Outdoors blog

National freestyle kayakers headed to Idaho whitewater park

A kayaker works the waves of Kelly's Whitewater Park in Cascade, Idaho. (Devon Barker / Kelly's Whitewater Park)
A kayaker works the waves of Kelly's Whitewater Park in Cascade, Idaho. (Devon Barker / Kelly's Whitewater Park)

PADDLING – Here’s a spectator sport to wet your whistle: The U.S. National Freestyle Kayak Championships are coming July 7-8 to Kelly’s Whitewater Park in Cascade, Idaho.

“We were the first such park in Idaho, while Boise is opening its park this year,” said park spokesman Dan Gallagher.

Park director, Devon Barker, is a Lewiston native and two-time national champion.

“We had about 4,000 visitors over a couple-day run last year,” Gallagher said. “We have salmon fishing nearby and plenty of whitewater along the Payette and Salmon. The park has been a boost to our former sawmill economy.”

Kelly’s Whitewater Park in Cascade, Idaho, is kicking off its 2012 summer season which will feature its second National Freestyle Kayak Championships on July 7-8.

It is the third summer for Idaho’s first whitewater park, which features four manmade rapids, a beautiful Welcome Center on the banks of the North Fork Payette River, and landscaped grounds. Use of the rapids is free.  Freestyle kayaking involves an array of gymnastic moves on the waves, including looping somersaults and spins.

Kelly’s hosted the championships last year, which attracted the best freestyle kayakers in the United States, plus some athletes from abroad.

This is a stand-alone nationals and separate from the point series. National champions will be crowned in the following classes: Pro men and women kayak; open-class men and women kayak; open-class juniors kayak; cadet kayak; C1 canoes; and open canoes. Prizes will be awarded as well as a total purse of $15,000. Registration runs through the morning of July 6.

The championships will also feature vendors with food, drinks and merchandise. There will be free concerts on site during the event, with bands to be announced. Kelly’s will also hold a local food drive, so bring your your donated items to registration for your free bag of swag!

Even more kayak events are on hand at Kelly’s this summer. The park and World Kayak hold a series of Hometown Throwdowns. They are friendly competition, free to participants, and are open for youth to adults. Paddlers compete in freestyle and a Boater-X race through the park. There are some fun raffle prizes awarded, too!

The remaining Throwdowns are slated for June 9, July 28, Aug. 18 and Sept. 1. They are all Saturdays and the competition begins at 11 a.m. A Cascade Community Picnic is held during each event, with free hotdogs, snacks and drinks for the first 50 customers and all competitors. 

Kelly’s Kayak School was established in 2010 and offers free kayak instruction and rentals for Valley County kids from fifth through 12 grades. The school is run and taught by two-time national freestyle champion Devon Barker-Hicks.

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Rich Landers
Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.

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