Yampa River Festival features tube rodeo, crazy river dog contest and more
37th annual Yampa River Festival scheduleFriday, June 1 3:30 p.m. | Fish Creek Race boater check-in | Water Treatment Plant off of Steamboat Boulevard 4:30 p.m. | Hard Start | Fish Creek Falls (via Steamboat Boulevard) Saturday, June 2 9 a.m. | Registration | Charlie’s Hole 10:30 a.m. | Open Class Downriver Race (kayak) | Starts at River Creek Park 11 a.m. | Packraftathalon Race | Starts at Transit Center Noon | SUP/kayak demos | Fetcher Pond Noon | Crazy Dog River Dog contest | Charlie’s Hole 12:30 p.m. | SUP Downriver Race 1:45 p.m. | Raft Race | Fetcher Pond (participants must be at Fetcher at 1:15 p.m.) 2:30 p.m. | Raft Rodeo 3 p.m. | SUP Cross 3:30 p.m. | Tube Rodeo 4 p.m. | Kayak Cross (heats of three) 5 p.m. | Kayak Biggest Trick 6 p.m. | Awards at Charlie’s Hole Sunday Noon | Kayak Slalom Race Know before you go… Parking will be limited — walk, bus or bike to Charlie’s Hole. Participants must wear helmets and PFDs and prepare for cold water. Catch all the action at Charlie’s Hole all day Saturday with the first event dropping in at 10:30 a.m. and the last at 5 p.m. [poll id="29"]
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – The Yampa River flows through Steamboat Springs, and it connects different types of users. From kayakers to summer tubers to agricultural stakeholders, the river provides a connecting thread.
“Keeping something wild doesn’t mean putting it behind glass in a museum and never touching it,” said Greg Hamilton, local filmmaker and Friends of the Yampa board member. “Part of our river’s wildness is actually the relationship between humans, who must negotiate all their needs and desires.”
The Yampa River Festival, which started as a grassroots event and has developed into a springtime tradition, is entering its 38th year, and festivities celebrate the 270-mile river that flows through Northwest Colorado.
“Its tributaries, its river-use components – all of it’s connected, and this weekend’s festival is a way to bring people together to share in the love of the Yampa River Basin,” said Kent Vertrees, Friends of the Yampa board president.
“It’s one of those Steamboat events that brings people together – the river family together,” said Jules Poma, event organizer and Friends of the Yampa board member. “We put on this festival as a way to celebrate the river and enjoy the best the river has to offer at high water with old friends and new.”
The festival kicked off Thursday with The State of the Yampa address from Friends of the Yampa board members, featuring a dynamic lineup of speakers and films at the Chief Theater.
On Friday, the river events commence with the Fish Creek Kayak Race at 3:30 p.m. with check in at the water treatment plant off of Steamboat Boulevard.
The bulk of the events take place Saturday, starting with registration for all events at 9 a.m. at Charlie’s Hole near the Bud Werner Memorial Library, 1289 Lincoln Ave.
“Canoes, kayaks, any downriver craft, it’s open to anyone,” Poma said. “Don’t be afraid to show up and try an event, even if you’ve never done it before.”
The day starts with the open class downriver race via kayaks at 10:30 a.m. then the new Packraftathalon Race at 11 a.m.
Crowd favorites include the Crazy River Dog Contest at noon, stand-up paddleboard and kayak demos at noon at Fetcher Pond, stand-up paddleboard races at 12:30 p.m., the Tube Rodeo at 3:30 p.m., and of course, the Downriver Raft Race at 1:45 p.m., providing a comical display of amateur boaters racing against the clock and competing for the coveted best costume award.
Events will continue through Sunday with the kayak slalom race at noon.
New to the line up this year is the Packraftathalon Race, rumored to be the first event of its kind.
“In the river community, there is a constant evolution of the sport and people continuing to push the envelope,” Poma said.
Packrafts are doing just that.
The inflatable vessel is tough and durable but also light and compact. It can also run river rapids like a kayak, taking boaters on whitewater and extended trips through areas inaccessible by anything other than a packraft.
Packraft-inspired triathlon competitors will begin with packrafts deflated and paddles rigged. They will then bike to Charlie’s Hole, inflate their rafts using a hand-pump bag system and then run from the Charlie’s Hole to Backdoor Sports at 841 Yampa St. to get on the river and paddle back down through to the C-Hole.
“Traditional triathlons involve running, biking and swimming – this has biking, running and no swimming – at least hopefully not,” Poma said.
To catch all the action throughout the day, spectators can stake out a spot at the Charlie’s Hole beach area where there will be food and gear vendors set up.
“Whether you’re a river rat or not, celebrating the Yampa as one of our town’s greatest natural resources – and watching the mayhem of events like the Raft Rodeo, will not disappoint,” Hamilton said.
Not just a boating event, the Yampa River Festival is meant to raise awareness.
“The people in this community love the river,” Vertrees said. “Just look at the city of Steamboat surveys that came in last year – what people prioritize is the river and its health. This weekend is all about recreating and enjoying the activities that this river provides and that we’re lucky enough to take part in.”
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