FIBArk, America’s Oldest and Boldest Whitewater Festival!

According to their website, “FIBArk aims to promote, preserve, protect, and enhance whitewater paddle sports in the greater Salida area through education, competition, and commemoration.” What does this actually involve? Glad you asked!

FIBArk follows the fun of PaddleFest occurring the third weekend of June in Riverside Park, Salida – less than 30 minutes away from our Buena Vista headquarters. The event engulfs the town and attracts whitewater aficionados from all around the world. The first FIBArk festival occurred in 1949; the name itself is an acronym for “First in Boating The Arkansas”. There is endless entertainment at FIBArk, but the pinnacle event, the reason people travel from around the world to be there is for the whitewater boat races.

Back in 1949 six brave crews paddled down the Arkansas in an attempt to take on 57 miles of river spanning from Salida to the other end of the Royal Gorge in Cañon City. Only two boaters completed the course. The next year, officials decided to shorten the course to 45 miles cutting out the gnarly Royal Gorge portion to end at Parkdale. This too was too ambitious, only one out of the 10 boaters made it to the end.

Fortunately the old adage, “Third time’s the charm” proved itself true when the course was cut to 25.7 miles spanning from Salida to Cotopaxi. This eliminated the need for portages and ten out of the eleven boaters completed the course. Today, we still use these sections of the river for the race making it the longest whitewater race in the United States.

In these early years, participants would use every conceivable vessel to float down the river: DIY converted airplane bellies, pontoons, and catamarans. These creative watercrafts eventually lead to one of the most fun events of FIBARK: The Hooligan Races. The rules for entering are extremely straightforward: “anything that floats that’s not a boat,” is fair game! While extremely entertaining both for spectators to watch and participants to navigate, these unorthodox vessels typically don’t fare so well in terms of taking on the rapids…

The most successful in the early days of FIBArk were the sit-inside kayaks. Their maneuverability and lightweight made them ideal for navigating the rapids along the river. This opened the door for Slalom races. In the early 1950’s these races were gaining popularity throughout Europe, however they were nonexistent in the United States.

FIBArk changed this thus becoming the birthplace of whitewater racing competitions. Boaters from around the world were invited to take on the challenging course where they were judged on their ability to clear gates. Point are docked for missing gates or hitting them and the racer who is able to make it through with the least amount of these errors and fastest time wins. Slalom racing is now an Olympic sport with many athletes training right here on the Arkansas River.

Today, FIBArk is so much more than a series of races. The festival, while officially a three day affair, truly spans over the course of the week. There is a carnival, beer garden, live music spanning throughout the day and into the evening, a parade, seminars for new paddlers and those looking to improve their skills, and so much more! Book your whitewater rafting trip and make the most of your time in the Arkansas River Valley by checking out FIBArk this summer.

Colorado Rafting River Guide:

Colorado Rafting River Guide
Check out our detailed information about the rivers you can raft across Colorado.

What Our Guests Say:

Sarah was fantastic! Very knowledgeable and very fun! Best trip ever, even the low water! We will be back again!
Barbara L.
The trip, your people, your facility never get old.
Fred P.
We feel we have found new friends in Wilderness Aware and plan on spending time in the future with you.
Susie S.
From the enthusiastic greetings when we arrived at the office this am, all service was top notch.
John D.
I love the staff!! Very entertaining and welcoming. This was a great rafting experience. I want to come back tomorrow and do it again!
Bailey W.
Been rafting six times around the country. Best trip and guide so far.
James H.
We had an awesome time! All staff we dealt with were very personable and helpful. I can’t imagine anything you could do to improve!
Rusty B.
Matt was the most enthusiastic and exciting guide I have ever had… and I have done this a lot.
Carl M.
We had an awesome time. I would definitely recommend your company!
Leona H.
Good job, as usual. Our 5th or 6th trip with WA. Big fans of WA.
Tim S.
I loved my experience at WA and will definitely be back with more people.
Cory D.
Very professional yet very informal approach—not an easy combination to sustain—nice team—office included.
Mark W.
This company is quality. Six years ago I did the same trip with Jack, Ian, and Kelly and the quality is as good today.
Chris G.
Your staff and guides were so helpful and so much fun. My kids ranked that half-day trip as the highlight of our month long trip!
Patty G.
Sarah, our guide, was the consummate professional.
Becky M.
Family friend always said Wilderness Aware Rafting was the best. I totally agree!
Angie D.
This was my first rafting experience and you guys made it awesome! Thank you so much!
Jamie L.
Your internet advertising was great. People who answered the phone very helpful and the guides top notch. Seems like your manager has done a wonderful job. I see why you are a successful company.
Phil G.
Pete was great. Extremely friendly and he took great care of us and really put our group first. Our trip was relaxing and fun!
Erin L.
I started rafting at WA in 1999 and have always had a good time. I highly recommend WA to anyone who wants to raft.
Marty E.
I would like to commend your staff on their great teamwork and enthusiasm. This was the highlight of our trip to Arizona.
Michele E.
I work in safety – wish I could get all our regional safety folks to present their safety meetings with the same enthusiasm and professionalism.
Karla S.
This trip surpassed all of my expectations.
Amy B.
Very pleasant and enjoyable experience. Rafted four other times and this was the best.
Linda H.
You are great to work with and your guides are fun to be around and well trained. Each experience I’ve had with you (3) has been excellent.
Dawn R.
This was the highlight of our trip to Colorado!
Beth G.
When I made our reservation I knew we were going to have a fantastic time. Everything that happened today exceeded my expectations.
Mark E.
Best time I’ve had on the river in the past 15 years!!!! Will return soon!!!
Dylan S.
We’ve been with a lot of different rafting companies over the years and we have never used the same company twice but everyone on the trip agreed that your company is the best!
Lisa P.
Thanks for the great time on the river. You do a super job of taking care of your crews.
Jan P.
The entire staff from reservations to first contact to trip guide was friendly and helpful. Our Scouts had an outstanding time!
Ken T.
Appreciate your professional and fun staff! Will definitely return next year!
Dana Q.
Frenchie was the best guide I’ve ever had! This is a great company and I will definitely be telling friends about it!
Jamin R.
It was the best first experience in rafting. Ben was awesome!! Five stars!
Kirby S.
We have rafted round the world and this is by far the best—best trained guides, best safety, best food, best fun. Thanks.
Jane H.
I have rafted with other companies before but I found your company and Mike, our guide, to be outstanding! I will be back!
Joe M.
I want to raft again and again and well you get the point…again.
Levi V.
One of the best times of my life!
Dylnn R.
We booked our trip cold off the internet and found from the very beginning a very friendly and courteous staff that helped out and answered all our questions.
Carolyn W.
We started rafting with you in 1988. This is our fourth trip. Will be back.
Jim L.

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