Greetings World Kayak paddlers and other interested parties! My favorite time of the year, festival season, is finally upon us! Whitewater Festival Season usually extends from the first weekend in March, till around May.

Things usually start off with ALF (Ain’t Louie Fest), which I unfortunately missed this year. ALF is a rampantly growing Open Boat Festival set in the Great Smoky Mountains. Folks normally camp at the KOA in Lenoir City then all head out on paddling excursions together. Generally speaking, kayakers try to crash this week-long open boat party at all times. The fest usually ends up with an impromptu race through the Ledges Section of the Tellico River. Two guys this year actually  raced a 55 gallon plastic drum that had been converted into an open boat over Baby Falls. So Louie, if you’re reading this (which I’m almost sure you’re not), to you and your buds, great job on creating such a cool event for the Southeast!


This coming weekend is the Alabama Mountain Games. Set at Boogie Bottoms Resort in Cleveland, AL (north of Birmingham), the AMG is always a great time and is usually my season opener. Originally founded by Jeremy Adkins and Gavin Rains, this festival was originally called NAWF (North Alabama Whitewater Festival). The name was changed when they started integrating other new sports into the Festival. With events like a DISC GOLF TOURNEY, FREESTYLE WHITEWATER KAYAKING, BOATER X, WATERFALL BIG TRICK CONTEST, this event is surely not one to miss. We normally camp out from Thursday till Sunday, rock out to the killer tunes played by local bands nightly, and wander from campsite to campsite, making new friends and visiting with old ones. And we all remember the key phrase here, that “Anything can happen at the Mountain Games!” By the way, this will be my second year volunteering for gate guard duty, so look for my wife, Marisa and I at the front drive-in gate Friday and Saturday night from 6-8pm!



Our next stop brings us to the Muddy Rivers Festival. This event, created by Tom Hehnen and Justin Owen of Cookeville, TN and proudly sponsored by Jackson Kayak, is in it’s first year. These guys also did me the honor of asking me to host some Hometown Throwdowns at their fest! I’ve obliged their offer and will be hosting some killer events during this festival on Spring Creek. Our weekend will be set at the June Bug Ranch, which is right across the street from Spring Creek. This place, which carries a little notoriety for their previous biker rallies that take place here, is actually a REALLY cool place. Imagine a huge valley, with rolling green hills surrounding it,  and right dead center of it is a smartly placed drinking establishment with some of the friendliest staff I’ve ever met. All this, just minutes from one of middle TN’s most coveted whitewater gems. As for events, we will host Meatgrinder Boater X, Freestyle at Hehnen Hole, a SUP race down the upper section of Spring Creek ending at the bottom of Go/No Go Falls, and a Disc Golf Tourney. At night, live bands will play, folks will camp out and we will make some great memories! Cost is $30 for the whole weekend including camping. In case of no water, all whitewater events will move to Obed/Emory. See you there!




Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association’s Rendezvous

This event, which I attended last year, extends from April 2-6th and is really cool. These folks basically rent out a summer camp for the week and go on cool paddling trips all over the Cumberland Plateau. At nights they all gather in the great hall around the fire, enjoying beverages and trading harrowing paddling stories with each other. At the end of the week they host a gear auction to raise money for the Association. This is a great experience that I recommend to everyone!




The Rock Island Open, set for April 11-13th, my birthday weekend, This is a weekend-long event just like the last one, except no festival.

Just like last year, we’ll be working with the TVA to bring optimal water levels to the table for each event through controlled releases at the Power Station. The guys up at Great Falls Power Station turned out to be really easy to work with and I am looking forward to working with them again this year.  Also the State Park Rangers will be back on board, helping us with safety. They also were a pleasure to work with!

The only problem with Rock Island is that a LOT of water comes through here, and there’s not really much storage area for water on the backside of the dam, so if it starts piling up, they HAVE to release it. So this year, our events will all be water-level dependent, but may contain a Boater X race, Huckfest at the Spout, Freestyle at Rodeo, Downriver Freestyle at Backstage, a Bellyak Race, and a SUP race. All or some of everything listed.




Anyways, hope to see you all at this year’s whitewater festivals! Have a great spring!


Philip Byard

Nashville WK Ambassador