As the snow covered mountains begin to melt this spring/summer, the creeks are transforming into rushing whitewater rapids. A perfect way to cool off with summer fun in the mountains. These spots become a hotbed of fast-paced kayaking and rafting all over North America. Here are the 7 best whitewater kayak races in a ski-town near you.
The Best Whitewater Kayak Races In North America (in order of appearance):
Don’t watch all the excitement on TV or YouTube this season. Get out there and enjoy the best whitewater kayak events in person!
Little White Salmon Race – White Salmon, Washington
March 26th, 2022
In kayaking circles around North America, the Little White Salmon River is the stuff of legends. A tributary of the mighty Columbia, it’s considered one of the most difficult regular run rivers on the West Coast. It makes sense that the Little White Salmon race, named after this river, is thought to be the Pacific Northwest’s marquee extreme race due to its challenge.
Reno River Festival – Reno, Nevada
May 7-8, 2022
Located smack dab in the center of Reno, this isn’t just a whitewater kayak event. It’s a full-on festival filled with music, drinks, and all kinds of fun! Don’t worry – kayaking is still the main headliner with over 60 professionals from France, Great Britain, and Austria competing for over $10,000 in prize money. Don’t miss out on the Reno River Festival!
Neilson River Race – Saint Raymond, Quebec
May 21, 2022
Another home grown grass roots kayak event, this race is located off a dirt road 30 minutes outside of Saint Raymond, Quebec. It starts at the Big Eyes Rapid and follows the river for approximately 6 km. Filled with class IV and V rapids, the race finishes up at the famed Double Drop. A little different from the other races mentioned, teams consist of two racers and the time trial ends when BOTH members cross the finish line.
Upper Clackamas Whitewater Festival – Estacada, Oregon
Started in 1984, this shindig is a fun and exciting way to enjoy all whitewater related activities including SUP endurance events, inflatable kayaking, and head to head races! There’s a smorgasbord of contests to watch. But that’s not all. They also demo equipment and host advanced rowing clinics to bring your skills up to the next level.
Bigfork Whitewater Festival – Bigfork, Montana
May 27-29, 2022
In its 47th year, the Bigfork Whitewater Festival is the oldest running whitewater race on our list. Located in Flathead Valley, not far from Whitefish Ski resort, this last mile of the Swan River is all class IV rapids! Nicknamed the “Wild Mile”, this segment of river flows through the town of Bigfork which has a nature trail following the river, giving spectators the perfect venue to watch from. Over the years, this event has even been part of professional circuits such as the Kayaking Pro Circuit and the Western Whitewater Championship series.
North Fork Championship – Banks, Idaho
June 16-18, 2022
When we visited McCall, ID, we heard rumors about the North Fork River. Little did we know this river is home to an extreme kayak race called the North Fork Championship. Halfway between McCall and Boise is a place named Banks, Idaho. With three races and a whitewater kayak film event called the Melt Awards, this is a true breeding ground for serious kayakers.
The Green Race
November 5, 2022
Compared to the rest of these frothy kayak events that are fed by snowmelt, this southern bell is surprisingly held in Fall. Located just outside of Asheville North Carolina on the Green River narrows, more than 2,000 spectators hike into the Gorge. With a 170+ racers battling it out at the end of the North American season, it’s no wonder they call themselves the “Super Bowl of Kayaking.”