The Pacific Northwest’s Upper Clackamas Whitewater Festival is an annual weekend event for members of the whitewater community to join in on some friendly competition, keep up on their safety standards and share some great stories. This year’s 28th annual festival was no different and we had a wonderful time working with other companies and outfitters dedicated to the sport. Northwest Rafting Company and ECHO showed up with 12 stellar river guides to spend the weekend competing in as many whitewater races as possible.

One of the first races (and our personal favorite) was the inflatable kayak mass start. Participants line up at the top of the class IV Carter Falls and navigate their way between two gates (two poles suspended above the water) in the river. The first person to make it through both gates and to the bottom of the rapid wins. Although its an absolute blast to enter this race as a kayaker, its equally fun for spectators to see the resulting carnage as one of the gates is in the heart of the rapid, and usually sends quite a few participants swimming through the rest of the whitewater. Here’s some GoPro head cam footage of one of our guides until he too took a swim through Carter Falls rapid.

We competed (and won trophies) in most of the individual events, but our main focus was the R-6 series races. R-6 is rafter-speak for a raft powered by 6 people, each person digging their paddle into the frothy whitewater in order to navigate through the course. The competition involved 4 races: downriver sprint, downriver (a longer trip at 7 miles), slalom (maneuvering to get through all of the gates), and head to head (as highlighted in this video by Sheer Madness Productions). Points were won for each race and the team with the most points at the end of 4 races wins the competition. Due to our hard work, mad skills and perseverance, we won all four races!

This year’s festival featured an exciting addition that we felt was an honor – for the first time, the United States Raft Association (USRA) held their national competition synonymously with the standard events. We weren’t able to directly compete with the fastest teams in the country in the professional category (as we were a coed team), but we competed alongside them as we ran downriver under the recreational category. We won each race in our category and we watched in awe as the Colorado male team dominated the professional category. These 9 time National Champions had spectacular power and perfect unison, making them a joy to watch compete.

Our very own Oregon Rafting Team took third place in the professional category behind the two teams from Colorado. They put up a good fight with the results being pretty close in each event

Zach Collier is the owner of Northwest Rafting Company.

about author Zach Collier

Zach Collier owns Hood River based Northwest Rafting Company. He spends his winters exploring new rivers and summers guiding on the Rogue River. He's paddled and guided trips around the world, but chose to call Oregon home due to the abundance of amazing whitewater rivers.

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