Across the West, any town with a river running through it has water culture: Where ski bums and beach bums collide.
It’s a taste of the beach at 8,000 feet above sea level. Boats, rafts and boards are stacked on cars or hanging out of truck beds. A blend of professional and haphazard shuttles run hordes of river rats to and from put ins and take outs. Dogs are always soaking wet, and everyone is bronze tanned.
Five signs you’re in a river town
1) Parties on the boat
A good river town means a good river festival. That means plenty of competitions and whitewater, and that also means a river parade with some kind of debauchery afloat - and usually a costume party to boot. See: FIBark, Animas River Days, Royal Gorge Whitewater Festival.
2) Wet rodeos
Kayakers and spectators love a good whitewater rodeo, also known as freestyle or play boating, where they display incredible agility and command of their craft.
Many mountain river towns install man-made whitewater parks, allowing kayakers to further develop their skill sets. The parks also enhance natural features and can prolong the fun.
3) Bombproof boating
If kayaking is like winding through a mountain road on a speedy motorcycle, then whitewater rafting is like sitting on top of a Greyhound bus, bouncing from side-to-side.
Rafts can take up all shapes and sizes, from huge monstrosities that hardly budge in the gnarliest of torrents, to smaller crafts that can flip on a dime.
With washboard stomachs and no fear of what lies beneath, stand up paddle boarders converge on rivers and lakes with a calling. They can be found in the middle of huge bodies of water or dispersed along shores far from civilization, maybe even doing a little yoga on the water, or in whitewater parks actually surfing waves alongside kayakers.
5) River trippers
People from all walks of life are dropping what they’re doing and disappearing for days on end on so called “river trips.” They pack everything they need onto a few boats and set off into the sunset.
Whether a raging river with thrills by the hour, or a scenic float to kick back and take it all in, there is something alluring to all about traveling down the water.