For 31 years, the Nenana River Festival has filled Denali with boaters from all over the state to race and surf down the icy waters of one of Alaska's greatest rivers. But with a need for new energy, the longest-running festival of its kind in Alaska nearly didn't happen this year.

It may be a little bit later than usual, but thanks to Denali Outdoor Center and, Saturday, August 9, 2008, will mark the 32nd running of the Nenana River Festival. On the border of Denali National Park, boaters will compete in a downriver race, which is open to any craft that floats, and a freestyle rodeo on Rockslide, one of the biggest waves in North America. This year's event, with the help of local athletes and businesses, will benefit the Athletes With a Cause charity program.

"I've been putting the festival together for 26 years now," Kris Capps, the traditional organizer of the event said. "It's a great event, always laid back and fun. I just needed a break. Maybe I'll come back and get involved again in the future, but for now I think the festival needs some fresh energy."

The event is usually held on July 19, but was a little late in picking up on the news that it wasn't happening this year.

This is the longest running river festival in Alaska
, outside Denali National Park

I've been helping out for the past 15 years," Bill "Buckwheat" Overington, co-owner of Denali Outdoor Center said. "The festival always comes during the high point in the rafting season, so maybe a later date will be good this year."

In addition to the events on the water, Denali Outdoor Center will host a BBQ at their Otto Lake campground, with food provided by the Denali Salmon Bake and locally brewed beer from Moose's Tooth Brewery in Anchorage and Silver Gulch Brewery in Fairbanks.

During the BBQ, will have a silent auction of outdoor gear provided by Denali Mountain Works, Beaver Sports, Mountain Sports, and other local shops to benefit the Athletes With a Cause charity program. All are welcome to come out and compete or just to enjoy the festivities of this year's event.

Local kayaker Jeff Shelton will be competing in the river events as an athlete in the program. Earlier this summer, at the Sixmile River Festival in Hope, Alaska, Jeff took 1st in the downriver race and 3rd in the rodeo helping to raise money to purchase disabled sports equipment for adaptive sports programs.

"I'm psyched to be involved with it," Jeff said. "It's a great cause. It's important for us all to do what we can to raise awareness for those less fortunate and for the environment. Athletes With a Cause gives me an opportunity to use what I love, kayaking, to do just that."

Interested competitors for this year's event can register with Denali Outdoor Center at, or at their Riverside Office the day of the event.

Athletes With a Cause is a Life More Natural sponsored charity program that allows competing outdoor athletes to raise awareness and money for different outdoor related causes, such as purchasing disabled sports equipment and funding alternative energy education for school children. All proceeds from this year's Nenana River Festival will benefit the charity program.

Other athletes include extreme telemark skier, Ben Johnson; Olympic mogul skier Shelly Robertson; and world-class kayaker/adventurer Seth Warren.


Saturday, Aug 9

12 noon: Downriver Race – Jonesville Bridge to Twin Rock Rapid.
3 p.m.: Wildwater Rodeo – location TBA
7 p.m.: Family Barbecue and awards at Denali Outdoor Center's Otto Lake Headquarters.

Sunday, Aug 10

12 noon: Great Alaska Survivor Challenge Slalom – Jonesville Bridge to Kingfisher. Do you have what it takes to Meet The Challenge? Beginners AND experts can attempt this course!
Slalom Awards, discount burgers to follow at Denali Salmon Bake