Down by the river


— There is a buzz going around town about this year's Yampa River Festival.

River levels in Colorado are hurting because of the drought. However, the Yampa River through Steamboat Springs, though running low, is flowing stronger than most. And with at least one river festival in the state being cancelled because of low water, the buzz is that the 2002 Yampa River Festival could be the best one in Colorado this summer.

That is not news to co-organizer Peter VanDeCarr.

"We have the best river festival every year," he said.

River festivals are part mountain-man rendezvous, part camping trip and part athletic event, which reflects the culture of kayaking and paddlers around the state who seek out good water and good times.

People will travel from all around with boats on top of their cars or packed into giant vans to hit the weekend festival, which includes different competitions and events in the river.

"The philosophy of the (Yampa) river festival is to have fun for ourselves," VanDeCarr said. "If we have fun, hopefully the visitors will have fun too."

What has made the Yampa River Festival unique during the 22 years it has been going on is its location right in downtown Steamboat. Many festivals are in more remote areas. Also, no matter what the river level, the Yampa River always can produce enough holes to maintain a good festival.

"The thing is, our river is so great. We have so many great hydraulics and this one we just did really caps it off," VanDeCarr said.

He was refereeing to the D-Hole, next to the Depot on 13th Street. Kayakers play in the hole, surfing its wave and perform various tricks and maneuvers. During the festival, the paddlers compete in the holes by having the tricks judged in an event called the freestyle rodeo.

There are numerous holes on the river that provide challenges, even if the water is low; the holes are fun to play in. If the river is too low and kayaking seems ridiculous, locals tend to have good time at the Yampa festival anyway.

"There was one year the river was so low, it just turned into a goofy thing," VanDeCarr said.

Local kayaking great Steve Holmes was doing handstands off the rocks, VanDeCarr recalled.

Other competitions in the festival include a traditional slalom race and a down-river race, which is a five-mile race through town.

Though serious races with professional divisions, there's always an element of lunacy revolving around river festivals. A good example of that in Steamboat is the biathlon race, which includes an obstacle course through the parking lot near Back Door Sports and then another obstacle course in the river in pre-selected boats. There's also the crazy river dog competition, where pooches are judged by their stick-fetching skills in the river.

Also, what is a festival without music? Thursday nigh there is a kickoff party at Levelz with DJs. There's live bands on Friday evening and Saturday a bluegrass band will perform during dinner.

Everything kicks off at 9 p.m. Thursday at Levelz for registration.

To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4204

or e-mail


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.