Craving carnage: Rafters seek thrills while spectators hope for crashes at river festivals

ERIC BARKER Lewiston Tribune

The early part of whitewater rafting season is well underway and will be celebrated at back-to-back gatherings on the Lochsa and Salmon rivers in coming weeks.

First up is Lochsa River Madness, a grassroots gathering on the Lochsa River over Memorial Day weekend. It will be followed by the outfitter-organized Big Water Blowout on the Salmon River at Riggins on June 3.

Rafting is more of a participatory activity than a spectacle, but both of these events offer opportunities for nonrafters to watch high-flow-induced carnage — raft lingo for flips and spills. On the Lochsa, spectators gather at Lochsa Falls, a Class IV rapid that has a knack for exposing the underside of boats. On the Salmon River, rapids Lake Creek and Ruby offer gawkers the best chance to see mayhem.

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“People show up like NASCAR fans to see folks make big rides or sometimes not make it and see flips,” said Roy Akins, a Riggins fishing and rafting outfitter.

Spectators, who line the river in lawn chairs, encourage rafters to take aggressive lines and aim for the boat-flipping Big Easy Wave in Lake Creek

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