Why are we drawn to water? What makes us want to emerge ourselves, slip under the surface and commune with this merging of hydrogen and oxygen? In the heat of the summer we search out swimming holes in nearby rivers. When winter arrives we flock to hot springs to soak out the lethargy of cold days.
The more adventurous among us might squeeze into a plastic kayak to dance and twirl on frothing streams. Others seek a slightly more stable canoe or raft from which to cast a line or gaze at the scenery. Groups of friends and family plop into inner tubes to bob along the current. Whatever the means for getting into the water is, at some point we almost all find a way to get there. Perhaps it is because water composes so much of our physicality, maybe because here in the Rocky Mountain West it composes so little of our landscapes physicality.
Water also fills our heads, both literally and figuratively. Consider the descriptive words for the movement of water: roiling, boiling, gurgling, frothing, cascading, erratic turbulence, still, flat, serene. And even more vocabulary to describe parts of rivers: silken tongue, stillwater, shallow, thalweg, tail wave, tailwater, standing wave, rooster tail, haystack, ripple, riffle, pool, hole, eddy, eater, domer, boulder garden, the list goes on
As the spring runoff begins to tumble down the mountains and fill local streams and rivers, kayakers and rafters grab their boats and begin the spring rite of running rivers. Whether you are drawn to water to jump in and paddle, or you are more interested in watching others, there is not shortage of whitewater-related events to pique your interest.
PBR Whitewater Revival, Boise
The (Payette Boise Rivers) PBR Whitewater Revival raises awareness and money for the development of the Boise River Recreation Park. The event hosts the National Rafting Championships and is the culmination of the Western Whitewater Championship Series. Whitewater enthusiasts compete, participate and celebrate Idaho’s Payette and Boise rivers. Weekend events include kayak races, raft races, river boarding exhibitions. The event will also showcase DJs, BBQs, and Blue Grass Music
May 30 and June 1
Second and Last Flatwater Festival, Cascade
Last year the Flatwater to Whitewater Festival was intended to celebrate the last summer of flatwater running through town before the Cascade Whitewater Park was built. Unfortunately, not enough money was raised to build the whitewater park, so this year they are at it again with the Second and Last Flatwater Festival.
This fun race stretches 2.5 miles on the North Fork of the Payette River. Costumes are encouraged. One of the race heats, called anything that floats, inspires creativity among the participantslast year there was a pirate ship sailing the racecourse. Gag trophies and prizes are given away in several categories.
The event is free, but donations are greatly appreciated (it is a fundraiser after all). Vendors sell food and after a fun day on the river, everyone heads to Roseberry for the McCall Music Festival.
Blazing Paddles-National Paddling Film Festival Roadshow, Glacier High School Theatre, Kalispell
If youre not ready to commit to bobbing around in chilly water, you can watch others do so on the big screen. This film festival is an evening full of high quality films with a common elementhaving fun on or in the water. Combining silliness, insight, humor, tragedy, drama and passion with fast-paced action, incredible scenery and culture this film festival will take you around the globe.
A portion of the proceeds will go to American Whitewater, a national organization whose mission is to conserve and restore Americas water resources and to enhance opportunities to enjoy them safely.
April 18, 7-10 pm
Bigfork Whitewater Festival, Bigfork
The Bigfork Whitewater Festival involves international kayak racing on the Wild Mile of the Swan River that runs through Bigfork. At the height of spring runoff, the Wild Mile is considered a Class V whitewater. The event draws over 200 competitors along with several thousand spectators. There are festivities running throughout the weekend.
April 24 and 25
30th Annual Peaks to Prairies Adventure Race, Red Lodge to Billings
Its not all paddling, but this uniquely Montana triathlon includes a twenty-three mile boating leg on the Yellowstone River. Athletes compete as either soloists or teams, running 8.3 miles in the shadow of the Beartooths in Red Lodge. Then, they transition to bikes and ride 43 miles through farm and ranch country to Riverside Park, south of Laurel. From there its into the Yellowstone River all the way to Billings.
