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CKS Paddlefest is a must-do for families

This post was written for Jackson Kayak and can also be found at: http://jacksonkayak.com/blog/2018/06/09/cks-paddlefest-is-a-must-do-for-families/

CKS Paddlefest is held over the memorial day long weekend in Buena Vista, Colorado, a funky mountain town a few hours west of Denver. It just celebrated it’s 18th year and keeps getting better and better for both paddlers and families alike.

Once you arrive in the South Main area of Buena Vista, you can pretty much park your vehicle and spend the rest of your time walking or biking everywhere, which is such an amazing things for families. This is our second year here and were were once again impressed with the friendliness of the people, the cleanliness of the area and the general fun factor of the event, which includes running races, a disc golf tournament, bouldering competitions, Stand up paddle boarding, flat water activities, freestyle kayaking and down river kayaking. Pretty much something for everyone!

Accommodations:

There are 3 solid choices for accommodations:

* Camping or RVing in the camping area that is right beside the river. It’s mostly a gravel lot but convenience outweighs everything else.

* Air BnB / Vacation Rental of a house or apartment in the South Main area – no more than 2 blocks from the river and all the action in the main green

* Hotel – stay at the Surf Hotel, which is right on the Arkansas River and in the middle of everything

Fun family activities off the water:

* Buena Vista playground is about 3 blocks from the river, full of high quality playground equipment and right next to the community centre bathrooms (super handy – someone was thinking!)

* Buena Vista skate park is just on the other side of the playground and has features that work for beginner through to expert and both skateboards and scooters

* Buena Vista pump track is just across the road from the playground (what amazing forethought to put these 3 sites within 100 yards of each other) and super fun to play on with your bikes

* There is even a dog park that has agility toys so you can get your dog out and playing (located just on the other side of the pump track)

* South Main bouldering park is SUPER Fun for kids of any age – nothing beats climbing up and around things to keep everyone smiling. Most kids are out in their socks or bare feet vs actual climbing shoes.

* Run around in the big grassy area at the South Main square, which has a nice mixture of grass, shade, benches for mom and dad and a bouldering rock to climb on

Getting out on the water:

There are on water activities from Friday through to Monday and are geared at a wide range of paddlers. You can choose to compete in some events (freestyle, downriver class IV and downriver class II) or just take a workshop or two from world class paddlers.

* This year there was a fun kids paddling event at the pond geared at getting kids out kayaking on flat water. A number of the kids from the Jackson Team were on hand to teach some skills and cheer on others as they learned.

* Freestyle clinics were taught by Stephen Wright and Mathieu Dumoulin

* EJ was running slicy boat clinics on both Saturday and Sunday to help people make the most of the newest old school boats and tricks

* Rocky Mountain Outdoor Company runs full day kayak river running sessions for a range of skills

* You can also take ACA instructor classes to get your certifications or re-certify

On top of of that, Buena Vista is just a beautiful place to hang out. There are a range of trails to walk, run, hike and bike on that you can access directly from the South Main area. Lots of restaurants within easy walking distance and three ice cream shops so you won’t get in a rut!

One of the things that we love best about CKS Paddlefest is how safe it is. If feels like a small town event and there are no concerns about the kids running around back and forth between the river and the campground or even heading down to main street to get ice cream.  We completely recommend CKS Paddlefest as a family event – whether you come to compete (because that is super fun), to learn (amazing opportunities) or just to paddle some of the fun rivers and features in the area.

CKS Paddlefest and the Arkansas River basin

 

CKS Paddlefest was our first stop in Colorado and is an AMAZING family friendly festival in Buena Vista, Colorado, just west of Denver. It runs over Memorial Day Weekend and has kayaking, SUPing, mountain biking, running and climbing activities along with live music and great food. It is based out of an area called “South Main” which is a new community that is being developed right beside the Arkansas River.

At the moment there is a HUGE dirt parking lot at the south end of South Main and it filled up with well over 50 RV’s, campers, trucks and tents (photo above is from 4 days prior to the festival). It grew over the course of the week that we were there, and there were very few open spaces come festival weekend. The best part was the friendly sense of community – both kids and dogs ran free and there were no complaints or grumblings by anyone.

 

The Buena Vista Whitewater park runs over the length of 1km and has a number of different holes and waves, with something for everyone. There is a big hole at the top where the US Team trials were held, a nice SUP surf wave that most of the SUP events were based out of, the “competition hole” where the main rodeo was held and then a nice bouncy surf wave that was great fun to play on.

Hunter signed up to compete in freestyle in both K1 and C1 in the cadet class. Unfortunately there were no other cadet C1 paddlers and only 1 junior C1 paddlers so they created a C1 open category, which meant Hunter plus a junior plus 4 very senior men… like world champion senior!

I was really proud of him choosing the compete in the open category and he was inspired by what he saw these paddlers do. Needless to say, he finished 6th but it was a great learning experience.

Hunter made the finals and came 5th overall in the Cadet class for K1 and gained a lot of competition experience. He now has a great sense of what tricks he needs to learn and lots of good tips and tricks for learning them.

Because US Freestyle team trials were a few days after CKS Paddlefest, there were a lot of paddlers in town for the week prior to the festival and the week after. This meant that there was always someone to go and play at the hole with or take a run down the local river runs of the Arkansas River. It was fabulous for the parents that the kids could just grab a buddy and walk down the path to paddle.

We were also able to take advantage of the senior paddlers to learn from. Tad Dennis was very generous and gave Hunter tips and tricks for C1 rolling and Nick Troutman helped us with feedback on Hunter’s loop. The kayak community is so friendly and helpful!

We took advantage of being based in Buena Vista to also explore the southern sections of the Arkansas River like the Milk Run and Brown’s Canyon as well as the Salida Whitewater Park.

Salida is another great mountain town with a busy, active vibe. They have a great town presence right along the river and are the host of the FiBARK festival in mid June.

Our first two weeks in Colorado have been a whirlwind with something happening almost every day. We’ve also experienced every possible weather scenario and worn clothing to represent every season. We’ve barely scratched the surface for local adventures along the Arkansas water shed and look forward to coming back again next year to play some more!