Northwest River and Paddling Events

Take on thrilling whitewater, learn a new boating skill, enjoy a relaxing paddle, or compete in your preferred paddles sports pursuit at one of these Northwest on-water events.

Northwest Paddling Festival (May 10-11)

This Festival is hosted at Lake Sammamish State Park near Seattle. Although not on a river, this is great event for paddlers of all types. If looking to purchase a new paddle craft, put this event on your list. According to the festival website, there are over 60 paddle sport vendors and businesses selling the latest equipment. This event also features a variety of seminars to attend, from standup paddleboard (SUP) yoga to kayak fishing. If you want to test your skills, there is also a 2-mile and 6-mile race on Lake Sammamish for kayakers, SUPers, and outriggers. Attendance is free except for the fee for a Discover Pass.

Upper Clackamas Whitewater Festival (May 18-19)

This year is the 36th annual Upper Clackamas Whitewater Festival at Carter Bridge on Oregon’s Clackamas River. If you are looking to race, this is the festival for you. It boasts 10 different raft events, six different kayak events, and two SUP events. However, this festival isn’t just about competition. There are two clinics: one on un-pinning your boat and another on emergency raft repair. In the evening enjoy live music by Balance Trick and a beer garden and barbecue that starts at 4:30 p.m. on the 18th.

Bigfork Whitewater Festival (May 24-26)

Like the Upper Clackamas Whitewater Festival, this is a long-running competition held in Bigfork, Mont., that is on its 44th year. The festival features mainly slalom events in which competitors must make it through gates on designated sections of the river. There are rafts, kayaks, and decked canoes that compete in the slalom competitions. In order to compete in the giant slalom competition, kayaks and decked canoes must compete in a down river race, which is a mile long sprint down a class IV section of the Swan River. There is also a 1.25-mile, flat-water SUP race. If you are looking for a multi-sport event, then sign-up for the whitewater triathlon that features paddling, biking, and running segments.

Lochsa River Madness (May 25-27)

Madness is exactly what this event on Idaho’s Lochsa River and at the Wilderness Gateway Campground is about. People from all spectrums of the whitewater community converge over Memorial Day weekend to this informal gathering at a typically peak flow on the Lochsa River. This brings about much carnage entertainment on the river as well as in the evening, too. There is a “movie” contest on Sunday night at the group shelter at Wilderness Gateway Campground. According to Idaho Whitewater Association’s website, the Wilderness Gateway Campground is sold out for the 2019 event, but campers can head to the first come, first serve Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest campgrounds nearby.

Big Water Blowout River Festival (June 1)

This day-long event allows visitors to experience class III and IV rapids along the Salmon River and the second deepest river gorge in North America. Bring your own kayak or raft or take advantage of discounted guided trips. If you would rather stay dry, catch the action from the shore or bridge.  The event also typically includes a Dutch oven cook-off in Riggins City Park. Enjoy live Americana and bluegrass music this year by High Pine Whiskey Yell. Check Facebook for updates.

Spokatopia Outdoor Adventure Festival (July 13-14)

Try a wide range of paddleboards, kayaks, canoes, and other watersports gear, as well as mountain and pavement-friendly bikes at one of the Northwest’s biggest outdoor gear demo events. Live music, a beer garden, over 50 outdoor-oriented exhibitors, and kids’ activities happen all weekend long at Spokane’s Camp Sekani Park and Boulder Beach on the Spokane River. A SUP race is also in the works.

Paddle, Splash and Play (July 20)

This local event on Lake Spokane is a great introduction to a variety of paddling for kids and adults a like. According to Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club, canoes, sea kayaks, whitewater kayaks, inflatable kayaks, recreational kayaks, standup paddle boards, and personal flotation devices (PFDs) are provided. However, they recommend that if you have your own lifejacket or PFD that you bring it. Kids are free and everyone over 18 is just $5.00. Since this event is located at the Nine Mile Recreation Area north of Spokane, you will either need to have a Discover Pass or buy one on-site. // (Leah Hillbrand & Derrick Knowles)

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