We love a good whitewater festival weekend. From camping beside a river to meeting new friends to enjoying live music and a few good brews, paddling festivals are often one of the highlights of a whitewater lover's summer. For our roundup of great east coast festivals, we focused on fun events with a great festival vibe. Stay posted in spring 2017 as we cover great west coast festivals, as well as the whitewater race events you don't want to miss.
1. Palmer River Fest
May 19-22, Palmer Rapids, ON
We’re a bit biased about the Palmer River Fest. Held down the river from Rapid’s Madawaska River office, the weekend event is a collection of families, whitewater weekend warriors and die-hard river junkies. Held at the Paddler’s Co-op, the campground fills with kayakers and open boaters who come for the clinics, community and awesome party on the Saturday night.
2. Gauley River Fest
September 14-17, Summersville, WV
The iconic Gauley Fest began in 1983 to celebrate the derailment of a hydroelectric project that had it gone through would have affected flows on the Gauley River. Today the festival is the largest paddling festival in the world, and whitewater enthusiasts come from all over to appreciate the challenging river that has a limited time frame when it can be paddled.
3. Beaver River Rendezvous
Date TBD, Croghan, New York
The popular Beaver River Rendezvous has been happening at the end of the summer since 1988. Over three days, paddlers paddle the class II-IV Taylorville to a class V+ part of the Moshier section, and multiple releases on the Beaver make paddling super-varied.
4. Kipawa River Rally
This tiny gem of a festival takes place just outside the blink-and-you-miss-it town of Laniel, Quebec. Every year paddlers arrive at the gorgeous property of mountain man Scott Sorensen for a weekend of whitewater and to raise awareness about protecting the mighty Kipawa River. A release on the Kipawa means lengthy and exciting rapids, and the classic Hollywood Head to Head race on the Saturday always draws a crowd.
5. Cheat River Festival
May 5-6, Albright, WV
Friends of the Cheat hold the annual festival on the banks of West Virginia’s Cheat River. Boaters fill the festival grounds for two days of music from bands all over Appalachia, dancing and good vibes. The weekend kicks off with one of the largest mass start down river races in the country, known as the Cheat River “Massacre-ence.” Paddlers travel 10 miles through the Cheat Canyon, dropping at a maximum gradient of 40 feet per mile and tackling infamous rapids like Big Nasty and High Falls.
6. Deerfield Festival Weekend
June 23-25, Charlemont, MA
This year the epic whitewater weekend is combining two annual events—American Whitewater’s Deerfield Fest and Zoar Outdoor’s DemoFest. The weekend will bring together paddlers from all over the northeast for activities that showcase whitewater while raising funds and membership for American Whitewater. The Deerfield Fest has been happening for twenty years to celebrate the successful dam relicensing program that has brought 32 annual whitewater releases on the Dryway and 106 on Fife Brook.