There is an old saying among Steamboat locals: “I came for the winters, but I stayed for the summers”. That’s because while the winter brings the snow and great skiing that attracts visitors from all over the world, Steamboat summers are a big reason many of us chose to move here permanently. And in my opinion, there might not be a more quintessential Steamboat summertime activity than playing in the Yampa River.
Whether your preference is fly fishing, kayaking, tubing, or just enjoying a cold beverage on a riverside patio, the centerpiece for Steamboat summertime recreation is the Yampa. Like many of us here in Steamboat, nearly all of my weekend activities are spent on, in, or along its banks.
And that’s why every year, in order to celebrate the amazing river that flows right through the center of town that provides so much to both Steamboat locals and visitors alike, the city hosts the Yampa River Festival—a three-day event centered around the Yampa River and river-based recreation. This year’s event, the 34th annual, will be held May 30th, 31st, and June 1st 2014 in downtown Steamboat Springs. The Yampa River Festival includes kayak competitions, raft races, stand up paddle board events, a river dog contest, and the (in)famous tube rodeo. All of the events are free to the spectating public.
The “River Fest,” as it is commonly known, is undoubtedly one of Steamboat’s most unique summertime events. Most of the events take place at Charlie’s Hole, known colloquially as the C-Hole, behind Bud Werner Memorial Library, where the crowds can enjoy food or drink from one of the local vendors while watching Steamboat’s most skilled kayakers and stand up paddle boarders duke it out for the coveted King or Queen of the River Awards.
But it is certainly not all high skills and seriousness. The highlight of the weekend may be the event that takes the least skill of all—the tube rodeo. If you’ve never seen a grown adult try to ride a tube into a standing wave while wearing a spandex body suit, well, you just haven’t quite lived. And you certainly haven’t been to a Yampa River Festival.
– Soren Jespersen