The Wild West River Fest Cody: Fun Times for All Water Lovers

Contestants are ready for the kayak slalom.
Contestants are ready for the kayak slalom. Fremont County Community News Stream
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It's may not sound very flattering, but the Stinking Water River is the original name for the waterway that runs through the heart of Cody. The region's original settlers dubbed it as such to reflect the rotten egg smell of sulfur wafting up from several hot springs in the water. Town developer "Buffalo" Bill Cody and his cronies eventually changed the river's name to the Shoshone, a move they hoped would better promote land sales in the area.

This little historical tidbit is just one of the interesting facts about the river you'll learn during the Wild West River Fest, happening in Cody August 21-23.  The Shoshone River is a spectacular, yet under-utilized natural resource, and the goal of the River Fest is to promote its beauty, accessibility and recreational opportunities. It's also a great way to introduce kids and newbies to the wonderful world of the water.

It's a mass start for the Shoshone Canyon Race.
It's a mass start for the Shoshone Canyon Race. Dewey Vanderhoff

In its third year, the festival features two full days of activities. New this year is the Friday night premier(6-9 pm) of Our Local Epic,  a film produced by Will Taggart and Aaron Pruzan from Rendezvous River Sports in Jackson. Our Local Epic documents the fight for the designation of the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River as Wyoming’s sole Wild and Scenic River. The Clarks Fork is best known for “The Box,” a class V stretch of truly epic water. First descent honors of The Box go to Rob Lessor and Yvon Chouinard, who are scheduled to be in attendance.

Paddling enthusiasts can take part in three boating events throughout the weekend. The Saturday Stinking Water Slalom challenges kayakers with a Class 2/3 course with downstream and upstream gates. After the slalom, more experienced boaters can join the melee of the Shoshone Canyon Race. Kayakers had so much fun the previous two years that they stayed on the water and unofficially raced the Class IV water downstream from the slalom course. This year the race is official, but still features a mass start for added excitement.

The Stinking Water Sprint is open to all watercraft.
The Stinking Water Sprint is open to all watercraft. Dewey Vanderhoff

On Sunday, all kinds of water rats and their various craft are welcome in the Stinking Water Sprint Downriver Race. This family-friendly float is a six-mile race on relatively flat water. You can paddle hard and go for a win, or lay back and relax with a cold one from sponsor Upslope Brewing Company.

Saturday’s On-the-Fly fishing tournament is ideal for folks who’d rather pull their fun out of the water. You’ll have to be the early bird for this event, as it starts at 7 am. Two member teams will float with a guide to see who can catch the largest fish. Remember, this is catch-and-release water, so bring your camera for bragging rights. Great prizes await top fishermen and their equally skilled guides.

Looking for the big one.
Looking for the big one. Dewey Vanderhoff

On Saturday evening, the action shifts from the river to the City Park Band Shell for a live concert from 6-9 pm. Luke Bell, a hometown boy who’s hit it big on the stage, will be performing along with Johnny Appleseed, a Nashville-based group. Bring a blanket, enjoy the food and beer garden, and soak up some great ambiance and music under those unbeatable summer skies in Wyoming.

On 11 am Sunday, round up the kids and head to the Shoshone River Pathways parking area for the Wild West Water Walk, where stations and booths will be set up to teach parents and kids about the river. Youngsters can wade out into the water to collect aquatic bugs, learn about invasive aquatic species, identify plants and animals of the river, and decorate a t-shirt, and a free lunch is provided for attendees. The Water Walk is a great way to immerse kids into the wonder of rivers and what great resources they are.

Creating a future water lover.
Creating a future water lover. Michael Vanata

Newbie paddlers won't want to miss the chance to mingle with more experienced types at the Wild West River Fest. The river, which features class I-IV rapids, is an ideal in-town location, which means you can make several runs in a short period of time. Expert paddlers will be on hand for some quick tips and tricks, plus you can find out about other excellent boating spots in the area.

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