It was just before noon on a recent warm clear Saturday Spring day when, from the front porch of the October Country Inn, you heard the start cannon go off. Shortly thereafter the first wave of splashing rafters could be seen through the trees making their erratic way down the nearby Ottauquechee River. The 39th annual Bridgewater Raft Race had begun.
The race is always held on a Saturday at the end of April or beginning of May. The three mile course down the Ottauquechee River, paralleling Route 4, starts from just west of the Long Trail Brewery, and ends at the Bridgewater Mill. It is open to anyone with a self-propelled, home-made raft, and a $5.00 entry fee. The entry fee, and revenue from T-shirt sales go to support the local Bridgewater volunteer Fast Squad. Prizes are rewarded for first, second, and third place finishers, as well as for best raft name, most original raft, most challenging raft, and any other fun category somebody comes up with.
In 1974 two local hippies decided to honor the Phantom Duck of the Rivers, and began what has become the annual Bridgewater Raft Race tradition. Rules are minimal. Rafts (including any oars) must be home-made and self-propelled. The Ottauquechee Rive is usually shallow at this time of year, but the water is cold. Helmets and life jackets are recommended. Interested in doing something unusual, and having some wet Springtime fun in the bargain, check out the Bridgewater Raft Race website for details.