Best in the West Kayak Festival, Missoula
This regional kayak festival kicks off the paddling season with two days of whitewater fun and competition. Kids, recreational boaters and professionals play on Brennans Wave in Missoulas Carris Park on Saturday. In addition to food and white water-related vendors, there will be a party sponsored by Red Bull in the evening. On Sunday experienced kayakers and pros meet at nearby Alberton Gorge to test their mettle at Triple Bridges Rapids.
May 17 and 18
Big Timber Creek Race, Big Timber
A local small-scale creek race, the Big Timber Creek Race started last year as a way to get the word out to boaters that they needed to show more respect when accessing this creek on private property. The landowner approached the Headwaters Paddling Association to let them know he was fed up with the disrespect shown by boatersmany of whom didnt realize it was private landand if something didnt change he would close access to everyone.
After the race, and the publicity it garnered in the kayaking world, boaters were closing gates and driving slowly on dirt roads. The landowner said he saw a complete turn around in behavior. The race continues as a celebration for local creek boaters.
June 21 and 22
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Blackfoot Challenge, Missoula
A slalom course, an eleven-mile down river race, and double elimination boater cross are the main events at the Blackfoot Challenge, onyou guessed itthe Blackfoot River. Of course, there is dining and an awards ceremony and everyone is invited to come watch.
June 21 and 22
Yellowstone Boat Float, Livingston to Laurel
For over forty years, this annual boat float starts at Livingston and retraces the Lewis & Clark Expedition all the way to Laurel. There are two overnight stops, one in Big Timber and one in Reed Point. The local communities provide entertainmentlive bands in bars in Big Timber and Livingston and a street dance in Reed Point. Some folks float all three days, others join in for just a day or two.
There is no sign up or registration, so just show up at Mayors Landing around 9:00 am on Saturday with your boat and prepare to be self-sufficient.
July 11, 12 and 13
49er Diner 406.222.4414 or Livingston Chamber of Commerce 406.222.0850
Pole, Peddle, Paddle, Jackson
In 1975 Pole Pedal Paddle founder Harry Baxter considered PPP to be a playful end to a winter at the Jackson Hole Ski Resort. “I was looking for a fun event to wrap up the season,” Baxter once told a reporter. “I wanted to come up with something that anybody could get involved in.”
Hosted by the Jackson Hole Ski and Snowboard Club, each year on the last Saturday of the resorts ski season, the four-event relay racewhere contestants compete either individually or in teamsconsists of: alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, bicycling and boating.
The alpine ski leg is held at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. All classes ski a 3,500 giant slalom approximately 3 miles in length, following the Women’s World Cup Downhill course.
The cross-country ski leg consists of 10 kilometers of prepared track at the base of the mountain over rolling terrain. The bicycle leg is a 19.8-mile course that begins in the Teton Village parking lot.
The boating leg is 9 miles of Class 1 and 2 grade water (moderately hazardous in an open canoe) on the Snake River from South Park Bridge to Snake River Canyon Ranch Bridge south of Hoback Junction.
National Paddling Film Festival, Jackson Hole Center for the Arts
If you missed the showing in Bigfork you can catch it here. Enjoy two more nights of the best paddling films in the nation sponsored by the Jackson Hole Kayak Club.
June 8 and 9, 7-10 pm
Wyoming Whitewater Championships
This event attracts boaters from around the world to compete in a down river race along the Hoback River, an afternoon of big wave surfing at Lunch Counter or King’s Rapid, and a down river race down the Greys River and Snaggletooth Rapid. Spectators are welcome.
Jackson Hole Kayak Club 307.690.9410
National River Cleanup Kickoff Week
American Rivers sponsors the National River Cleanup, the most popular and successful stream cleanup program in the country that taps into the civic pride of tens of thousands of volunteers across the country.
Since the launch of this annual event by America Outdoors in 1991, more than 600,000 volunteers have participated in thousands of cleanups across the country, covering more than 100,000 miles of waterways. These cleanups have removed more than 1,000 tons of litter and debris from America’s rivers and streams. Check the website to find a local event or organize your own.
May 31-June 8
Big Sky Journal
April 04, 2008