Lifestyle Rivers Wallace

AARON ERDRICH’S BEST FESTS ~ 11 River Festivals You Can’t Miss in 2017.

EDITOR’S DESK: Aaron Erdrich is the biggest Dirt Bag IN THE WORLD. Hands down. He boats hundreds of days every year, sending stouts around the country as a sponsored rafter in his Hyside Mini Max, Paddlecat, or Paddlelac IK, depending on what he’s feelin’ that day. AE will send the gnarliest Class V, send stouts that are stories high, score first descents, and he’ll also downshift and go out with his buddies on some easy stuff or take a beginner out as his partner for the day if that’s what’s happening. This is why he is the Dirt Bag of the Year!

It’s also why Aaron Erdrich is the man to ask what whitewater festivals you should be doing in 2017 if you’re a Dirt Bag living in the USA. He attended many of them last year, racing – and winning! – at any that hosted events, and generally paddlin’ & partyin’ like a true DBP Admin does. We asked AE to put together a top 10 list, and as usual he went over the top to serve up ELEVEN can’t miss whitewater parties around America that you’re sure to see him at!

EDITORS NOTE: Check out whitewater events around the world on our interactive online calendar, and contact us to get your own event added!

“River festivals are a great way to meet up with other boaters, test your skills, push your limits, see old friends and maybe make a few new ones. Whether you kayak, raft, canoe, SUP, or riverboard, river festivals and races are fun! Here are a few to check out this upcoming season, in no particular order…”

1- Gauley Fest. They call it the Super Bowl of rafting for a reason. Gauley Fest is the largest boating festival in the world, bringing dirtbags from across the country every September for runs on the Gauley River and the party of a lifetime. This fest is not at all for the faint of heart- don’t be surprised to see wild contests or local reds trying to back flip over the firepit… Club Boaters beware.

2- Muddy Rivers Fest. This is one of the newer festivals on the list but it’s awesome. Held in March, the festival is held in Cookeville, Tennessee located between Knoxville and Nashville. “MuRF” draws in several great musicians every year and Spring Creek is just up the road from the campground, offering fun class 3+ creeking. Cookeville is also home to Jackson Kayaks and they help throw the festival, making for a great time, and all the proceeds go to Team River Runner. Dirt Bag Paddlers is pleased to be sponsoring the race this year!

3- Northwest Creeking Comp. I haven’t been to this one yet but the idea of racing rafts down Canyon Creek makes me want to go!! The festival is located about an hour and change north of Portland, Oregon and is being held in April this year. Even if I don’t make it you’re GUARANTEED to see many DBP Admins representing!

4- Beaver River Rendezvous aka Beaver Fest … Held every year on labor day weekend in upstate New York, there are releases on the Raquette, Eagle, and Mosier section of the Beaver River. To wet your appetite, this festival is part of the Kings of New York series. I wasn’t there last year but had a blast the year before.

5- FIBArk. The oldest boating festival in the country, “First in Boating the Arkansas” aka FIBArk is held every June in Salida, Colorado. DBP has set up a booth there for the last two years. Events feature raft, kayak, and stand up paddleboard racing. The festival is also the fair in Salida so you can watch pros like Dane Jackson and Bren Orton compete from a ferris wheel while eating an elephant ear and sipping on a cold beer… #multitasking…

6- Cheat Fest. When the Cheat and the Big Sandy are running this is one festival you don’t wanna miss out on. Held the first weekend of May every year in Albright, West Virginia the bluegrass music after paddling all day is top rank. DBP has donated items to the silent auction that benefits Friends of the Cheat since 2014, so bring a few extra bucks to bid on some cool swag.

7- Bailey Fest. A classic paddle and party in the heart of Colorado, I had so much fun last year after being washed out the year before. Options abound, with Bailey being a really high quality IV+/V- paddling, Foxton (III-IV) closeby, and Waterton Gorge (class III) also an option. After the river the fun really begins!! Typically occurring in late Summer, there’s no definitive date or location hence no website… But TRUST ME the organizers will invite DBP and me and we will get the word out when that happens! Stay tuned…

8- Russell Fork Rendezvous. Held every October on the Class V classic Russell Fork in Elkhorn City, Kentucky, the best part of this fest is the Lord of the Fork Race, followed closely by the party. You may have seen pictures of my ass as I Wallaced to victory here. The Rendezvous is hosted by our homies at Bluegrass Whitewater Association and proceeds benefit American Whitewater. Enjoy some shine and hardcore paddling!

9- Tallulah Fest. The future of this classic Southeastern party is up in the air, which is unfortunate because this river and the people who know and love it are truly amazing! Traditionally held in April in Clayton, Georgia the river is high quality Class V and the party is SOOOO Dirt Bag that past organizers have stepped back… Expect someone truly DB to step up and fill the void… STAY TUNED…

10 & 11- Pesh Fest and Frank Fest. Last but never least are our two whitewater Fests in Wisconsin, hosted by Dale #danewho Guarniere and Kosir’s Rapid Rafts, the original HQ of Dirt Bag Paddlers! This will be Pesh Fest’s second year in April on the classic Northwoods river the Peshtigo in Silver Cliff. It’s Class III but the party is Class V, featuring DJ Daniel Young mixing drum and bass till the sun literally comes up.

Frank Fest, on Class IV Piers Gorge of the Menominee River, has been happening since 2014 with a downriver race, surf competition, and bangin’ Barn Party. The WIsco DBs get together to celebrate the life of our friend Frank Sade, one of the original Dirt Bags, who would’ve loved this real whitewater festival, with free camping and entry. Come to Wisconsin and paddle the whitewater where I got started on my path to Best Rafter In The World. And I bet you didn’t even know there WAS whitewater in the Midwest… Hahahaha! WALLACE. Depending on river levels we host Frank Fest anywhere from late July to early September. Stay tuned for more details.

The Dirt Bag Paddlers Facebook page has a long list of events, and we add more all the time!! Check it out on a regular basis to see what’s happening in your area, and message us to get an event added. We also have a link of worldwide happenings here at DBP MAGAZINE ONLINE.COM… The World’s Best Free Whitewater Publication!


By Chicago Mike

Editor-in-Chief "Chicago" Mike Toughill is co-founder of Dirt Bag Paddlers and former Peshtigo River Manager at Kosir's Rapid Rafts in Wisconsin. He's been Wallacing since 2003.

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