In the world of whitewater festivals, no weekend is more recognized than the third one in June, when river enthusiasts pour into the small mountain town of Salida, Colorado to paddle, party, and play during FIBArk, American’s oldest and boldest whitewater celebration.
It’s easy to tell when the festival, also known as First in Boating on the Arkansas, is near. Trucks and trailers stacked with rafts, standup paddleboards, and kayaks crowd the streets, the population of dogs sporting life jackets doubles, and the river fills with everyone from novice to Olympic boaters. Eventually, 10,000 people will ascend on Salida for FIBArk, which safeguarded its place on the whitewater calendar sixty-seven years ago.
On June 19,1949, six teams entered the Arkansas River in Salida with hopes of winning a race 57 miles downriver. In the end, only one boat with a team of two Swiss men reached the finish line. Their victory ignited something in the whitewater world, bringing attention to the difficulties and excitement associated with racing downriver and starting the world famous FIBArk festival.
While the festival still holds the Downriver Race, FIBArk’s signature event, it now offers freestyle kayak competitions, standup paddle board races, a Crazy River Dog competition, and a Hooligan race, which is open to anything that floats. In addition to water-based events, FIBArk has extended its activities onto land, where it now hosts mountain bike races, a parade, a carnival, live music, running races, dozens of whitewater and craft vendors, and the Chain Drain, a disc golf competition in nearby Poncha Springs.
Though Salida is a small town, FIBArk will surprise you with the intensity of its fearless river competitors, its revelers, and its endless number of activities for all. For more information, visit www.fibark.com.
Where to Stay:
- Palace Hotel – A boutique hotel located in the heart of historic downtown and next to the Arkansas River & park
- Tudor Rose B&B and Chalets – Enjoy 37 secluded acres with stunning mountain views and close proximity to downtown
- Poncha Lodge – A charming, affordable cabin-style lodge
- Simple Lodge & Hostel – Partake in the most social lodging experience in all of Salida
- 4 Seasons RV Park – Be close to town without being in town while camping on the banks of the Arkansas River
Where to Eat:
- Amicas Pizza & Microbrewery – Handmade pizzas, handcrafted beer, salads, and desserts in a welcoming & healthy atmosphere
- Little Cambodia – Authentic Asian comfort food in the heart of Salida with great Pho, spring rolls, eggrolls, and patio seating
- Shallots Restaurant – A modern American restaurant featuring Salida’s only craft cocktail bar.
- Currents Steak & Seafood – The locals’ choice for beer, wine, and surf & turf created from Colorado sourced, house-made ingredients.
Where to Imbibe:
- Elevation Beer Company – Beers brewed for the outdoor enthusiast & hard-working man alike such as easy-drinking classics, unique seasonals, specialty Belgian ales, and barrel aged beers
- Hubbub Brewing – Brewing delicious craft beers and providing a friendly place to gather
- Vino Salida Wine Cellars – Sip lovingly crafted Colorado wine, mead, & vermouth in their new wine bar and tasting room
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Lindsay Diamond is a novelist and freelance writer living in the mountains of central Colorado. Visit writerlindsaydiamond.wordpress.com to learn more.