Exciting whitewater action comes to Bigfork
The Bigfork Whitewater Festival is a true harbinger of spring.
The annual whitewater competition on the Swan River, which is now in its 48th year, is Memorial Day weekend in Bigfork.
The Bigfork Whitewater Festival is the longest-running event in Bigfork and is one that the entire Flathead Valley looks forward to each year. Participants come from around the world to race.
The last mile of the Swan River, known as the “Wild Mile," just before it enters Flathead Lake in Bigfork, is a raging section of whitewater. The races feature whitewater slalom and downriver portions.
In the slalom portion, kayakers navigate a series of 20 gates, and kayakers are required to enter them either upstream or downstream. In the downriver event, it's the fastest boat down the run. There are even races for rafts and paddleboards.The race can be watched from the Swan River Nature Trail, which starts in downtown Bigfork. There are also many other festivities during whitewater weekend in Bigfork. See schedule below.
2023 Bigfork Whitewater Festival Schedule
Thursday, May 25
Open Camping for competitors at take-out of Wild Mile. Please check in with Camp host and respect all camping rules.
Friday, May 26
10:00 - 12:00 p.m. Womx’s Race Training Clinic - California Watersport Collective
1 p.m. - Registration for Friday Fun Float @ put in (South Shore Access off Hwy 209)
1:30 - 3:00 p.m. Boater-X: Viewing from the Swan River Nature Trail. Registration open, capped at first 16 participants. Free entry.
4:00 p.m. Flower Float, put in at South Shore Access off Hwy 209
6:00 p.m. Weekend Orientation, located at Riverbend Stage in Sliter Memorial Park
7:30 - 10:00 p.m. FREE CONCERT at Riverbend Stage in Sliter Memorial Park featuring Mudslide Charley from Missoula
Saturday, May 27th
8:30 - 10:00 a.m. Registration/Check In: - Kayaks, SUP Race, Rafts - Downtown - Vendor Area - Mill St. & Osborn Landing
10:00 a.m. Lower Slalom Race: Powerhouse/ Steel Bridge
11:00 a.m. SUP Races Begin: Bigfork Bay Public Dock Tentative: Beginner 11:00 Intermediate 11:30 Advanced 12:00
12:30 p.m. - Mandatory Safety Meeting @ put in (South Shore Access off Hwy 209)
1:00 p.m. Expert Slalom: Viewing from the Swan River Nature Trail
Sunday, May 28th
8:00 - 9:00 a.m. Registration: Rafts - Downtown - Vendor Area - Mill St. & Osborn Landing
9:30 a.m. Down River Race: Viewing at Steel Bridge and along Swan River Nature Trail
11:00 a.m. 1st heat Raft Head-to-Head: Viewing at Steel Bridge and along Swan River Nature Trail
11:30 a.m. Giant Slalom: Viewing at Steel Bridge and along Swan River Nature Trail
2:30 p.m. Final Rafting Heats
6:00 p.m. Awards ceremony at The Garden Bar at the conclusion of all racing!