While the world’s eyes are on Maryland’s Adventure Sports Center International for the World Slalom Championships this weekend, paddlers with more of a wild side will be at West Virginia’s Gauley Fest and a week later California’s Feather Fest for revelry, river running and raising funds for American Whitewater…
Entering its 31st year and regularly drawing thousands of attendees, Gauley Fest Sept. 19-21 has grown to become the largest river festival in the world, known as much for its wild partying (think mud wrestling, boxing and the provocative Pimp n’ Ho bash) as its paddling on the world-class Gauley. But more importantly Gauley Fest is also the largest membership drive for American Whitewater.
“All proceeds from the festival support American Whitewater’s river conservation and access works throughout the nation,” says AW executive director Mark Singleton. “It started in 1983 to celebrate the derailment of a hydro-electric project that would have disrupted the flows on the Gauley, and has grown to become the largest paddling festival in the world.”
Always held the third weekend of September, the festival is a showcase for American Whitewater, as well as hundreds of vendors who show up to sell 9and demo) their wares to the whitewater world. The festival features live entertainment, a whitewater marketplace, raffle, and a silent auction.
Companies like Confluence Outdoor, whose brands include Dagger, AT, Bomber Gear and Wave Sport, are on hand this year helping raise money and awareness for AW by raffling off kayaks and other gear throughout the weekend.
“Gauley Fest celebrates whitewater, rivers, and community, so it’s a perfect blend of everything we value,” says Jessica Prescott, marketing manager at Confluence Outdoor. “Not only is it a great opportunity to get the whitewater community together to celebrate a river we all love, but it benefits American Whitewater, which helps protect waterways all over the country.”
With prices remaining unchanged for over a decade, entrance Fees this year for all three days of the event (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday) is $30; for Friday and Saturday it’s $25; and for Saturday only $20.
The Kalob Griffin Band, better known to its devoted fans as the KGB, is a Pennsylvania bred, Philadelphia based outfit of Americana rock n’ rollers who strive to provide listeners on and off stage with an energetic and unique “KGB family” experience. Kalob Griffin (vocals/guitar), Rob Dwyer (guitar/mandolin/banjo), Eric Lawry (drums/vocals), John Hildenbrand (keyboards/vocals), and Jonathan Davenport (electric/upright bass) create a sound and live show that’s built around a variety of influences, tapping into multiple genres. The crew and their close knit team are centered in what the great pioneers stood for-hard work, good times, and building a community.
Hailing from Columbus, Ohio, the seven piece “Reggae / Rap / Rock” fusion, Shrub, has been rapidly gaining momentum and building a solid international fan base in the paddling and outdoor adventure community. Recently, Shrub released their first full-length album, Highceratops, which debuted in the Top 10 on the iTunes Reggae Charts. The album features guest appearances by C-Money from Slightly Stoopid, Dubmatix, and Kimberly Freeman from One-Eyed Doll. The band garners comparisons to artists like Sublime, The Dirty Heads, Atmosphere, Gym Class Heroes, and G. Love, but Shrub maintains an innately unique and raw sound all their own. With the addition of new guitar player, Kevin Oliver (former member of the world’s funkiest band, Parliament/Funkadelic – George Clinton), Shrub’s sound has now quickly become full-grown.
Can’t make it out for Gauley Fest? You can still support AW on the West Coast by attending its across-the-Rockies equivalent the Feather River Fest Dept. 26-28.
Over a decade ago the first recreational releases took place on the North Fork Feather as a requirement of a new hydroelectric power license. American Whitewater and Chico Paddleheads spent more than five years negotiating to make the recreational releases happen. Celebrate it all at the festival, held at the “Indian Jim” School and adjacent campground located at Plumas County mile marker 8.22 on Highway 70 near Tobin, CA.
There is free camping and parking at the Festival site, with additional free camping available one mile up-stream at Roger’s Flat or one mile down-stream at Tobin Vista.
On Friday, hit the National Paddling Film Festival at 6 pm (all Sierra Nevada beer sales are donated to American Whitewater). There’s also a raffle offering the chance to win a kayak and other paddling gear. On Saturday, take advantage of releases of 700 – 1,000 cfs beginning at 9 am and running continuously until 1 pm on Sunday. The releases are on the Rock Creek/Tobin reach of the North Fork Feather River, courtesy of, you guessed it, American Whitewater. Slalom races start at noon and last until 4 pm at the Festival site, with downriver race info available Saturday morning. That night it’s party time, and while maybe not quite as footloose as the Gauley Fest across the country, it serves up live bands, beer, a BBQ dinner, raffle, silent auction and river party rager until midnight.
Throughout the weekend, also enjoy free coffee service hosted by Chico Paddleheads (BYOC (cup)). Slalom and downriver race sign-ups begin at 11am at the School. Bonus: free coffee each morning!
“Both these events celebrate American Whitewater’s stewardship success,” says AW’s Singleton. “Wherever your boating adventures take you this fall, remember that American Whitewater’s river stewardship program is made possible through your membership support.”