Celebrate the River – 2024 River Festival Schedule

A Celebration of the Water and Embracing River Festivals

Flowing for thousands of years through landscapes, rivers are not merely bodies of water but the lifelines of communities, weaving together stories of culture, history, and vitality. As the water rises in Spring, anticipation surges among river enthusiasts. Annual river fests stand as celebrations, honoring the river and the communities they nurture.

Festival events have morphed through the years; while some remain grounded in kayak competitions with Olympic caliber participants, others have opened up more activities for the general public and aim to share the joy of the river with everyone. Some have expanded and grown, while others have had to halt operations and these events are no longer held.  It usually takes many hours, volunteers, and a coordinated effort to put together a river festival.  From fast-paced competitions to river runs with friends, these festivals are a chance to compete on and learn about the local river. Whether you’re entering a competition, joining the parade antics, or just being a part of the crowd, one thing remains; people come together and surround the river in celebration.

Choose from an array of river fests- GoPro Mountain Games, FIBark, and Gauley Fest boast larger events while Westfork Riverfest and Ridgway Riverfest are more closeknit. From dancing to a band with the entire town to surrounding yourself with only a few others around a campfire, we hope you take a moment to partake, watch an event, and learn about ways to protect and enhance our river corridors.

Competitions and Activities

At the heart of river festivals lie an array of competitions and activities, each echoing the spirit of the river. Whether it’s kayak races slicing through frothy rapids or fishing tournaments casting lines into tranquil waters, these events blend adrenaline with fun, catering to a spectrum of interests. Choose your spot at the festival – SUP, splash, raft, ride, kayak, boof, race, mosey, paddle, spectate, swim, or surf.

Kayak Races: Kayaks rush down the whitewater park as paddles slice through the water, navigating the twists and turns of the river, this is the hallmark of many river festivals. Kayak races not only showcase athleticism but also show their knowledge of reading the lines through rapids. From juniors who are just starting out to Olympic level athletes, be sure to check out a slalom race, kayak rodeo, or sprints.

Fishing Tournaments: Anglers gather at river festivals, casting lines into targets from one point. These tournaments are timed to test accuracy and efficiency in casting.

Raft Races: Downriver or slalom, this is exciting to watch as teams work together to battle for 1st. They maneuver up and down the river to get through gates or go head-to-head and see who can take the quickest lines with the strongest paddlers.

River Parades: A spectator favorite watching a line of watercrafts float through whitewater parks.

Stand Up Paddle Board: Watch the skill and balance these paddle boarders have as they race and weave through the river. It’s incredible to experience a very skilled participant stay standing up through large waves and maneuver through the whitewater park.

Photo courtesy of Gunnison River Festival

Embracing Community

Beyond the thrill of competition, river festivals serve as vibrant hubs, where people from all walks of life celebrate their connection to the river.

Environmental Awareness: River events often have the goal to serve as platforms for environmental education and conservation efforts, raising awareness about the importance of preserving these precious ecosystems. Event-goers gain insights into sustainable practices and the significance of protecting the river for future generations. For more information about protecting our river corridors, visit americanrivers.org.

Live Performances: Some events have live music performances, infusing the festival with energy and enthusiasm.

River festivals weave experiences, blending competitions, fun antics, community, music, education, parades, and more. Whether it is at the festival in town, rowing rapids on the stretch nearby, or down deep in a canyon, we hope you get out there and enjoy the water!

Upcoming 2024 river festivals to check out:


June 13-16, 2024

Salida, CO


Gunnison River Festival

June 21st and 22nd

Rancho del Rio on the Colorado River near Bond, CO


Royal Gorge Whitewater Festival

June 26th-27th

Cañon City, CO

Ridgway RiverFest

June 29, 2024

Ridgway, CO


Deerfield Fest

August 3, 2024

Charlemont, MA


Westfork Riverfest

August 10th-11th

Westfork, ME



August 23rd-25th

Gore Canyon, CO


Gauley Fest

Sept 19th-22nd

Nicholas County Veterans Memorial Park, Summersville, WV

Let us know other events we should add!


Photo courtesy of FIBark

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