in part to close the gender gap for women leading Ledyard whitewater trips, Pickett says.

"As a trip leader, having some responsibility in the club and feeling like I can share something with people has been special for me, especially incoming '23s and just people who haven't spent as much time outside—to share that part of Dartmouth with them."

Ledyard's centennial events include:

  • The 100 Trips: The club is sponsoring trips, from Saturday paddles on the Connecticut to weeklong expeditions on the world's wild rivers. The club has put out the call to Ledyard alumni around the world to dedicate a journey to the club and log the adventure on the 100-Trips blog.
  • The 100 River Cleanups: In addition to the 100 trips, Ledyard is also promoting 100 river cleanups. As with the 100 trips, the club has put out the call to alumni to sponsor clean ups in their own communities in support of Ledyard. Updates about the project will be logged on the Ledyard Centennial River-Cleanups blog.
  • The Third Explorers Symposium: Held in conjunction with the club's annual Riverfest, from April 23 to 26, the Third Explorers Symposium will celebrate the centennial with a call to club alumni to join in. The symposium will include the Wild and Scenic Film Festival, a Ledyard dinner with presentations from student trips and Ledyard Alumni, the Explorers Symposium with a full slate of speakers, including David Hamlin '82, a Ledyard alumnus and National Geographic filmmaker, and Andrew Fisk, head of the Connecticut River Conservancy.
  • Riverfest Races: On Saturday, April 25, paddlers will compete in the Mascoma River Slalom and on Sunday, April 26, they will race at the Wells River Rumble. Ledyard has run the Mascoma Slalom every year since 1963. It is the oldest consecutively run slalom race in the country.
  • River Rat Centennial Edition: The club's annual yearbook, River Rat, will publish a centennial special edition featuring expeditions and trips from the past 100 years. Alumni are invited to submit trip accounts and historic materials from the extensive Ledyard archive in Rauner Special Collections Library.

For more information, contact [email protected]. The Ledyard boathouse on the Connecticut is open Monday through Friday during fall term; hours are noon to 6 p.m. weekday, and on weekends hours are from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. The club also offers canoe and kayak and paddle board rentals and instruction for the community.

William Platt can be reached at [email protected].