An event in the Mt. Hood National Forest will soon take participants to the whitewater rapids of the Clackamas River.
The 36th annual Upper Clackamas Whitewater Festival is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, May 18 and 19. Organized by the Northwest Rafters Association, the event takes place along the Clackamas River about 17 miles north of Estacada near Carter Bridge.
A series of competitive events provide serious whitewater enthusiasts an outlet to showcase their skills and gives beginning river rats the opportunity to get their feet wet. The event is a popular one in the whitewater community, typically drawing more than 150 people.
"We offer the most diverse community of boaters of any event in the country," said festival Chairman Bob Mosier. "We include everything ... kayaks, rafts, drift boats, innertubes and canoes."
This year, the competitive events kick off with the Cronin Inflatable Kayak Slalom, during which participants must navigate through a series of gates on the river as quickly as they can. Other activities include the NRS Oar Boat Slalom Race, MadCatr Cataraft Slalom Race, the SOTAR Inner Tube Slalom, DRL Cataraft Freestyle Rodeo and Val's Volleyball, which requires participants to keep a large "volleyball"-like buoy near their boat as they make their way down the river.
Awards ceremonies on both Saturday and Sunday will honor the top participants in each competition.
Comparing choosing a preferred festival event to selecting a favorite child, Mosier noted he enjoys the mass-start events, during which participants begin at the same time.
"Everyone is racing head to head and trying to come in first place," he said. "It's a whole lot of fun to watch."
Luke Spencer, event co-chair and kayak events coordinator, noted that last year, a new element of the festival was canoe racing, which is more common on the East Coast than in the west.
"To see people navigating rapids in a canoe is a phenomenal thing," he said. "We're used to (navigating) rapids in hard-shell kayaks. Canoes seem crazy."
The festival also features a series of boat demos and safety clinics so everyone can learn more about ways to stay safe while running whitewater rapids. This year, topics include emergency raft repair, unpinning boats, and water-and-rope rescue training.
For those who wish to participate in any of the events, registration is available online at www.upperclackamasfestival.org/registration. Participants can also register at the festival and should do so at least one hour before the event they choose.
In addition to locals, the weekend draws attendees from Idaho, Washington and Southern Oregon and features a mix of beginning and advanced competitors.
Those involved with the event enjoy seeing familiar faces each year.
For Mosier, one of the best parts of the festival is "seeing the advancement of the skills level of all these people."
"It's really a community-based event," Spencer said. "It's fun to see everybody gather."
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