Upper Clackamas Whitewater Festival – Best USA Festivals


Carter Bridge Day Use Area,

17 miles southeast of Estacada on SR 224

Late May


Upper Clackamas Whitewater Festival – Best USA Festivals Photo Gallery

Launched, so to speak, in 1984 by the Northwest Rafter’s Association, the Upper Clackamas Whitewater Festival is a weekend of fun, exciting (and safe) whitewater activities, annually rallying hundreds of attendees and competitors who share a love of boating swift rivers in a variety of watercraft. Whitewater enthusiasts comprise a passionate and dedicated family, and this weekend-long festival has become a popular and high-spirited gathering. Even nonboaters enjoy watching the competitive events for rafts and kayaks of various kinds, as well as stand-up paddleboards.

The river races begin Saturday morning and feature a variety of classic events: oar boat slalom, paddle boat slalom, cataraft slalom, drift boat slalom, inflatable kayak mass start, hard-shell kayak mass start, inflatable kayak slalom, and the Boater X Kayak Race, in which heats of four kayakers compete for points toward the Western Whitewater Championship Series. All the races course through multistep Carter Falls, a Class IV drop that requires advanced whitewater skills, and qualified boaters can register in advance or onsite for the races (the modest race entry fees must be paid in cash onsite).

The whitewater fest also includes several unique and entertaining events. One of the most popular is the innertube slalom race, which draws lots of enthusiastic onlookers: racers in inner tubes challenge Carter Falls, trying to hit as many slalom gates as possible. Another crowd favorite is Val’s Volleyball, in which cataraft experts must try to keep “Wilson,” a giant white inflatable, between the pontoons while navigating the slalom course—and Wilson can’t be touched by hand, only by boat and oars. The Cataraft Rodeo also draws enthralled crowds eager to watch some of the region’s most skilled cat-boat drivers perform stunts while navigating the course, with judges awarding points for surfing holes, trick maneuvers, and showmanship.

In addition to the races, the Upper Clackamas Whitewater Festival includes a variety of free clinics and demonstrations on Saturday, and after the races, attendees and participants are invited to a picnic and beer gardens with live music until 9 pm. The festival’s vendor section features the top names in whitewater gear, along with various river advocacy groups. The festival venue, Carter Bridge Day Use Site, and the swift, beautiful Clackamas River, is seventeen miles upstream (southeast) from Estacada via State Route 224.

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