River’s Edge

When FIBArk (short for “First in Boating on the Arkansas River”) held its first whitewater race in 1949, river running was barely in its infancy as a sport. On June 12, the 66th edition of the annual festival will return to Salida, where pro and amateur paddlers will compete in events such as the Hooligan Race, in which participants hit the water in homemade rafts constructed out of everything from card-board to shipping pallets, and FIBArk’s marquee event, the Downriver Race, a 26-mile marathon from Salida to Cotopaxi through Class III rapids.

“It’s the nation’s oldest whitewater festival, and for a long time, when you were talking about whitewater festivals, it was just FIBArk,” says FIBArk board president Christopher Kolomitz. “Now, when you look at whitewater festivals throughout the region and the nation, there are a lot of them. But back in the day, it started out as just FIBArk, and everybody else built on the popularity with river parks.”

LOnce revelers have dried off, they’ll be able to enjoy land-based entertainments, including performances by the Infamous Stringdusters and the Rebirth Brass Band, mountain-bike and foot races, and a parade through Salida.

FIBArk runs from June 12 to 15; it’s free for spectators and between $5 and $50 for competitors, depending on the event. For registration and more information, visit fibark.com.
Fri., June 13; Sat., June 14, 2014

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Adam Roy is a contributor of Westword, a former editor at Outside and Matador Network, his writing has also appeared in Paste, High Country News and other online and print publications nationally and abroad.
Contact: Adam Roy