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What you should know about this year’s Animas River Days

The 41st annual celebration features old and new traditions
Boatercross competitors battle it out in June 2022 during Animas River Days at the Durango Whitewater Park on the Animas River. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

The annual Animas River Days celebration will be held Friday to Sunday at Santa Rita Park. In a first for the event, it will be preceded by a Kickoff Party from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday at 2nd Deli & Spirits.

The 41st annual event, like all others, will be held “for the love of the river,” said Ashleigh Tucker, executive director of Animas River Days.

The spirit of Animas River Days is “bringing awareness, showing that kayaking is super fun, and hopefully promoting people to get out there and go boat and protect what we love,” she said.

Also in a first, part of this year’s event will be the Animas River Days Scholarship Program, which aims to award scholarships to six children for 4Corners Paddle School, classes for which typically cost $275.

Tucker said the goal of the Animas River Days Scholarship Program is “to create lifelong paddlers,” because “being able to go paddle on the river gives you a different perspective of why it's important to protect it.”

Residents can help fund the Scholarship Program and all of Animas River Days through an online auction in which they can “bid on a wide assortment of river gear, whitewater boats, and items from local Durango businesses,” according to the organization’s website. The auction will remain open until 6 p.m. Sunday.

The Animas River is one of the premier locales in the country for whitewater rafting, and Animas River Days attracts water sport professionals from far and wide, Tucker said. Among this year’s competition are renowned professional kayakers including Emily Jackson, Nick Troutman and Mason Hargrove.

Schedule for Animas River Days 2024

Festivities begin Friday with Jackson Kayak (Team JK) stopping in Durango on their “Fun Tour.” Team JK is a family-owned kayak manufacturer whose Fun Tours take them across the country hosting kayaking-related activities. Team JK’s stop in Durango will begin with a Kids Kayaking Clinic from 2 to 3 p.m., followed by a Women’s Kayaking Clinic from 3:30 to 5 p.m. and finished out by a Freestyle Kayaking Clinic from 5 to 6:30 p.m.

Saturday’s activities will begin bright and early with a Canoe and Kayak Slalom held from 8 to 10 a.m., in which competitors will race through a series of gates going up and down stream. Next will be a Downriver Stand-Up Paddle race from 10 to 10:45 a.m. followed by an R4 Raft Slalom from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., which spectators can enjoy with their drink of choice from the Ska Beer Garden & Cocktails, which opens at 11 a.m. The first half of the day will be rounded out with awards ceremonies held for the morning’s races from 12:45 to 1 p.m.

Saturday’s second half begins with the unveiling of the Droplet Mural at the Santa Rita Water Reclamation Facility. The afternoon’s competitions begin with Boatercross from 1:15 to 2:45 p.m., in which competitors race in heats through a slalom course with only the top competitors advancing to each successive heat. Next up is the SUP/Surf Competition in which SUP surfers will be judged based on their length of surf, style, flow and tricks. The day’s final competition will be the Floatie Rodeo, held at a time to be determined. Next comes the awards ceremony for the Boatercross, SUP/Surf Competition and Floatie Rodeo. Finally, the day will conclude with the noncompetitive costumed River Parade, which runs from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Sunday’s first event will be the Downriver Race held from 9 to 11 a.m., in which kayaks/canoes and R4 Rafts race from the 29th Street put-in to Santa Rita Park. After that comes the Animas Fly Casting Contest from 11 a.m. to noon, in which competitors will have three minutes to attempt each of five land-based targets. The weekend’s final competition will be Freestyle Kayaking from noon to 2:15 p.m. in which many of the sport’s top competitors will attempt to woo judges with their best tricks. A River Clean-up Contest will occur continuously from 10 a.m. to 2:15 p.m., and during that time participants can enjoy the Ska Beer Garden & Cocktails, which will again open at 11 a.m.

The weekend will conclude at 2:15 p.m. with a prize drawing followed by award ceremonies for Sunday’s competitions from 2:30 to 3 p.m.

To compete in any of the Animas River Days 2024 competitions, participants must register and pay ahead of time.

nmetcalf@durangoherald.com

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