Native American-built kayaks kicked butt in the early days of Salida's FIBArk Whitewater Festival, which dates back to a 57-mile downriver race from Salida to Canon City in 1949, evidence that Colorado's wildest whitewater freaks have been getting their splash on in the Arkansas River for centuries. The tradition continues beginning June 15 at 9 a.m. with the start of the Wildwater Training Camp Classic at Salida Whitewater Park, the kickoff event for the 63rd annual festival. "Wild" is the operative word.
"Our snowpack was absolutely awesome this year, and the water is just cranking right now," says FIBArk (First in Boating on the Arkansas) spokesman Mark Krasnow. "This years river events are going to be a lot of fun to watch."
They're free for spectators, and there are dozens of them, including the USA Wildwater Nationals (sprint race on Thursday at 2 p.m.; classic race on Friday at 5 p.m.) and the USA Canoe/Kayak Age Group National Championships (Saturday, 9 a.m.). There are also freestyle kayak and SUP (stand-up paddleboarding) competitions, 5K and 10K running races, a disc golf tournament, mountain-bike races, river dog contests, and concerts.
"The must-see events are the anything-goes Hooligan Race on Saturday and the 26-mile Classic Downriver Race on Sunday," Krasnow says. "The Downriver Race is the historic backbone of FIBArk. This whitewater marathon is not for the timid."
For a full schedule and registration, visit www.FIBArk.net.
June 15-19, 2011