CODY, Wyo. — After an inaugural 2013 program that organizers said was “wildly successful,” Cody’s Wild West River Fest returns this weekend with a wide range of family friendly events centered around the Shoshone River.
The three-day celebration includes contests, races, demonstrations, parties, concerts and other events aimed at educating attendees about the importance of the Shoshone River to life in Cody and the surrounding area, and promoting outdoor recreation and stewardship focused on maintaining a healthy waterway.
An estimated 1,000 people participated in last year’s River Fest, said organizer Katherine Thompson, northwest Wyoming program director for The Nature Conservancy. Boaters, anglers and others from across Wyoming, Montana and Idaho attended, along with hundreds of local residents.
“This year, we expect it to be every bit as fun as last year,” Thompson said. “And based on feedback from participants, we’re expanding into Sunday to avoid overlapping events. People wanted to attend all the events, but couldn’t last year because some were doubled up.”
Last year’s festival helped remind area residents of the key role the Shoshone River plays in outdoor recreation, agriculture, tourism and other areas, said Thompson, who was recognized with an award from The Nature Conservancy in organizing the first Wild West River Fest.
Since then, she has helped establish the Wild West Paddle Club, a local youth group aimed at teaching kids 11-18 how to whitewater kayak and navigate the Shoshone River.
Thompson said she hopes some of those young paddlers will participate in the Stinkingwater Slalom kayak race at 2 p.m. Saturday starting at the Hayden Arch Bridge, and the Stinkingwater Sprint river race at 10 a.m. Sunday starting at Demaris Hot Spring.
Last year’s river race had more than two dozen participants, with racers floating in rafts, canoes, kayaks and a range of other boats.
Some participants were focused on the race, finishing the 5-mile course in just more than 20 minutes, while others were looking for more fun from their river run, said Andy Quick, owner of Gradient Mountain Sports and a festival partner.
“It was really fun to see so much variety on the river at one time,” Quick said.
The course includes Class 2 whitewater with standing waves from 2-4 feet, and 100-yard stretches of continuous rapids. So while the race is open to everyone, participants are advised that at least some paddling experience is preferable, Quick said.
Other events include a Friday night kick-off party from 7 to 10 p.m. at Canal Park, a Saturday evening Wyoming roots music festival from 7 to 10:30 p.m. at City Park and a fly fishing tournament starting at 6 a.m. Saturday at the Belfry Bridge, where Highway 120 crosses the river.
The Wild West Water Walk is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday along the Shoshone Riverway Trail at the Belfry Bridge, featuring numerous kid-friendly activities like a scavenger hunt, aquatic bug identification and more.
All activities are free except competitive events, Thompson said, with race and tournament space still available, and registration online codyriverfest.com. A full event schedule is also posted at the River Fest website.