With the weather warming and snow almost completely melted, canoeists and kayakers are putting their boats in the water to cure their paddling itch.

Despite the lack of a typical heavy winter snow melt and the fact the rivers are somewhat low in water compared to most years, paddlers should be in for fun season-opening rides when the whitewater competitive season begins Saturday, March 27.

Dale Cross, director of the Waldo County YMCA, said the water in the rivers is down, but they are passable. “It’s not wet and wild like we like,” he said.

Cross said two days of rain would bring the water levels up, but said any rain is good. “We’re hoping for some rain,” he said.

On Saturday, March 27, paddlers seeking to get time in the water and experience a bit of an adrenaline rush, can register to hit the whitewater at the 31st annual St. George River Race, sponsored by the Waldo County YMCA.

The race start is at the Searsmont Methodist Church, located on Route 131 in the village of Searsmont. Boaters will be released from the start two at a time from the St. George Bridge.

Race day registration begins at 8:30 a.m. with racing scheduled to start at 11 a.m. The first 150 registrants will receive a t-shirt.

The fee to register is $20 per person.

The St. George River Race is described as three miles of dead water, followed by a mile of rapids, then two miles of dead water and curves with one Class III drop. The race has Class II and III rapids, possibly more and possibly less, depending on the water level.

A week later, on Saturday, April 3, Waldo County YMCA will sponsor the 37th annual Passagassawakeag River Race.

The Passagassawakeag race follows a similar starting format as the St. George race, with registrations starting at 8:30 a.m. and racing to begin two boats at a time at 11 a.m.

The fee for the Passagassawakeag race is $20 per person.

The location of the race is rural, with the starting point at the Littlefield Farm on Savage Road in Waldo.

The first mile of the race is flatwater with many curves. The course passes under a cement bridge to another mile of flatwater, followed by a short stretch of Class II rapids. Following the rapids is two miles of flatwater to Rolerson’s Bridge, then for a mile and a half, there is Class I, II and III whitewater. The whitewater leads to a flatwater stretch that brings racers to the finish.

Awards will be given at the end of the second race on April 3.

Each race has 22 different classes, ranging from the serious racer, to the weekend paddler, to those out to have a good time.

“It’s about getting out and having a good time,” Cross said. “The weather has been beautiful.”

Racers who register for both races will be entered into drawings for prizes twice, and paddlers who register for only one of the two races will be entered once. Some of the giveaways are a $25 gift certificate to Maine Sport Outfitters in Rockport, racing glasses, hats and several other prizes.

Racers will also have the opportunity to win an Old Town Guide Canoe, Zaveral racing paddles or a Werner kayak paddle.

For more information about the upcoming river races, visit waldocountyymca.org or call, 338-4598.

Click for more photos from the 2009 St. George race.

Click for more photos from the 2009 ‘Passy’ race.

VillageSoup Sports Assistant Holly Vanorse can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail at hvanorse@villagesoup.com.