Royal Gorge Whitewater Festival continues to paddle on
The Royal Gorge fire has wreaked havoc on Arkansas River rafting outfits, closing the gorge to paddlers for over a week due to downed cables and the potential for falling debris, but the show will go on at Canon City’s Royal Gorge Whitewater Festival today and Saturday.
This year, for the first time, the popular festival is also playing host to whitewater rafting nationals. While the upper portions of the course are still closed until further notice, organizers have a contingency plan that includes using the Royal Gorge railroad, which usually offers scenic gorge tours, to shuttle rafts to a starting point just below where the cables have forced the closure.
The train will still operate for spectators to follow the racing action.
Festival officials and rafting outfitters are also hopeful that efforts to remove the cables may be finished in time for the competitors to run the entire length of the gorge and for commercial trips to resume.
“It’s a tight window,” said Will Colon, a festival organizer and rafting company owner. “This could all change at any minute.”
Engineers have been on hand the last few days to assess damage to the Royal Gorge Bridge and tram. As of Thursday, they had cleared the north rim of the gorge of any downed cables and the potential for falling debris. Crews continued to work on the south rim to remove cables in the river Thursday.
Beyond the potential for a shortened course, all activities for the festival are scheduled to go on as planned.
“It’s boats, bands and beer,” said Colon. He still expects a good turn out, especially with the addition of rafting nationals.
Canon City is the base of operations for the festival. There will be live music, food and a variety of whitewater competitions, including whitewater rodeos, stand up paddleboarding races and a number other competitions in Canon City’s playpark.
Funds raised from the festival support Canon City’s outdoor activities. In years past it helped raise money for the play park and other community programs.
More information and event schedules are available at http://www.royalgorgewhitewaterfestival.com/
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