RIGGINS — As the sun melts the last vestiges of one of the most memorable winters in decades from the mountains, area rivers are roiling with snowmelt.Every June spring’s turbulent waters attract thrill seekers and onlookers to the Big Water Blowout River Festival in Riggins. Here, they’ll find the biggest waves of the season and tackle Salmon River rapids with names like the Pencil Sharpener and the Pancake Wave in North America’s second-deepest river gorge.
Area outfitters started the festival about 22 years ago as a way to bring people to town early in the season, said Matt Laine of Wild River Adventures, one the festival’s founding members and one of more than half a dozen participating outfitters. The outfitters offer guided, half-day river trips for $30 during the event, which is half the price of what trips cost the rest of the year, he said.
“People who haven’t gone big before can go big,” Laine said. “This is big water, this isn’t something for your first time if you don’t know if you like the water. We’re here to have a positive affect and have people fulfill their adrenaline needs.”
People interested in taking one of the discounted trips need to register with an outfitter in advance. They should be in good physical shape, Laine said. Whether or not teens will be allowed on the trips will depend on the water levels that day. If it’s flowing at 35,000 to 40,000 cubic feet per second, it’s a possibility, he said. As of Tuesday levels were at nearly 70,000 cubic feet per second.
“The media tells everyone how dangerous it is. We’re trying to change that,” Laine said. “It’s safe to do if you’re doing it right.”
The festival isn’t all about the water. There’s live music, booths, activities and a Dutch Oven Cook-off showcasing the talents of connoisseurs of cast-iron cooking. The cook-off is open to entrants and starts at 4 p.m. with judging at 7. The festival provides the charcoal and the plates. Categories include appetizers, entrees and desserts. Visitors can test the results for $5.
If You Go
What: Big Water Blowout River Festival
When: 9 a.m. MDT Saturday
Where: Riggins City Park, Riggins
Cost: Free, rafting trips are $30 and must be scheduled in advance.
Of Note: Cooking for the Dutch Oven Cook-off begins at 4 p.m. Sample plates are $5. Jeff Crosby and the Refugees of McCall play at 7 p.m.