Spectator Guide

What Every Spectator Must Know

America’s Toughest Spectator Event

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Watching the entire AuSable Canoe Marathon takes 19 non-stop hours and covers 120 miles (one way).

The race starts at 9:00 p.m. in downtown Grayling on Saturday and ends Sunday afternoon, 120 miles away in Oscoda.

The Completely Equipped Spectator Will Have:

  • A Marathon Program with racer and course information
  • Pencil and eraser to record positions at timing locations
  • A Michigan Road Map
  • AuSable River Course Map
  • Music Player
  • Lawn Chairs
  • Binoculars
  • Insect Repellent
  • Soap, towel & toothbrush and personal items
  • Toilet Paper
  • Washcloth (wet in baggy)
  • Digital Camera
  • Pillows
  • Alarm Clock (don’t let the race pass you by while taking a cat nap)
  • Rain Gear
  • Shorts
  • Hat
  • Change of clothing, if needed for awards banquet in Oscoda
  • Cooler with sandwiches, pop, energy bars etc.
  • Thermos
  • Money
  • Flashlight for finding your way to river in middle of night
  • Penlight for looking at program at riverside
  • Sunglasses
  • Portable Scanner (tuned to Mio Repeater on 146.70 for constant updates of team times during race)

Spectators start to locate prime viewing spots on the banks of the Old AuSable Fly Shop six hours before the start. Pre-race activities will begin at 6:30 p.m. that will include Introduction of Paddlers, entertainment and the singing of national anthems. Spectators pre-position their vehicles to leave the start as soon as possible to many of the viewing points along the river.

As 9:00 PM draws near, the excitement of the crowd builds anticipating the start. When the race starts, the spectators closest to the start, of the four block run, will initiate a cheer that culminates with thousands applauding the ninety or more teams as they try to reach and enter the AuSable in the same place at the same time. The very best will not stop until they reach Lake Huron in Oscoda, 120 miles away.

The table below represents the times that the leading teams will reach sites along the race course. Between these sites are many places to observe and to meet fellow followers of the race. Places near Grayling like the Rayburn Property and roads that end at the river like Keystone offer excellent viewing opportunities early in the race.

As the race travels its course, official timers report on the exact times that racers pass. When they do this they radio the information on each split time to the race office in Grayling. A hand-held scanner with the correct frequencies will provide reports on who is moving up through the pack and who is falling back. The timers also report teams having problems and what teams are pulling out. Having a scanner can add enormously to knowing what is going on with the race. It can also be used to pick up the continuous weather updates from the National Weather Service. Several radio stations will also carry updates on the race throughout the night.

After Mio Dam, the driving route will take you along the river on McKinley Road. This road until Comins Flats offers at least six vantage points that vary from the category of secret to very secret. The last few miles of the race from Cooke Dam to Oscoda offer the very best of observation points, because of the high banks.


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