It’s hard to believe, but this marks the 32nd year of Animas River Days, so basically it’s old enough to have kids and a 401k! No, seriously, Durango’s famous river festival and whitewater celebration at Santa Rita Park all started in 1985 when Nancy Wiley, a local river buff, put on Durango’s first whitewater rodeo.
Today, the three-day festival draws paddlers — as individuals and in teams — from around the world, and it has only gotten better since the addition of Durango’s Whitewater Park on the Animas River in 2012. The park has 12 rapid features, including Smelter Rapid, Corner Pocket and Ponderosa, and the rapids rate between Class III and Class IV depending on the river flow. This year, crowds can “ooh” and “aah” as teams from Red Bull, Badfish, Liquid Logic, Jackson Kayak, Pyranha, SOL and Hala compete at the Pro Level and as many local paddlers also show off their skills!
This past fall, a new entrance to the whitewater park opened above Smelter Rapid as a result of a city project, which added several fun drops on the right, middle and left lines, although organizers are advising to avoid the left line. The new entrance will make the Boatercross and Slalom races extremely exciting as they have to read and adjust to the rapids depending on the water flow!
Here are some highlights of Durango Animas River Days, June 1-3, 2017:
Thursday, June 1
The on-the-water fun doesn’t start until Saturday, but things get cooking Thursday, June 1, at the Animas City Theatre with films covering a wide variety of topics that will appeal to boaters and non-paddlers alike. Doors open at 6 p.m., so don’t be late!
Friday, June 2
Prelims will be 3-6 p.m. Friday, June 2, at Whitewater Park at Santa Rita Park. Registration opens to paddlers for all events at this time, too, although paddlers can register for each event until 30 minutes before.
Saturday, June 3
Today’s the big day on big water! While paddlers are making their way down the rapids, it’s a party on the shores where audiences can enjoy food all day. Don’t miss standup paddleboarders race the clock while they negotiate buoys and rapids to the finish line during the Downriver Sprint Challenge. And a surf competition in Colorado? Yep. Judges will score surfers on style and flow in a fast-paced river surfing competition. For the Smelter Smackdown Paddle Raft Race, teams of six paddlers will begin with a running mass start from the Ninth Street put-in, through the whitewater park and finish at Santa Rita Park.
The day wraps up with a River Parade and Parade Viewing Party at 6 p.m. at Santa Rita Park. A DJ will be spinning a riverside set, and the Ska Beer Garden and Toast Mobile Lounge will still be open! Here’s a full schedule of events:
Food Served Almost All Day
8:30-10:30 Kayak and Canoe Slalom
10:45 Start: Downriver Challenge Sprint
11:00 Start: Smelter Smackdown Raft Race
11:00-12:15 Boater Cross
11:30 AWARDS All Slalom Events
12:00 Ska Beer Garden and Toast Mobile Lounge Open
12:30 AWARDS Smackdown, Boater Cross and Downriver Challenge Sprint
12:45-2:00 Open Class Surf Competition: SUP/Surf
2:15 AWARDS Open Class Surf Competitions
2:00-2:45 Junior Freestyle Kayak
Sponsored by: 4Corner’s Riversports2:45-3:45 Open Class Freestyle Kayak Finals (Prelims Fri Night)
Sponsored by: 4Corner’s Riversports3:45 AWARDS Junior and Open Class Freestyle Kayak
3:00-4:45 Pro Surf Competition: SUP/Surf Finals
Sponsored by: Badfish
4:45-6:15 Pro Freestyle Kayak Finals (Prelims Friday Night)
6:00 River Parade Viewing Party @ Santa Rita Park
6:30-7:00 NEW EVENT! Retro Rodeo
8:00 AWARDS Retro Rodeo, Pro Surf Competition and Pro Freestyle
10:00 Late Night Dance Party @ El Rancho
While you’re in Durango for the 2017 Animas River Days, stay with us at the Durango Quality Inn! You can walk or ride your bike from our hotel or take the city trolley to Santa Rita Park to catch all the excitement. Book your room at the Quality Inn Durango now!