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Upper Clackamas Whitewater Festival celebrates 30 years


The festival is one of the largest all whitewater shows on the West Coast

by: PHOTO BY JEFF BLEDSOE - The Upper Clackamas Whitewater Festival will celebrate its 30th anniversary in May.The Upper Clackamas Whitewater Festival will celebrate its 30th anniversary the weekend of May 18-19 at the Carter Bridge Area.

“It feels pretty good to get to 30 years,” said Event Chairman Bob Mosier.

Started in 1984 by the Northwest Rafters Association, the Upper Clackamas White Water Festival has grown into one of the Estacada area’s biggest attractions.

The festival began when a group of friends challenged each other to whitewater competitions through Carter Rapids.

Now, Mosier said, the festival is “probably the largest all whitewater show on the West Coast.”

This is so partly because the competitions span a variety of whitewater sporting forms, including drift boating, rafting, kayaking, inner-tubing and stand-up paddling.

Mosier’s involvement with rafting was sparked by attending the festival about 20 years ago. He enjoyed meeting competitors and vendors, and was thrilled by the competitions. Mosier has been running the festival for more than a decade.

“If people are interested in getting into whitewater rafting, this is a great place to meet people or just sit on the bank and watch the competition,” Mosier said. “There’s nothing as fun as watching all of the crash and burns and all of the drama of the competition.”

The 2013 festival will host 17 events. There will be 10 events for rafters, four for kayakers and three special events.

Although the festival has hosted the national rapids championships in the past, Mosier encourages recreational boaters “to come challenge themselves on our course.”

Mosier is excited to bring back the Inner Tube Slalom competition. “It was new last year and was a lot of fun, so we look forward to doing it again this year,” he said.

This year’s festival will hold its famous “Big Air Ramp” competition once again.

“It goes on a few other places, but not very many,” Mosier said. “We’re one of the few places that has been able to do it.”

For this competition, kayakers must launch themselves off a ramp while earning points on aerial tricks.

Most of the competitions are races, and especially exciting ones.

“These events are a lot of fun to watch because we have one of the few raft slalom courses,” Mosier said of the various rafting races. “We suspend ropes across the river, and we have a system to adjust the gates like you would with downhill skiing, where they hang down from the cable so you have to go through particular areas of the rapids in order to avoid penalties.”

As for the mass kayak event, boaters start onshore 100 yards upstream. The racers must get through the slalom gates with all competitors launching downstream at once.

The Boater X slalom event is a four-elimination race in which the boaters are timed in a longer downriver race to the end of the course.

As for the “Val’s Volleyball” event, using only their oars or boat to keep possession of a large boat buoy “volleyball,” boaters must keep the “volleyball” released downriver between the tubes of their boat. The competition course is made all the more challenging by the fact that it includes Carter Falls.

Other events this year include: “NRS Oar Boat Slalom Race,” “AIRE Mass Start Inflatable Kayak Race,” “Next Adventure Mass Start Kayak Race,” “MadCatr Catarcraft Slalom Race,” “Maravia Pro R-4 Raft Slalom Race,” “AIRE Inflatable Kayak Slalom Race,” “Sawyer SUP Whitewater Challenge,” “R-2 Raft Slalom Race,” “Vendors Cup-Whitewater Manufacturers Challenge,” “Next Adventure Down River Kayak Race,” “Koffler Boats Drift Boat Slalom,” “Next Adventure BoaterX Kayak Race Heat 1,” “UCWWF Paddle Team Slalom — R4-R6 Recreational Team Competition” and Cataraft Freestyle Rodeo.

The 2013 festival will feature a clinic called “Un-pinning Your Boat and Rope Systems, Strainers and Entrapments” by Keith Gellespie of Northwest Rescue. Vic LeGall of Goodwater Boat Works will teach an “Emergency Raft Repair” clinic as well. Both clinics are on Saturday, May 18.

There will be a barbecue along with music by the Everyday Prophets from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 18.

The event typically takes place mid-May each year and is made possible by a great deal of volunteer support and the fact that the Forest Service allows the festival to take place on national forest property.