Sixth annual Royal Gorge Whitewater Festival June 20-21

Royal Gorge
Royal Gorge

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

Big water and a bountiful batch of boating events will mark the Royal Gorge Whitewater Festival as it boasts a blue-collar celebration for the “Average Joe” boater. Planners are touting plenty of “Boats, bands and beer,” for the sixth annual celebration June 20-21. Festivities are held at Centennial Park, known to locals as Duck Park, at Fourth and Griffin streets. With 20 events, a roaring Arkansas River and an increase in vendors, the festival will be the biggest to date.

“There are plenty of events for professional and expert level paddlers, but there are not a lot of events for the Average Joe weekend paddler, so we are creating our own niche,” said Kyle Horne, an event organizer. “It is something you can come in and compete in, have a good time and enjoy without competing with the big dogs.”

The pinnacle event will be the Build Your Own Boat Race slated for 5:15 p.m. June 21, but that is just one of the thrilling boating events which include stand up paddling, a duckie (inflatable kayak) dash, a kayak big air event, a Hyside Raft competition and even an inner tube race. Equipment from stand-up paddle boats and inner tubes to safety gear will be supplied to those who need it thanks to donations from local rafting companies, Horne said.

The only serious event for professional boaters and experienced long-distance paddlers, is the 6:15 p.m. June 20 kayak and raft race from Parkdale to Canon City. River flows which have been fluctuating between 4,500 and 3,400 cubic feet per second recently, will have to be at 4,000 cfs or less in order for the race to run, Horne said.

The event also features a fly casting competition for anglers, running races, a Whitewater Adventure Race featuring a run, obstacles and a muddy “slip and slide” finish as well as bicycling events for participants of all ages.

A 4:30 p.m. June 21, Rotary Rubber Duck Fundraiser hosted by Canon City and Florence Rotary Clubs will feature hundreds of little bathtub-sized rubber ducks racing along the river for a chance to win their “owners” prizes. In addition, a Kids’ Fun Zone and a trampoline jump will be set up at the park.

For those who would prefer to sit in the shade and relax, there will be live bands on two stages such as Pueblo’s Atomic Fireballs, local favorite The Highside Command, as well as James and the Devil, Wrestle with Jimmy and others. In addition, a wide variety of food and craft vendors will be set up at the park.

The festival was formed to help establish a Whitewater Park in Canon City and with the help of the Canon City Recreation District, the Whitewater Kayak and Recreation Park committee and the Fremont Community Foundation, the park became a reality in 2009 and is the center of the festival’s boating events. Fremont Adventure Recreation joined as a fourth partner and has added several entertaining competitions.

A fundraising live auction is slated for 8:15 p.m. June 21 and will include items such as a stand-up paddle boat from Jackson Kayak, a wooden canoe made by inmates working in Colorado Correctional Industries, a fly fishing package from Royal Gorge Anglers, and more. All funds raised during the festival go back into the community.

“A hundred percent of proceeds go toward community projects such as expansion and improvements to the whitewater park, recreation district programing, charitable projects and recreation projects,” Horne said.

For a complete list of activities, log on to

More whitewater coverage here.

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