A group of rafters try to no avail to stay in their raft as they charge through Charlie’s Hole last year during the Yampa River Festival.

File Photo

A group of rafters try to no avail to stay in their raft as they charge through Charlie’s Hole last year during the Yampa River Festival.

30th Yampa River Festival starts with kickoff party Friday in Steamboat


Festival events


■ 5 p.m. Registration party at Sunpies Bistro


Unless noted, all events at Charlie’s Hole behind the library in downtown Steamboat Springs

■ Noon, Riverboard surf competition, free

■ Noon, Raft race, River Creek Park, $10 per person

■ 1 p.m. Crazy river dog competition, D-Hole, $15

■ 2 p.m. Tube rodeo, $10

■ 3 p.m. Kayak rodeo, $15

■ 6 p.m. Randy Kelley and Sundog play at the Depot Art Center


■ 10 a.m. Kayak slalom, behind Rabbit Ears Motel, $15

■ 2 p.m. 18 and younger junior rodeo, $10

■ 4 p.m. Practice runs for the Paddling Life Pro Invitational


■ 10 a.m. Creek race for the Paddling Life Pro Invitational, starts at middle Fish Creek/water treatment plant

■ 1 p.m. Freestyle event for the Paddling Life Pro Invitational

■ 6 p.m. Awards party, Boathouse Pub on Yampa Street

— Thirty years ago, a group of river lovers in what became the Friends of the Yampa organization started the Yampa River Festival as a way to promote and protect recreational activities on Steamboat Springs’ watery downtown thoroughfare.

A lot has changed in the years since, as wave after wave of revolution has swept across the kayaking and river boating communities.

But the goal remains the same, said Peter Van De Carr, a longtime organizer of the event and even-longer-time fan of the bubbling waters of the Yampa. When the 30th annual Yampa River Festival convenes this week in Steamboat Springs, it still will be a chance for old friends to meet up, and it still will be a chance for them to celebrate the river.

And it’s at least as important now as it was on that first spring day three decades ago.

“Many of the issues like user conflicts are the same, only now, because more people are involved and more people are in town, they’re more important,” Van De Carr said. “As we evolve, this all becomes more and more important because so many people want a piece of this pie.”

This year’s festival won’t feature any radical change from those of the past several years, but some new events will be added to the ever-growing itinerary.

Activities will kick off at 5 p.m. Friday with a registration party at Sunpie’s Bistro. Saturday will have a large collection of in-water activities highlighted by the kayak rodeo at Charlie’s Hole starting at 3 p.m. Sunday will feature a kayak slalom behind the Rabbit Ears Motel and a juniors rodeo, and Monday will mark the fifth edition of the Paddling Life Pro Invitational kayaking competition.

Van De Carr said although the heart of the event has remained the same throughout the years, the crafts people use to enjoy the waters haven’t.

That’s a trend that will continue. Riverboards made their debut last year at the festival, but only as a demonstration activity.

A noon Saturday surf competition this year will greatly increase their presence. A stand-up paddleboard demonstration also will help usher in what could be a new wave of river recreating.

“They’re the closest thing you can go to Malibu here in Steamboat,” organizer Eugene Buchanan said about the stand-up paddleboards.

The raft race, crazy river dog competition and tube rodeo all will be back. Both human events cost $10 to enter, and both come with prizes, including more than $700 in advertising in Steamboat Magazine for the winners of the raft race and $100 for the best tuber. The river dog competition costs $15.

As in years past, parties will cap each night. Saturday’s will end with a get-together at the Depot Art Center with Randy Kelley and Sundog playing, and Monday’s professional event will end with a party at Boathouse Pub.

“It’s great having multiple days of events, then big parties,” Buchanan said. “It’s like being on a river trip. You’re down there paddling all day long, have a big communal dinner and sit around the campfire with a guitar, then wake up and do it again.

“It’s all like a river trip down the Yampa canyon.”

— To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 871-4253 or e-mail jreichenberger@steamboatpilot.com


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